Place Cards and Other Tips for Loving the Lonely This Christmas

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The holidays can make the lonely feel lonelier. Researchers report higher numbers of people feeling lonely than ever before, with some calling this issue ‘a loneliness epidemic.’ This name is appropriate, as loneliness has significant health implications. Cigna notes, “Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.”[1] The Church cannot ignore the fact that America is infected with loneliness. The approaching holiday season is an opportunity to engage a lonely world.

God’s people on earth have always been centered around the nuclear family. This is by intentional design. However, God’s design for family is broken within the fallen world. For many, this brokenness results in aloneness. Sadly, the Church’s healthy emphasis on biological family can make it a difficult place to be alone. Yet God also made us for the type of community the Church offers. Humanity was made for the table. Since many people do not have a family to go to for the holidays, the Church should be faithful to welcome them in. Though these ideas may not apply to each situation, I hope they provoke thought and intentionality.

Here are three ways that the church can welcome others during this holiday season.

1. The Place Card

Who in your life is lonely? As you set your Christmas tables, perhaps with the best China or paper plates, you can write his or her name on a place card and reserve them a specific seat. And then simply invite them, letting them know that you have a place reserved for them.

Why model this kind of hospitality? We can look back to the early Church to see their example, but we can also look forward. As we gather around our earthly tables of hurt, we see hints and foreshadows of the hope of the eternal table of endless glory. In our homes and heaven, all are welcome! The invitation is for all. The hope that believers have in this life is not only that all are welcome, but that there is a place card in heaven with their name on it. Brother or Sister, there is a seat reserved for you. Let us reflect that glorious eternal table on our earthly ones this holiday season.

The holidays often remind people of their loneliness.

The Church is often a place where we proudly exclaim, “all are welcome!” But in a lonely world, people need more than an open invitation that says, “All are welcome.” They need a specific request that says, “We want you to come.” This concept can be an opportunity to share the good news of Christ with those who do not know Him around our tables. In this broken world, a sense of belonging is rare. As you invite those who do not have a place to go for the holidays, understand that they already feel like they do not belong to an extent. In the same way, you do not belong around the table in heaven and yet believers have a place reserved for them. There is only One person who is worthy to sit at the table and yet He has prepared a seat for everyone who trusts and follows Him. Intentionally invite individuals to your table during this season. Learn how to spell their name, choose a place for them to sit, write their name on a place card, and welcome them as a family as you were welcomed in.

2. Spaces and Places

The holidays often remind people of their loneliness. Being conscious of this fact throughout this season can make a great impact. Here are a few ways you can include people in your holiday traditions. First, as families send out Christmas cards, those without a biological family may not get a chance to participate in this tradition and cultural norm. What would it look like for your Church, small group, or community to send out a Christmas card this year? Second, as guests enter your home, perhaps you have family pictures hung on the wall, pictures from childhood or weddings. Some people without families will never have their picture on a wall in a home. Could you have a place in your house where you put up pictures of your family and friends? Lastly, Sunday morning can be a stressful time for those who do not have anyone to sit with at church. Invite someone sitting alone to sit with you, and offer the invitation to apply every week. Take that weekly stress off their shoulders.

3. Continual Belonging

Though the holidays are a great time to welcome a guest into your home, after the holidays are over, continue that relationship and welcome this person in as family. The truth is that life is not just holiday parties and special dinners; life is laundry, chores, school, and work. Enfolding someone in this type of community is what creates a sense of belonging. In a family, you have various responsibilities, and including this individual in these smaller daily tasks can make them feel like they belong. The aspects of everyday life that seem mundane to you are aspects of life that others crave.

One such aspect is eating meals together. For a single person, meals are utilitarian and rarely at an actual table with others. Tony Merida in a sermon on Luke 14 argued that “we were made for the table.” When someone is missing, we often feel their absence the most at the table where there is an empty seat. Many brothers and sisters in your church do not have a seat that will be empty when they are gone.

People are hurting. Broken relationships, death, sickness, and sin cause a sense of despair. Welcome people in as you were welcomed in. Brother or Sister, Jesus died for you. He made each of us fearfully and wonderfully. He made us for community. He intentionally designed us with a deep desire to belong.

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  1. “The State of Loneliness in America – Cigna,” Last modified 2018.
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Corinne Nelson

Corinne Nelson is currently pursuing an MA in Ethics, Theology, and Culture at SEBTS. She hopes to continue her research within a Ph.D. program in the sociology of religion. Corinne is a College at Southeastern alumni. She is passionate about Christ, people, cities, motorcycles, and good conversations. She hopes to use her research to serve the Church and the world.

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