18 December 2017

A place at your table

Well it’s just a week to Christmas. For many, the pressure is really on now – racing those unwilling shopping trolleys around Coles, bulging with supplies for the eat-fest. Or racing the Victa over the back lawn in preparation for that afternoon cricket match. There’s the pressure of finding cheap (but not too cheap) presents for people you mostly like, who really don’t need anything at all and a calendar full of pre-Christmas get togethers. It is all building to that climactic moment when the doorbell rings and the Christmas day festivities begin.

And after all the craziness of the week that will have passed, there will be those few but precious moments, maybe snapped and posted on your facebook page, where you experience the delight that this season is meant to evoke – maybe.

Or then again, this week could be a slow build to the most forgettable day of the year. That agonising reminder that the doorbell wont ring, the decorations can stay in their box again and you are shopping for one. A day when you feel most alone and you avoid facebook just that bit more because it hurts to see everyone else sharing their happy family memories while you sit alone at home…watching the annual rerun of Home Alone.

If you watch the way advertisers present the Christmas season – it's all family fun, happy children and socialising with your inner circles of friends. But according to a new Australian Red Cross survey, one in four of Australians – or 5.6 million people – are lonely almost all of the time or on a regular basis.

It may be due to the death of a loved one, illness or old age, family breakdown or just a lack of social connections. Whatever the reason, Christmas is salt in the wounds of loneliness for a quarter of our community.

Social isolation is a common theme throughout the gospels. Jesus repeatedly gravitated to the people who perhaps most acutely felt the sting of loneliness - the demoniac, the woman at the well, the disabled, the tax collector. These were the invisible people, the lepers of the social scene – the ones that respectable, well connected people ignored or avoided.

Jesus continually made room for these people – and my hunch is so can we.

The problem of loneliness seems impossibly big and I imagine most of us shrug our shoulders and conclude there is nothing that we can do about it – so we do nothing about it. But perhaps, like Jesus, our part is not to solve this for everyone, but simply to find the one who you can open your life and home to this year. To lengthen the Christmas table, add a chair and include someone into your family, or your inner circle of friends who otherwise wouldn’t be there. They will be blessed and so will you.

I'm reminded of Psalm 68.6 which says "God sets the lonely in families." I guess He does that when families first open their doors to the lonely.

We are fortunate to have several wonderful people joining us this Christmas day at our family table - some we’ve known for a while and some we just met a week ago. It’s the thing I’m most looking forward to this Christmas.

I wonder, who might you include this year at your table?

And hey thanks for joining me this year in Lifewords! I hope you’ve been challenged and encouraged. I’ve enjoyed the process of reflecting and writing and I always appreciate your comments and feedback.

May you have a joyous, restful end to the year and may you know the hope and the peace that Jesus can bring.