Holidays are a sad and lonely time for a lot of people. One way we can honor Christ at Christmas is to be His hands and feet to those in need.
Brainstorm ways you can share God’s love by encouraging those who need it most. Here are a few of our family’s favorite ideas to get you started:
- Sing carols at a nearby nursing home
Some of these residents are alone in the world — no spouse, no children, no visitors, ever. It breaks my heart. When a group of us go to sing or play instruments for them, their eyes just light up.
They are thrilled to have anybody pay attention to them, pat them on the back, ask how they are doing, and listen to their stories. They especially enjoy interacting with the younger children.
If music’s not your thing, don’t let that discourage you. Our older kids have volunteered at various retirement homes and assisted living centers over the years and have discovered that the residents also enjoy playing games, making seasonal crafts, and drinking rootbeer floats.
There may also be widows or shut-ins in your own church or neighborhood who would enjoy a visit during the holidays. You needn’t wait until they check into a retirement center before reaching out to them.
- Participate in a toy drive for needy children
One of our favorite annual traditions is hosting a shoebox stuffing party for Operation Christmas Child. This program delivers Christmas gifts to children in need all over the world, and includes the gospel message along with toys, toiletries, and other goodies packed in the shoeboxes.
Of course, there are lots of other great programs dedicated to brightening the holidays for children in need or for those whose parents may not be in the picture, such as Toys for Tots and Angel Tree.
- Host students who are away from home
Sometimes students are too far away to travel home for the holidays. This is especially true of international students whose home countries may not even celebrate the holidays of which we make such a big deal in America. Opening your home to such as these during the holiday season can be a blessing for both of you — giving them a place to stay and exposing you and your children to another culture.
We hosted a student for China for spring break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas for all four years he spent at a local private boarding school. He graduated last year and is now attending college out of state, but our holidays aren’t the same without him.
- Serve at your local soup kitchen
There are several area churches and service organizations in our town with programs already in place for helping feed those in need: homeless shelters, food pantries, inner-city outreaches. The need for workers is great, and it is usually pretty easy to get plugged in as a volunteer if you are willing to make a few phone calls or sign a few papers to make it happen.
Investigate similar opportunities in your own hometown, and get involved. Jesus made it clear that feeding, clothing, and caring for the needy is what Christians are supposed to be about! (Matthew 25:31-46)
- Love on your extended family
Don’t forget to make time for the members of your own extended family this time of year. Invest in those relationships while you have the chance. Calling and writing letters is a good start, but there’s no substitute for a face-to-face visit if you can swing it, as this sweet video underscores:
(If you can’t see the clip, click here to view it.)
You never know how much more time you might have to pour into the lives of your loved ones. Take advantage of the opportunites while you still can!
What are your favorite ways to be Christ’s hands and feet to the world around you — during the holiday season, or at any other time of year? Please share in the comments below!