This month’s Pastor’s Perspective is delivered by Pastor Mark Bethea, First Baptist Church of Montgomery
The holiday season and Christmas can bring a multitude of emotions. On some levels it may feel like Andy Williams’ famous song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” On the other hand, it could feel like Merle Haggard’s, “Trying to Make it Through December.” Maybe for you, it’s somewhere in between.
For the believer, Christmas is a set-aside time celebrating the arrival of our Savior, Jesus. It ushers in the reality of God who dwelt amongst His people. It’s why we sing joyfully, Immanuel, God with us!
However, the practical side of this fallen world is that these seasons can be incredibly difficult — for both the believer and the unbeliever. For some, this will be the first Christmas in which a loved one is not sitting at the family dinner table. It’ll be the first time to place ornaments on the tree and acutely miss a mom, dad, brother, sister, or child.
Christmas may ring in a season of despair and loneliness, even as we open our hearts to what the season means.
This is one of the reasons I’m thankful God has given us the Church. The Church as a family of faith is equipped to come alongside the hurting and grieving to comfort as we have been comforted by the Holy Spirit.
Paul reminds us of that very thing in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those we rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
How can we do that? There can be a hint of nervousness in reaching out to those who have lost loved ones or may be facing uniquely difficult situations through the Christmas season. Here are a few simple thoughts that you can employ through this season to encourage those who may be facing tough days.
Send a note. An old-fashioned hand written note in the mail can go such a long way in reminding a friend or relative that you are thinking of them and lifting them up in this season. I have greatly benefitted personally in receiving a note in the mail, handwritten by a dear friend. It takes very little time but can make a deep impact.
Send a text. A new-fashioned text message can have the same impact as a handwritten note and can make an instantaneous difference. The technology we have today is remarkable. If the Lord puts a person on your heart, write them a short text message letting them know at that moment they were on your heart and in your prayers. It’s so uplifting to be on the receiving end of one of those messages.
Send baked goods. Each week, our church goes out on visitation to new friends. The best thing we do on those visits is take a loaf of freshly baked bread. A dear lady in our church has been baking seven loaves of bread each week for nearly 20 years. Fresh baked bread and cookies open the door and heart! Drop off a note and baked goods on a doorstep as a simple gesture of love.
Send yourself. If you have an existing friendship or relationship with someone you know may be hurting through this Christmas season, invite them to lunch or coffee. Invite them to come alongside you. At times, we may find this difficult or may feel we’re not well equipped to walk someone through their grief.
This can keep us on the sidelines of loving someone well. Most of the time, we simply need to sit, listen, and hurt with them. We likely won’t have answers or an easy button we can press to make the hurt go away, but we come with compassionate ears and gentle hearts. In my own grief, I don’t remember many words anyone said, I only remember their presence in the moment.
I am much anticipating the Christmas season. I can’t wait to joyfully sing, worship, and fellowship with family and friends. This season is such a full reminder of the adage our Pastor Emeritus at First Baptist Montgomery used to say often, “We need Jesus and we need each other!”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends!
Mark Bethea is senior pastor of First Baptist Church, 305 S. Perry Street.