If we treated loneliness as being a disease there would be many less lonely people. It’s all a matter of the way you look at it. Having seen what poverty of the soul looks like in the stranger and the lonely, I keep praying for a day when there will be far more people who are loved and accepted in our communities and in society.
One of the reasons for showing the spirit of love to others many people miss is showing hospitality and kindness to the stranger and the lonely. We spend so much time preparing for Christmas we can so easily forget to make these dear souls part of our Christmas celebrations. You are aware of who these people are. You don’t have to go far to find them. They are all around you. The homeless person on the street is clearly seen. We know about that need, but how often do we respond to it?
Yet, there are those who aren’t so visible to the public eye, who still need your compassion not just at Christmas, but throughout the whole year. That hard-working university student may need provision of the cost of books for their courses. Your church could get together and give an agape love offering to provide for that need. A needy student could end up receiving a bursary for their studies because of you taking time out of your busy schedule to give that person a character reference. A job candidate may end up getting the position because of your recommendation. The senior citizen who receives little to no visits at a nursing home needs some of your time. The sick who are in the hospital or ill at home need your company. That lonely soul praying for someone to care needs you. Women living in abuse shelters need people in their community to care, and not abandon them.That infant, child, teenager or adult with a terminal disease needs your outstretched arms of love. You may be the last face they ever see.
You have the opportunity this Christmas and throughout 2017 to show what community means. Christ sought out those who were living on the margins of society. He welcomed the stranger. He forgave the adulterous woman. He had a heart for the poor.
As you spend time with family and friends, try establishing a new tradition of welcoming the stranger into your home or inviting someone over, who without you would have no Christmas.
One of the businessmen said to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, when seeking a contribution for the poor from him, “Because it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices.”
Scrooge’s heart had become hardened. The idol of affluence had taken control of his soul. He had no room in his heart for the needy and the rejected in his own community. He allowed the poor to live without hope that their lives would ever get any better.
People living in the slums with poor sanitation and an unhealthy diet had no effect upon him.Scrooge’s callous response to the men of commerce asking for donations for the poor was clear. “Are there no prisons?… And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?” It would take the visitation of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future to heal Scrooge’s cold heart, which had become embittered through losing his fiancee, Belle, because he loved money more than her, and the death of his beloved sister, Fran, who died after giving birth to his nephew, Fred.
You can be the opposite of Scrooge. You can be the extended arms of Christ to those living on the periphery of your community. You won’t see many of them if any at community and church events. Many are too proud to ask for help. They feel somehow they have failed in life if they are not part of the middle or upper middle class. No one is a failure in God’s eyes. No one is ugly in our Father’s eyes. We are beautiful to Him. We are lovely to Him. We are precious to Him.
If Christ could welcome the sinner with open arms of love and acceptance we can too. If He cares for the outcasts of our community we can too.
At your table this Christmas make a place for the stranger. Who knows? You may discover if you haven’t done so already you receive a blessing too. You could be given the gift of seeing what your love does in the lives of you give it out to not just at Christmas time, but every day you go that one step more for others.
I leave you with this thought:
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen.
Let us all practice our loving humanity with the added measure of God’s love in us.
Have a joy-filled Christmas and a richly blessed 2017!
Kevin and Karen Osborne are Christian pastoral counsellors and psychotherapists. Kevin is studying to become a chaplain and professor of Psychology specializing in Pastoral Theology. We have started You Can Hope Again Counselling. Karen enjoys doing cross-stitch while I like writing and singing songs. Karen makes me laugh when she sings the kitty bed-time song saying, “It’s that time. It’s the bestest kitty time of the day!” Kevin enjoys teasing the kitties and making them do kitty dances with music. Their kitty, Catherine, loves it when kitty daddeh sings All Things Bright and Beautiful. Kevin likes doing impressions. He tells children’s stories and helps others with their problems using his hand puppet, Dr. Teddy, who is a therapy bear. He is a partner with us in our counselling practice.We are available to assist with worship and preaching to give busy pastors and ministers a much-needed break. We offer in-office, and phone counselling to anyone in the world.
Co-author on Mind’s Seat, a Christian inspirational blog