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.” 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.