Different families have different traditions regarding how they spend Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Some do what their parents did; others have developed their own traditions. It is a time for family, whether you like them or not, a time to build and strengthen relationships. In my case, not having a large extended family and always being home around Christmas (everyone goes on their annual holidays in South Africa), has meant that one can feel pretty lonely during the Christmas season.
- There are the single people who live by themselves and make an “awkward” addition to a table and simply don’t get invited.
- There are the elderly who have children and grandchildren living in another country or far away.
- That person who is recently divorced that is spending their first Christmas alone, while the children are with their ex-spouse.
- The recently widowed person who is still trying to find a new way of coping with their loss.
- The family who suddenly finds out, that the rest of the family has plans and they are on their own for Christmas.
- Or the new family in town that has not made any friends yet.
- The lonely, often feel that they don’t want to intrude on others during this festive family time.
With the lonely in mind, I am reminded of Hebrews 10:24:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds,”
That phrase “spur” is the Greek word ‘paroxusmos’ which means to stimulate, and implies actively thinking about how we can stimulate each other towards love and good works. I believe this is appropriate during this season of love, joy, peace that we are celebrating.
I want to encourage you, fellow believers, to be the people God has designed you to be and open up your table this Christmas to the lonely.
Early in our marriage, Adrian and I decided on a tradition for Christmas Eve where we “adopt” family. On Christmas Eve we plan a “bring and share” meal which includes lamb, gammon, turkey and decadent desserts. Each person coming to dinner contributes in some way according to our overall dinner plan. We, as a family, set the tables and create the atmosphere for good food, fun and laughter for the evening. In a way, it reminds me of the early church in Acts 2:46 (NKJV)
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,”
That phrase “gladness and simplicity of heart” is from the Greek word ‘apheloteti’ which refers to generosity, which is precisely the heart we try and embrace as we invite people. There is always space for one more and God always seems to know just how many I have the capacity for. In 20 years I have always had enough cutlery and have never run out of food.
How do we decide who to invite? We prayerfully watch where God leads us. We think of those we know, who have no place to go on Christmas Eve, or who are lonely over this time. We then start extending invitations. The conversation usually begins with “What are you doing for Christmas?” and ends with an invite if you have no plans.
This year has been a difficult year for many and I know that this year the table will be very special. Every year has been a new table, with new people and others who have joined us before. It has become our tradition and our way of spreading the love of Jesus. Our way of remembering that we are blessed and purposefully blessing others out of the abundance of love and joy Christ has given us.
What are you doing this Christmas? Can I encourage you to love and good deeds towards the lonely people around you? If you are alone this Christmas, why not create your own Christmas table with people in the same boat as you?
Lord, help me to focus our Christmas on You this year and to extend Your love and kindness towards others. Help to embrace the lonely into our home and to be considerate in my hospitality towards others. Help me, to have a conversation with the family as to ways in which we can act with greater love and good deeds towards others. Help us to embrace a generous spirit in our hearts and minds, so that others will be blessed.
Wishing you and your family a blessed and happy time together at every table you sit, and in every moment of fun and laughter together.
Michelle du Toit and team.