Christmas is wonderful, isn’t it? Lights. Trees. Presents. Extra services at church. Food. And of course, the nativity. Altogether, Christmas brings enough excitement to make the average Christian as happy as a dog with two tales.
But not everyone is quite as thrilled about Christmas as you may be. As a matter of fact, a recent poll claims that a majority of Americans have something about Christmas that they “dread.” And don’t think that just because Christians emphasize the birth of our Lord and Savior more than they emphasize Rudolph, that they don’t have parts of the Christmas celebration they don’t look forward to.
Unfortunately, believers can even fall into the trap of being distracted by current events or circumstances which encourage a drifting away from the celebration of Christ’s birth. Whether you’re a pastor or a parishioner, there are five people I think Christians need to be sure to remember this Christmas:
Maybe they’re about to celebrate their 30th Christmas since the death of their spouse, or maybe the dirt is still settling on the grave of their loved one. Either way, Christmas can be emotionally and spiritual taxing for the widowed. Don’t forget that for many of our siblings in Christ this will be their first Christmas Eve Candlelight Service they attend by themselves.
The Emotionally Lonely
To assume that everyone ‘goes home’ for Christmas is to assume something that is not true. Oftentimes home is far too distant to make a trip that will only last a couple days. Many people are experiencing Christmas at home in a new city with nothing other than reruns of Christmas movies and a tin of stale shortbread cookies.
3. The Recently Divorced
Fortunately, I have not directly experienced the emotional strain and heartbreak that divorce brings. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who have. Many divorces are nasty and rip the fabric of the family apart leaving lives cast about as though they lack significance and worth. Christmas (and every other holiday for that matter) often heightens the feelings of rejection and pain that divorce leaves in its wake.
The Fiscally Broken
Let’s face it – in most minds Christmas is synonymous with gift-giving. Although Americans aren’t generally as gift-minded as other cultures, giving and receiving is a foundational part of the Christmas celebration. Those who lack the resources to participate in this element of Christmas might feel ashamed or segregated.
The Newly Born-Again
For a new Christian this Christmas may represent the freshest experience of Christ’s birth in their entire life. They’ve never seen the birth of Jesus the way they now get to see it. The baby in the barn would become the lamb on the cross. Help them cherish this event with fresh eyes and a spirit-filled heart.
Now, what to do.
Even though Christmas may seem to some like a difficult time, we would we wise to look at the celebration of Christ’s birth as an opportunity to encourage healing and foster community. Our desire should be that the five people listed above can rejoice over the birth of our King no matter their present situation. The good news is that God has given you the desire to minister to them. Below are some practical ways you can minister to those we should remember this Christmas.
Tell them they’re loved. It’s that simple. Remind them of the love you have for them as well as the love that God has for them. It’s very possible they haven’t been told that in quite some time.
Invite them into your home. Share your Christmas meal with them. Go out of your way to bring them into your family. Make them feel at home rather than feeling like they’re intruding on your family time.
Send them a card. My generation (millennials) doesn’t seem to appreciate this nearly as much as my parents and grandparents generations do. For many people a card can go a long way.
Point them toward the gospel. Cherishing the God of the Gospel requires no money, energy, or resources. It simply requires repentance and faith. The Gospel heals our feelings of disappointment and rejection. Really, it’s the most valuable thing that we have to give.
If you preach, remember not everyone is as excited about Christmas as you are. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are spiritually immature or even that they don’t appreciate the incarnation. It might just mean this celebration brings with it both joy and pain, celebration and suffering. Your illustration and application of text during your Advent sermons should take this into account. Shepherd your people from where they are to where they need to be.