The holiday season (Thanksgiving through Christmas) is by far my most favorite time of the year. I love the cold air, the seasonal smells, the wonderful family meals, and the joy of watching those I love open their Christmas gifts. I love that this time of year is about family and friends. Enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with those we love is a treat. And the true meaning behind Thanksgiving and Christmas make them especially wonderful—as we express gratitude to the Father for his bountiful blessings and we celebrate the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior.
Yes, this season of the year is wonderful. But where these holidays are a blessing for many, they are a burden for many as well. The lessons we learn from Thanksgiving and Christmas should make us especially considerate of those who need compassion during the next month or so.
- The pilgrims and Indians shared during the first Thanksgiving. So, where there is need this season, we should share our abundance with them. Maybe prepare a meal for a family you know will not have a full Thanksgiving spread. Or buy a turkey for someone in need. Generosity is an expression of gratitude.
- Thanksgiving is a set aside time to remember our blessings—especially our families. We should set aside time to offer thanks to the Father for the gifts of our family and the privilege of companionship.
- As we are thankful for the gifts of our family, we should be mindful and compassionate to those who will be lonely during this season. Because Thanksgiving and Christmas are so wedded to family experiences, they are especially difficult for those who’ve experienced loss—broken relationships, divorce, and death. I recently spoke to a lady in our church who confessed that the holidays are a lonely and difficult time because of broken relationships and death. As ministers, we can make ourselves available to others, build other-centered compassion into our sermonic applications, or create events that help the lonely cope with the intensity of their sense of loss this season.
- Because Christmas is about giving (God giving to mankind the gift of his Son), we should make giving to others a priority this season. Do something special or out of the ordinary with your giving this season. Bless a family with Christmas gifts. Find a local organization that provides Christmas gifts to families and support it directly. Or if you know of a situation, meet a need or give a gift personally.
- Above all, be sensitive and compassionate to others. Consider this. While Jesus was shouldering the burden of human separation from God, atoning for the sins of the world, interceding as both the Lamb of God and great High Priest, he concerned himself with the need of one. In John 19:25-27 Jesus assured provision for his mother by assigning his “beloved disciple,” John to take care of her. If Jesus can pause from the eternally important and serious salvation act of atonement to show compassion for his grieving and soon to be lonely mother, then we can and must have compassion on others during this time of year.
While Thanksgiving and Christmas may not be the time of year to begin a brand new set of ministry events or programs, it is certainly the time of year when the church has every reason, every motivation, and every opportunity to put on the compassion of her Savior and care for the broken, hurting hearts of those around them.
I hope this holiday season will be more than a reprieve for us from the rigors of church ministry. I trust God will allow us to be his compassionate hands and feet to offer a reprieve to the hurting, lonely, broken, and depressed.