Church family, I am prayerful that this message finds you drawing nearer to Christmas with immense JOY. Being joyful explicitly in Christ this time of year will bring you many opportunities to point others to Him. Throughout this Advent season, I have challenged you to consider those around you who are hurting, lonely, or facing emotional obstacles. Recently, I was reading an article by pastor Ryan Kearns, from Seattle, Washington. He wrote a helpful article called “5 Ways to Love Your Neighbor at Christmas” that I thought I would condense and pass along to you as a challenge and an encouragement.
We can often get lost in the question, Who is my neighbor? Our lives are filled with different places where we connect and relate to other people. These are the places where we shop, work, and live. Jesus taught us that no matter if it’s at work, the gym, the play area at the mall, or right next door, a person in need is your neighbor (Luke 10:25–37).
Many of us have neighbors or co-workers who have a deep sense of dread rather than joy about the Christmas season. Their disdain for Christmas is not rooted in an ideological culture-war, but rather in an emotional pain—they have little to celebrate or few loved ones to celebrate with.
The Christmas season is amazing. We get to remember and rejoice that Jesus loves us enough that he would not stay far off at a distance, unfamiliar with human life, but rather he became a human to experience all that we experience. He would be a God who is able to empathize with all our struggles and joys (Heb. 4:15).
The whole Christmas season celebrates Jesus as Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:22–23). This changes everything for us. Because God is with us and for us, we are not alone. And neither should our neighbors be, as we have great opportunities during this season to connect with them.
We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Here are some ways we can express Jesus’ love to our neighbors this Christmas season:
- Love Listens >> All around us are people with needs during this holiday season, but because we are so busy we often don’t take notice. Take the time to really listen to the needs of your co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Be proactive in finding out if they have somewhere to go. In the midst of all the great Christmas festivities, don’t miss the needs of people around you.
- Love Draws Near >> Take a step to draw near to your neighbors this week and include them in your holiday parties, family traditions, and church worship services. This is the time of year where people are usually more open to connecting, conversing, and church. Take advantage of that.
- Love Takes the First Step >> Because we are loved by Jesus, we are called to take the first step toward our neighbors. We can’t wait until we just bump into them at the mailbox or while taking out the trash. Let’s go over and knock on their door. For many of us, this could be a life-changing decision. Maybe we have lived next to someone for years and still don’t even know their name. This year, invite them to come over…
- Love is Inconvenient >> Jesus’ love motivates us to endure the inconvenience of disrupting our plans to reach out to our neighbors and invite them into community.
- Love Endures >> After the Christmas season has passed and the tree is back in the box or out in the dumpster, let’s not put these new relationships away. Rather, we should endure in loving our neighbors and seeking to draw them into community with us and Jesus.
Jesus draws near to the broken-hearted and those who feel alone. When you were alone in your sin, Jesus came looking for you so that you would never be alone. Because this is the love that saved us, we can love like this as well.
So reach out. Extend joy to your neighbor and be generous about loving and connecting with others. That is the whole point of Christmas.