Christmas hospitality: How missions, parties collide
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- In our part of the world, there are no Christmas parades, no lines to visit Santa, and no corner lots filled with cut trees for sale. But our neighbors -- most of whom have never observed Christmas -- know that we celebrate Jesus.
I'm sure that for some who are reading this, the thought of having people over is as scary as Charles Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Future. But it doesn't have to be that way. Hospitality is a trait followers of Jesus ought to develop. For us, it's one of the best ways to build bridges to the Gospel with our neighbors. As you look to make the most of this Christmas season, consider how to share Jesus with people who are right around you.
Prepare your home and heart
We begin by preparing our own heart as a family. Since we have young children, the way we draw the heart of our children toward the Lord is by using a little nativity set. Our children love setting it up.
We bring out one piece at a time each day, starting with Mary. On that first day, we have one of our boys read Luke 1:26–35 when Gabriel visited Mary and said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy -- the Son of God" (Luke 1:35 ESV).
When we set up the figure of Joseph, we read Matthew 1:18–25 when the angel visited Joseph, saying of Mary, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21 ESV). The next day, we read Luke 2:8–20 when an angel of the Lord appeared to the fearful shepherds.
We love reading these Bible passages together and cherishing this event of Christ's incarnation -- so incredibly powerful in history, so life-changing. Each part is worth reading, worth remembering, worth pondering. God uses His Word through this simple tradition to stir up our hearts to share His love with others.
Cross barriers and invite lost neighbors
One early December evening a few years ago, my wife went to talk with Zephir* to invite her to our Christmas party. Zephir was drunk and sad. She was bruised all over. She wanted to leave her husband but had nowhere to go, and she couldn't leave her children.
My wife had given her a Bible and had read parts of it with her, but the eagerness to hear about God had been consumed by the darkness of abuse. She had slowly withdrawn into her own world, pushing everyone away. But a Christmas party? Yes, she would love to come to our Christmas party.
We prayed for Zephir, and we are so thankful she came and experienced our celebration of Christ's birth. Perhaps you know someone just like her. We also prayed for neighbors in our building, down the street, at work, at school, our friends, and our children's friends.
We prayed for open hearts and opportunities for many to hear the Gospel at our Christmas party. We invited people from all the local places where we are regarded as regulars -- the coffee shop, our neighborhood playground, the local grocery store.
Have a simple plan
There was a look of true wonder on Mert's* face as he entered our house.
It was clearly the first time he'd ever been in a home to celebrate Christmas. We drank chai together and talked. Without even trying, the conversation moved toward what this holiday was all about.
After spending a good amount of time welcoming each guest, serving light refreshments, sharing in friendly conversation, and introducing people to others, we include everyone in our family tradition of going through the meaning of the nativity.
There is something remarkable about sharing the simple story of the birth of Jesus, especially when we see our neighbors start to get it. Mert's smile exuded the joy of a child. Zephir listened with tear-filled eyes as she learned about Christ's incarnation.
Let the Gospel shine brightly
After sharing about the nativity, we had a few young believers from our church stand next to it. They had words taped on their shirts -- words like envy, anger and jealousy. One of the young people went to a little cross that had been placed next to the nativity. One after another, they traded their words of sin and hurt for words like love, joy and peace.
Several of those precious young believers had fled from war-torn neighboring countries. The words on their shirts read murder, suicide and violence. They recounted some of their horrific experiences as we tearfully listened -- alongside our unbelieving neighbors -- to their powerful testimonies of God's forgiveness and redemption.
They each laid down their words at the cross beside the manger and then picked up words of grace, freedom and forgiveness. That beautiful moment of gospel clarity was the highlight for us. Our neighbors heard the message of Christ and caught a glimpse of our joy in Him.
I hope you'll consider making this simple tradition a part of your life too. Share the Gospel through simple hospitality and the Christmas story. Read it. Dramatize it.
Most of all, tell your neighbors that it really happened -- that Jesus really came, that He saved you, and that He's the Savior of the world.
*Name changed. For more information, go to imb.org.