"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 1984)
"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" The loudspeaker blared the joyful lyrics of the familiar song that snowy Christmas Eve afternoon.
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 downright Norman-Rockwell-perfect.
However, as I stood in line paying for the ingredients for my assigned cheesy potato casserole for our family gathering, a lump formed in my throat. Soon 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 the holidays to be cancelled that year. There was no cheer in me, and I thought the rest of the world should follow suit and just "humbug" the whole celebration.
Although our hearts were heavy, we tried to make the most of Christmas, especially for our children who were sad about their friends' mother's death. Over the next few months, my husband and I carried on with our normal life and tried to help our widowed friend as best we could.
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, lightening her husband's load and being there for the children made us feel as if we were fulfilling the mission God had for us.
Ever since that year, our family has become more aware of the fact that for many, Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't the most wonderful times of the year. In fact, the holidays can be downright painful.
Loneliness looms. Depressions darken. Even suicides soar. While scores of us delight in the season, drinking the sights, sounds, and smells, others are numb from pain and despise these months.
A neighbor of mine had a good perspective on helping those who hurt. She once told me, "The holidays are an excuse for making someone's life better." She was right! There are people waiting to be encouraged and included during this season. If only we would cease our own sometimes self-focused hustle and bustle long enough to see!
After that sad season, we've made it our mission to reach out at the holidays more than we play the commercialized "gimmee game." Thanksgiving and Christmas are not about getting. The very essence of both 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. We get to show His love and character talked about in Psalm 68:5-6a, "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families ..." (NIV 1984)
Others are welcomed at our table. We sing Christmas carols to shut-ins, decorate homes and address Christmas cards for widows, shop for the needy, bake for the brokenhearted, and often include the lonely in our normal holiday activities as if they were part of our family. Because really, they are.
Maybe God wants to use your family to encourage someone this year. Let's use this Thanksgiving and Christmas to make someone's life better, richer in love, and fuller in the comforts of knowing they are noticed and cared for.
Dear Lord, show me who needs to be reached out to this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Help me make someone's life richer, fuller and far less lonely. I want to be Your hands and feet. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: Gather the family. Solicit responses to the following questions, "Who do you know that might be lonely at the holidays this year? Now, what creative way could we help to combat their loneliness and make them feel loved?"
It's not too late to invite someone over for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow! Give them a call now.
Power Verse: Matthew 25:40, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" (NIV)
© 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org