What do you do for Christmas?
This is one of my most asked questions around this time of year. Maybe because I’m in relatively new friendships almost every year from moving around so much but maybe because my intentional friendship-making ramps up around this time too. You know that post-summer, back-to-school feeling? Whether you’re a student, young professional, parent or empty nester, somehow, there’s always more purpose, more urgency to these final months of the year. I love it.
In this article, I want to encourage you, church, as we close another year, to join me in being more intentional, not just about your career, home improvement, or travel (wait, that’s a thing?!) goals but to be deliberate in extending your borders and letting a few more people enjoy the richness of life-giving friendship with you. Why? Because Jesus wants us to welcome the stranger, be walking around with our eyes open, and to be a good friend.
Because Jesus wants us to welcome the stranger, be walking around with our eyes open, and to be a good friend.
I love Christmas festivities and family-centric traditions just as much as the next person. There is also so much beauty and divine grace to experience as we extend warm welcomes to people we don’t know very well. You might already volunteer at a soup kitchen, sleep rough for a night to raise awareness of homelessness in winter or pack a shoebox full of goodies for kids you will never meet. Keep doing that! What I mean here is not to add to your list of commitments of faith-filled, spirit-led social action but to think of someone who has kind of been on the fringes of your life, someone who has just moved to your area, someone you had an unexpectedly deep conversation with in a queue at IKEA, someone who you accept parcels for sometimes, that someone who might feel like a no-one.
Hear me out. Please do not make people your projects but do be awake and alert to how you can be loving and serving someone in a small, personal and very significant way. Perhaps you could ask if they wanted to go to the park with you and your kids, ask if they needed something from the supermarket, ask if they’d seen their family recently, ask them what they do for Christmas! It sounds scary but just ask. You don’t need to be a hero and clean out their front garden, deliver their Christmas tree, or wash their windows. Offer what you can in the time you’ve got. The second it becomes a thing you need to schedule, it can feel burdensome and fake.
You don’t need to be a hero... Offer what you can in the time you’ve got.
These mini-conversations can turn into bigger opportunities to love someone in a way that they actually need. Sometimes all it takes is an invitation for someone to feel completely different about their day. Think of the last time you were invited to something you definitely couldn’t join. I am sure it felt good to be asked.
Given the current climate, we need to be sensitive and creative. I won’t be inviting my lonely, elderly neighbour into my house anytime soon but I will wave at them through the window, drop them a card, and hang up some lights for them. I can buy an extra salad to give my newly single colleague at lunch, text them to check they’re ok about a deadline, and generally be more Jesus when being alone at Christmas is their worst possible fear. I will learn how to say hello and thank you in my bus driver’s language so they hear something familiar. I will do it not to save their souls but simply because my saviour wants me to.
I will do it not to save their souls but simply because my saviour wants me to.
Do we need to be an extrovert to be a good Christian? No. We do need to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, ready to act or not. In an effort to blend into the background, I often quiet the voice of the one who loves to show grace and kindness to all that he has made. God chose to send his son Jesus to earth, the reason for the season. If I want to celebrate Jesus, then I can also participate in what he does here on earth, today, by the power of his Holy Spirit in me and through me. I can choose to be a friend and let him be the saviour.
I can choose to be a friend and let him be the saviour.
Friends, let us be good friends.
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