December 14, 2009
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families..." Psalm 68:5-6a (NIV)
"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" The loudspeaker blared out the joyful lyrics of the familiar holiday song that snowy afternoon on Christmas Eve. Everywhere I glanced, people were searching for last-minute gift purchases, holiday baking ingredients or that one final string of twinkle lights that would make their Christmas Martha Stewart'ish, HGTV approved, and downright Norman Rockwell perfect.
However, as I stood in line paying for the ingredients for my assigned Cheesy Potato side dish for our extended family gathering, a lump formed in my throat. Soon the lump made its way north as my lips quivered and hot tears fell onto my wind-chapped cheeks.
How can everyone be so happy? Why is the world going on as if nothing happened? My friend Julie died last night leaving behind a husband and eight children who need her. Doesn't anyone care? I wanted to scream. And I wanted Christmas to be promptly cancelled that year. I had no holiday cheer in me and I thought the rest of the world should follow suit and just ‘humbug' the whole celebration.
Our family made it through that holiday. My young children, although sad about their friends' mother's death, perked up Christmas morning, eager to open their gifts. My husband and I carried on with our normal life and, over the next few months, tried to help lighten the load of our now widower friend. Several in our circle of friends made meals on a weekly basis. A college girl offered to clean their home. One of Julie's sons joined our homeschool for kindergarten a few days each week. Although we still experienced great heartache knowing our friend wasn't coming back, helping to lighten her husband's load and cheer the children made us feel useful and as if we were fulfilling the mission God had for us.
Ever since that year, our family has become even more aware of the fact that for many, Christmas isn't the most wonderful time of the year. It is downright painful. Loneliness looms. Depressions darken. Even suicides soar. While scores of us delight in the yuletide season, drinking in deep the sights, sounds and smells, others meander about, numb from pain, despising the season.
A sweet neighbor of mine once told me, "Christmas is an excuse for making someone's life better." She was so right! Right in our midst, there are souls waiting to be encouraged and included at the holidays. If only we would cease our own sometimes self-centered hustle and bustle long enough to see!
After that sad season, we have made it our mission to reach out at the holidays more than we play the commercialized "gimmee game." Christmas is so not about getting. Its very essence is giving.
When our family has been intentional about being Jesus' hands and feet at the holidays, He has allowed us to brighten the lives of many and, in return, make our own season even sweeter. We've Christmas caroled to shut-ins, decorated homes and addressed Christmas cards for widows, shopped for the needy, baked for the brokenhearted, taken in foreign exchange students with no where to spend the day and often included the lonely in our normal Christmas activities as if they were part of our family….
Because really, they are. Maybe it is your family God wants to set a lonely soul in this year.
Vow this Christmas to use the season as an excuse to make someone's life better.
As a result, your life too will be immeasurably blessed.
Dear Lord, at this time when You sent Christ to earth, may I too reach out to make someone's life richer, fuller and far less lonely. I want to be Your hands and feet. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For a chance to win a Christmas goodie basket-in-a-box giveaway for you and a copy of P31 She Speaks' grad Jennifer Silvera's book "Believe: A Young Widow's Journey Through Brokenness and Back" for a grieving friend visit Karen's blog
A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman
Homespun Gifts from the Heart by Karen Ehman
Gather the family. Solicit responses to the following questions, "Who do you know that might be lonely at Christmas this year? Now, what creative way could we help to combat their loneliness and make them feel loved?"
List the action steps you will take to make the idea a reality. Mark the calendar to ensure it happens.
Has there ever been a holiday season where you were gloomy or feeling alone? Did anyone do something to make you feel loved and included?
How can reaching out to the lonely be a reflection of God reaching down from heaven to us on that very first Christmas?
Matthew 25:40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (NIV)
© 2009 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105