Strangers

Christmas Day is just around the corner! Three sleeps in fact until that wonderful day of the year. We’re sure that although it’s been a busy time leading up, work to finish off, families to organise, presents to buy, roasts to cook, when you sit down for lunch and see the family gathered around, the excited faces of children (and adults) as they open their presents, and when you finally slump down with that contented over-full feeling for a well-deserved afternoon nap, it is will all seem worth it.

Well, that’s what it will be like for most of us.

The reality is however, that Christmas can be hard for many people. Financially it can be a burden – a tight budget combined with the expectations of Christmas can make it a time of stress, guilt and anxiety. Big events can also bring back memories of loved ones who have passed away, and the traditional celebrations can be a time of hurt and rather than healing. For others, it might simply be a time of loneliness and isolation, where because families are physically or emotionally absent. For many this joyous time of year is not cause for celebration.

As Christians we cannot forget these people because they are at the heart of the Christmas message; when we were all spiritually broke, exhausted, hurt and isolated, God in his great love and mercy, sent his Son into this world as a tiny baby to ultimately bring us restoration and life to the full. It was the ultimate Christmas gift, and one that should truly transform us. Jesus himself highlighted this transformation when he spoke of final judgement in Matthew’s gospel through the analogy of the sheep and the goats. (Matt 25: 31-40) The sheep are those who are made righteous (right-with-God), because they have accepted the gift of life – these people are welcomed by Jesus who acknowledges that their works caring for the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger, the works they did to one of the least of Jesus’ brothers, they did to Jesus. Looking after the less fortunate is a core part of the Christian walk, and an essential aspect of the Christmas message, for that is exactly what Jesus did for us when he entered our world as a man 2000 years ago.

Christmas is a perfect opportunity to begin looking after those who are in need, for whatever reason. We need to look around us and consider who God has put in our lives who is calling out for help and in need this Christmas. There are many ways to help care for those both in our congregation, and beyond; there is always space for one more at your Christmas table – why not invite someone (or several people) to share in your family celebrations. Perhaps you could buy a small gift for someone you know is not likely to receive much this Christmas. In these final days before Christmas, make sure you are keeping your eyes and hearts open, looking for opportunities to share (verbally and practically) the same love which Jesus first showed to you.