4 Ways to Touch the Lost—
Bring Them Home for the Holiday
by Jane Robinson
The frantic wail caught my attention. A tear-stained face confirmed my suspicion. He was lost. I walked away from my shopping cart and bent down to look into his eyes and hold his hand. “It’s okay,” I said. “I’ll help you find your mommy. What’s your name?” Not long after, the boy ran into his mom’s arms, and I went back to buy bananas.
I suspect many adults feel lost and frightened at Christmastime this year, too. In the few short months since last we sang Christmas carols and shopped for Christmas gifts, a mind-boggling storm of disasters have washed away traditions treasured by thousands of families over decades. Hurricanes and earthquakes around the world have shaken people’s confidence in the stability of their lives. War and persecution have caused the deaths of untold numbers of Christians. At this time last year, many, many of our brothers and sisters in the faith looked forward to celebrating the Savior’s birthday with family and friends; now they dance with the angels in the Savior’s presence.
Meanwhile, far from the very public disasters and massive relief efforts, individuals have one-by-one succumbed to accidents and illnesses. Grandmothers and aunts, brothers and husbands, children and friends have died. Sheriffs have evicted thousands who could no longer make their mortgage payments. Cancer and MS. Emphysema and schizophrenia. Divorce and suicide. These tragedies and many more have ripped through the fabric of life in families from coast to coast and around the world. Christmas will never be the same for many families, many individuals. They feel lost among the familiar decorations, the twinkling lights and soft carols.
We live in a world ruptured by sin. Since Eden, this truth has continued to assert itself. Despite this, we often insist on seeing the first Christmas as a cozy affair. We paint mental pictures of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child in a warm stable, the manger backlit in blue and golden light. All is at peace. Even the animals look happy! But reality then, as now, carried elements of mind-boggling harshness.
The public and personal tragedies of the year now past remind us of that harshness. They remind us, too, of the world’s desperate need for Christmas. The Father sent the Son, not to condemn us, but so that the world through that Son could have eternal life, eternal joy, an eternal peace that passes all human understanding (see John 3:17; Philippians 4:7). God planned to save the lost; he planned it from all eternity. That’s how much he loved you and me and every individual who has ever lived on our sin-soaked planet.
You may feel a little lost this Christmas, and you probably know others who feel lost, too. You need Jesus again this Christmas; so do our lost friends. We need our Savior more than ever, and we recognize it more than ever.
In a practical sense, what do we do? First, be on the lookout for unfamiliar faces. Displaced and distressed people will be looking for comfort and warmth. Some will look for it in your worship services or at special events your church sponsors. Be ready to greet them, to welcome them, to help them experience God’s love for them in a safe, comforting place.
Then, too, be on the lookout for stress on familiar faces. Some of your current members, even those who attend regularly, may need comfort and a sense of stability. Be ready to speak that word. Help them remember and soak in the warmth of God’s love sent to us in our infant Savior.
When you find someone feeling afraid or lost, bend down. Take time to “be Jesus” for that person:
- Look into each person’s eyes. See the suffering there, and let them know you recognize it. Don’t say, “I know just how you feel.” You don’t. Even if you have experienced a similar tragedy, you don’t know how they are experiencing the pain and loss. Instead, say something like, “I know you’re hurting.” These words will convey caring and empathy, while encouraging the other person to externalize the hurt by talking more about it. Listen. That’s all you need to do. Just listen!
- Hold their hands. Some of these people will have immediate physical and emotional needs. They may need you to literally hold hands for a few moments or to give a hug. But they may also need help in even more practical ways. Find out what their needs are, and “hold their hands” through the hurt as you do what you can to meet their needs.
- Lead them to their Father. After you address immediate needs, do what you can to help each individual begin little by little to look forward. Use God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11®, “I know the plans I have for you . . . to give you hope and a future.” Use Matthew 6:25–34, where Jesus reminds us how precious we are to him. Remind those who hurt that this present life isn’t the end, that we have hope in Christ, the Savior—that baby born at Christmas to live, die, and rise again so we can, too.
- Walk with them into their future. Don't forget about these people after Christmas; keep up the relationship you started. If they’ll continue as part of your worshiping community, express your joy in having them as partners in ministry. Encourage them to use their gifts and talents in service to your congregation and community. Be in contact with them regularly until they are fully back on their feet.
Perhaps you can share this prayer with those to whom you minister:
Gracious Child, we pray, oh, hear us,
From your lowly manger cheer us,
Gently lead us and be near us
Till we join your choir above.
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