A few months back, I met a young man in his early 30s who is Pakistani, raised in a Muslim household. His mother is a practicing Muslim, but he is not. His family does not celebrate holidays, so we invited him to join our family for Thanksgiving a couple weeks ago.
My family is like most families in that we ate a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Later in the day we sat outside around the fire pit to enjoy dessert and catch up with one another. My “children” are all grown with busy lives and families of their own so we don’t spend nearly as much time together as we used to. It was a fun-filled, drama-free, relaxing day sharing stories, laughter and childhood memories.
No big deal or so I thought – until I learned that this new friend grew up in a family that was as different from my family as night and day. Meals in his home were never enjoyed as a group. Retreating to their own rooms to eat was the norm for him. Seeing life through a whole new lens saddened him as he realized how much his childhood lacked.
My family is at times wildly imperfect, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye on important life issues. But at our very core, we love each other, and we love Jesus. We are a long way from resembling a Hallmark Christmas movie, but then – most real families are.
It can be very easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season and completely ignore those around us. Friends at work, school, neighbors – even those who may randomly sit next to us at church may not have much knowledge about the concept of family and holiday celebrations.
As we get closer to Christmas, I encourage you to look around for those people who may be hurting this year because of loneliness. Coming through nearly two years of a pandemic, the landscape is rife with people who have been isolated. Christmas is a convenient opportunity to extend an invitation to attend church, and an even greater time to invite people into your home. This is a great time of year to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Yours does not have to be a picture-perfect, snow globe holiday home to extend an invitation. All that is necessary is a home that is welcoming. To someone who has no happy holiday memories, a home that beckons with the warmth of family is a wonderful remedy for a lonely soul.
Decorations, presents, Christmas cookies or ugly sweaters are a small part of the holidays. What may seem ordinary for you and your family, might be the very thing lacking in someone’s life who doesn’t have family traditions. Your corny traditions could just possibly be the simplest way to introduce someone to Jesus … which is after all, the whole reason we celebrate the season.
You don’t have to be a Hallmark – just be you!