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Christmas With the Least of These

By Elliott Ryan
Guest Writer

CBN.comWhen I was young, my mom worked as an activities director at a retirement home. I remember going to the home with her on many occasions to help her set up events for the residents. There were a few years where she had to work on Christmas day. On those days, we'd all pile into the family van and head up to Christmas dinner at the home. We'd eat Christmas dinner in the dining room with the few residents who didn't have relatives come pick them for the holidays.

I remember feeling bad for the residents there. The retirement home that my mother worked at was a pleasant enough place. But it just wasn't the same as being at your own home surrounded by your family. When my adolescent mind pictured the ideal Christmas celebration, I didn't usually think of eating institutional food at a retirement home. I wondered what kept the relatives of these residents from picking them up for Christmas the same way the other residents were taken out of the home for the day.

You will have to forgive me for this -- it was many years ago and I am a very different person now -- but the person I felt the most sorry for on those Christmases we spent at the home was myself. I feel terrible about it now. But I used to think about how other kids didn't have to spend a few hours of their Christmas with strangers in a home. They were in their own houses playing with whatever they got for Christmas. They were eating really good food in their own dining rooms.

As a child, I didn't really understand (even though my parents did try to explain) that celebrating Christmas at the home was a ministry opportunity. Many of those residents may have felt lonely and depressed at the home (rates of depression do tend to skyrocket around the holidays). Christmas is supposed to be a time to celebrate God meeting us at our level. He became one of us to rescue us from eternal separation from Him. He gave up His home in Heaven for a time and sacrificed Himself for us. Ironically, the holiday has, for many in our culture, become a time of selfishness. And that is the mindset I was in at the time. I couldn't be bothered to interrupt my holiday with the needs of others.

Well, I can't rewind time and change my attitude. But I can learn from the past. As God gives me the chance, I will not see people as inconveniences this Christmas. I will see them as opportunities to spread God's love. There are certain groups of people I will be remembering in my prayers and seeking to minister to in particular this Christmas season:

-Residents of retirement homes, nursing homes, and hospitals. Many of these people have loved ones who will care for them. But unfortunately, many of them feel forgotten and alone. I am praying that God will grant them peace, comfort, and healing to them this season.

-Our troops overseas. With a war on terrorism ongoing, so many of our troops will be half a world away from their loved ones this Christmas. Their loved ones are also sacrificing having their family together for Christmas for the good of the country. I am praying that God will protect the troops and strengthen their families to endure the separation.

-The poor and the homeless. As the weather gets colder, many people in need find themselves struggling to find food and warmth. I am praying for provision for them. I am also praying that those of us with much will have a heart for giving to be God's hands of provision.

-Prison inmates. In most cases, people in this category caused their own problems. However, Jesus Himself commanded that we should remember those in jail. I am praying that during their incarceration, inmates would turn to the God of second chances. I am praying that their families who have to endure the holidays separated from incarcerated loved ones will find healing.

You won't have to travel very far to find people who fit into these categories. People who fit into most, if not all, of these categories can be found in your community. God has placed each of us into the mission fields where we live. The holidays are a depressing time for many people. But people are also often more open to spiritual things at Christmas. Through Christ, we have peace, joy, and love that the world craves. Let us take this opportunity to spread the joy that can only be found in Christ.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-5


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