I have been thinking how we have made Christmas a very exclusive time – we like to huddle. We huddle together with immediate family, we huddle with other Christians, we huddle with people who are “like us”, we huddle in couples and we huddle inside from the cold. We like huddles at Christmas.
And yet the angel announced Jesus birth as “great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10). That is a pretty inclusive word “all.” Jesus entered our world as joyful news for everyone, ALL people. Jesus moved right into the middle of our ordinary, everyday lives, as 1 John 1:14 puts it in The Message paraphrase “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes…”
Christmas is – Jesus stepping right into our neighbourhood, in plain sight, for all people.
And what do we do? We run into our huddles and hide.
There is both an inclusivity and exclusivity to the Gospel.
Inclusivity – Jesus came for all people. Jesus has the power to save all people. Jesus was and is breaking down barriers between people of different backgrounds, genders, power imbalances, nationalities and social economic classes. Jesus calls His followers to go to all people, showing and telling the Good News. Jesus was and is reconciling people to God and to each other.
Exclusivity – Only Jesus can forgive sins and restore our relationship with God. Only Jesus is renewing all things, bringing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Only those that trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour are children of God.
Here is my hope, that our inclusivity as Christians invites people to explore the uniqueness, power and exclusivity of Jesus.
However, here is my pet peeve, we Christians spend far too much time being exclusive. We stick way too often with those we know and are comfortable with. We stick way too often along family circles, instead of opening up those circles, perhaps especially at Christmas time. Show others the inclusivity of the Gospel! Who are you leaving out? Who needs to experience a taste of God’s inclusion, God’s embrace, through you?
Even our helping others tends to keep us at a safe distance, for example when we throw money at charities and people. This IS valuable and there is a need for it, but it is not the same as engaging with people, it is not the same as including others that are “different” than us, it is not the same as representing God who moved into our neighbourhood in Jesus. As followers of Jesus I’m inviting us to actions where we actually have to engage with people and we cannot remain at a distance. (Yes, that includes those of us who are introverts.) God did not remain at a distance, God came close and moved into the neighbourhood in Jesus.
This time of year (and always) we should be incredibly inclusive as followers of Jesus.
Here is my challenge – How can we be more inclusive this Christmas?
How can you include people from different pockets of society from you?
How can you build connections with neighbours in the places you live, work, study and play?
In other words…
20 Ways to join God in our Neighbourhood during the Holidays
Do not be overwhelmed by this long list, ask God to highlight the few that you are to engage in this season. Please don’t say “We already do this” find new ways to be more inclusive this season.
1. Invite newcomers to Canada into your home for a Christmas meal. Explain some of your holiday traditions and ask about theirs
2. Invite an International University/College student to your home over Christmas.
3. Invite someone to come to your church’s Christmas Eve service with you, plan to sit together.
4. Go to the neighbourhood Christmas parties - the work Christmas parties, team parties, neighbourhood parties and have a conversation with someone you don't know very well, find out more about their life, joys, hopes...
5. Reconnect with people who are home for the holidays. Take genuine interesting in what is happening in their lives
6. Offer forgiveness to someone you have written off. Send an email, give a phone call or meet for coffee saying “I don’t know what reconciliation between us would look like, but I’d like to pursue it. Would you be willing to consider it?”
7. Write a special Christmas note to someone, explaining the difference they have made to you and to the world
8. Give to a charity that is making a difference in your neighbourhood(s). Don’t stop there – spend time getting to know someone that serves at that charity or the stories of people whose lives are impacted by the charity.
9. Have neighbours into your place or out for a treat. Remember neighbours can be the people in the places you live, work, study or play.
10. Pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop. Chat and learn a little about them after they say “Thanks.”
11. Ask someone outside your usual circles to be your Facebook friend and start chatting on-line
12. Pay for the person’s groceries in front of you in line. Just say “Merry Christmas” or "Happy Holidays"
13. Invite a widower/widow in for tea or a meal
14. Send an encouraging note to missionaries away from their home in Canada
15. Invite a single person into the chaos of a family meal or winter activity (snowshoeing, cookie decorating, gingerbread house building, sledding…)
16. Bake a treat and give it away to neighbours or people who provide community services in your area (crossing guards, police services, fire stations, community centres…)
17. Serve a free community meal, but don’t just serve it, visit, get to know people and their stories
18. Walk your neighbourhood, praying silently as you walk and being friendly to anyone you meet along the way
19. Think of one group in your community you don’t know very well. Do one thing to bless that group and start a connection.
20. Help a neighbour with a chore – shoveling the driveway, stacking more wood, cleaning off their car, cleaning out their chimney…
How will you join God in your neighbourhood this Christmas?