This Christmas, Serve The Starved

By Meg Bucher

Portrait of beautiful young Afro American parents smiling while little baby is sleeping in dad's arms

We are called to look for, find, and help each other—especially at Christmas. Paul helps us to understand the place from which we are motivated and able to give in fulfillment of others’ needs in Romans 13:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The Greek translation of “fill” in this verse signified an active filling in to perfection or completion. The only way we are able to find and fill someone else’s need is to be filled, first. The power of the Holy Spirit produces the place of great hope from which we give to others.

 1. Start on Your Street

 God commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This phrase occurs many times in the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New. Galatians 5:14 signifies that “the entire law is fulfilled” through this poignant statement. The word ‘neighbor’ in Greek comes from a derivative of another word that means ‘near.’ Jesus taught that anyone we meet is our neighbor, and we know that God places people in our lives purposely. I believe proximity is never a coincidence.

Take a few moments to reflect on the life situations of neighbors we know. Parents of young children are always in need of a babysitter. Perhaps we can offer to watch their kids so they can go Christmas shopping together. Elderly tend to be more homebound around the holidays. We can take them a meal, invite them over for dinner, or offer to drive them around to look at the Christmas lights.

Being new to an area, or disconnected to those next door, doesn’t mean we can’t find and fill a neighborly need. A shoveled driveway, fresh batch of cookies, or hand delivered Christmas card is a great way to welcome new people to the neighborhood.

2. Check the Family Tree. Twice.

Distance, or disagreement, sometimes split and separate family Christmas traditions. Immediate families drift to different parts of the country as children fly out of the nest and parents towards retirement. Others may have suffered through losses and divorces that have decimated the family structure. The holidays have a tendency to bring any and all of the happy Christmas memories to the surface, but surely drag the bad ones along, too.

Reconnecting with family, or reaching out to someone who’s disconnected, takes a lowering of pride and expectations. Break cold ice by adding them to a Christmas card list, an invite to the family Christmas celebration or our social media circle. Though there can be history that justifies our disconnection, we’ll never regret reaching out to lend our welcome and forgiveness. That alone can be a heartfilling gift.

Separation and loss of holiday tradition isn’t always birthed from conflict. There may be elderly members of the family who cannot travel or reside in nursing homes, or, college-aged students who cannot afford to travel home for the holidays. If families cannot be reunited physically for the holidays, be sure to FaceTime them or send a care package to make sure they know they are not forgotten.

3. Around the Friendship Circle

 Each life has a circle of friendships that have supported us through particular seasons. David and Johnathon’s Old Testament friendship was rooted in the common love they had for God. It was in seeking Him first that they had such a close bond. Jonathon loved David as he loved himself (1 Samuel 18:3).

Social Media makes it easy to access friends from our past, to share a laugh over an old memory or let them know we’re thinking of them this Christmas season. What a gift just to know that we’ve not been forgotten.

Frame a picture for a current friend with a note on the back telling them why their friendship is valuable. It’s a gift that will linger with them, even if the season of the friendship should fade or end. Think of the hobbies you share, hard times you’ve helped each other through, and activities you frequently do together, and look for a gift that sparks a happy memory.

4. Befriend Someone New

Christians walk around with a powerful capability to brighten someone’s path. “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The word “light,” is used the same way in reference to Jesus being the light, and to describe the light of life that we have because of Him. That is assuredly more powerful than we understand or recognize. The work that God does through us does not always require our conscience cooperation. When we are walking with Christ, we are noticeably different; I say, brighter.

Christmas is a great time spark a new friendship with someone you volunteer with, a parent with kids the same age, or a new neighbor. When our kids mention new students, do our hearts go out to the parents in hopes of connecting them to our community? At our churches, are we seeking out new visitors for a chat over coffee?

A decorative plaque with the town’s name on it alongside a card to welcome them can make a new family feel right at home. If we look into our hearts prayerfully enough, God will help guide us to the person that needs a friend this holiday season. A friendly conversation could be just what someone needs to fill their heart this Christmas.

5. Laugh with a Child

 The after school program that I volunteered with when I was younger, located in an impoverished area not too far from where I lived, taught me how easy it is to give a child the gift of our company. The laughter I shared playing board games with those kids was heart filling, for them and myself! From a familiar passage in the gospel of Mark, Jesus teaches us why it’s so important for us not to lose touch with what it means to be a child:

“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but he disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Children are at the mercy of their caregivers. Some may learn about Jesus at home, and others will rely on people like us to invest time into their lives so that they can experience the love of Jesus for themselves. Check with area pastors and schools as to where the after school programs are, and how we can volunteer our time. One hour, once a week, can be a huge gift to a lonely kid. The gift of a familiar board game that we play with them, that they can take home and play with their family, teaches them how to pay forward the love shown to them.

6. Serve the Starved a Meal

The Bible is clear that we are called to help the poor. In a world fallen and swimming in sin, there is no lack of those that simply fall on hard times. Isaiah 58:8 speaks of a hope that we can expand on as New Testament believers:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

This is the light that follows our obedient generosity towards those who are hungry and in need. Jesus was close to those who were in dire straights, and I believe we are to follow His lead.

“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

Soup kitchens and local churches that serve free meals to the hard-pressed in the community need volunteers and donations. Food pantries that stock up on what is needed in the area have a running list of what they are in short supply of. Coming alongside each other to give out of the blessings we’ve been given is a gift to someone who desperately needs our help this Christmas. Pastors are always hyper-aware of families in need. Contact them, and find a family to bring a hot meal, or gift a grocery gift card.


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