Christmas Challenge No. Six:
Seeing with Compassion


By Mary Stephens
Dec. 2014

But when he saw the multitudes,
he was moved with compassion on them,
because they fainted, and were scattered abroad,
as sheep having no shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

Last year I put up a blog post on December 25th entitled "Because Christmas Isn't Always Merry..." A reader  made some comments on it in which she talked about what a painful time of year Christmas is for some people. She pointed out that some simply can't be "merry" or keep the tradition of celebrating with family as it's presented by the world.  This can cause real distress and depression for those people.

I hadn't really expected to post a holiday challenge this year, but recently it came to me that one problem with the heavy celebration schedule that many people keep is that they fail to really see those who need to be seen the most - the hurting, the lonely, the ill, the downtrodden. I've written at length about remembering the poor and touched on the hurting and lonely people in that challenge as well as in the one to simplify your holidays. Perhaps this might seem like repeating myself, but sometimes we need to hear something from more than one angle before we really see it.

One of the problems with the busy-ness of the Christmas season is all the things that get missed - more specifically all the people that get missed. When you are totally consumed with your own "merry" plans and festivities it is easy to not see the hurting and suffering around you, even when you think you are trying to love them. One of the saddest aspects of this is that there are Christians who are ignored or neglected by their own brothers and sisters in Christ!

This challenge, then, is to consciously simplify and reduce the busy-ness for the express purpose of being more attentive to those who are hurting or lonely at this time of year - those who will not have themselves "a Merry little Christmas". These are the people who need the touch of Christ's compassion on their lives in a more real and intentional way.

Our text above talks about how Jesus Christ saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion on them because they fainted and were scattered. Many talk about the "spirit of Christmas" and "the true meaning of Christmas". What do you think Jesus Christ would want His children to do to celebrate His birth? I've asked this before and likely will keep asking it as long as Christians continue to run to the same excess of riot as the world (1 Peter 4:4).

Friends, eyes that are full of parties, glitter, feasting, shopping, etc. do not see people in need as the Savior would see them. Matthew 6:22-24 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Consequently, a person cannot be moved to compassion over the hurting and lonely ones if one is serving money and things. 

Making your celebration quieter and less intense, less cluttered with the myriad of holiday junk that China has put at our disposal, will give more opportunity to notice people and to focus on their real needs. If this is done with the mind of Christ it will result in compassion and conscious acts of kindness and love. In short, Christ-like behavior will follow.

What is Christ-like behavior? 

Mark 6:34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

Matthew 25:35-36 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

John 11:33-35 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.

Romans 12:15 ...weep with them that weep.

 I Timothy 5:10  ...relieved the afflicted...

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (Notice that part about being unspotted from the world. This is an appropriate thought for this particular discussion because of the tremendous temptation to enter into the lusts of the flesh at this season and so forget the widow and the orphans, among others!)

1 Thessalonians 5:14 ...comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

We could continue with this list, but you get the picture.

How can we put shoes on this? 

Here are some thoughts. Think how you might help, encourage, and include:

  • The sick, chronically ill, and dying (terminally ill). Those who have had recent health problems and are weak.

  • Those who are grieving and not able to have a "jolly holiday".

  • The lonely - those without much or any family, the single folks, that childless elderly couple, those far from home (college student, teachers, soldiers, recent transplants, etc.).

  • The depressed, sad and hurting. The lady and her kids who went through a recent abandonment by their husband and dad. 

  • Those with heavy responsibilities for others, such as those who care for disabled family members, mothers with mega families, etc. 

  • Saved men and women who are still in prison completing their sentence.

By the way, these are good things to do if you don't celebrate Christmas. It is a good opportunity to reach out to those hurting people who are being ignored, both with the Gospel and to comfort and help the family of God.

Ask the Lord to show you ways to reach out to these people that will show them the compassion of Christ in a real way.

Here are some examples of things you could do:

As was mentioned in another challenge, you may visit those in nursing homes and hospitals, particularly those who don't have much family to attend to them.  You may invite single people, those far from home, those without children and lonely people to share in your celebration on Christmas Day.

Instead of sending out a hundred Christmas cards to friends and family, go through your address book and list of acquaintances and figure out who would be the most lonely, ill, grieving, etc. this year. Write a personal letter to or phone each one. Taking the time to show that you really care about them will count for more in God's plan than all the cards you usually send that get buried in a pile, ignored, thrown in the trash (yes, some people do that), or even stuck in a card display and never really looked at again. And, by the way, please don't wish these hurting folks a "merry Christmas". If they are really hurting and suffering it isn't likely to be "merry" for them. Don't remind them by pushing that on them. (If you forget and write or say it, most will understand, but try not to.) Wish them a blessed remembrance of Christ's birth or tell them you're praying for them - something more appropriate.

Spend time with those who are suffering and struggling. If you simplify your holiday activities and shopping, as suggested in previous challenges, you will have time to focus on lifting some burdens. Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Maybe you could take a lonely person to lunch this month. Help a weak or chronically ill person with their holiday shopping or other preparations (gift wrapping, etc.) You might babysit the kids for an overwhelmed mother. You might do extra baking for shut-ins or those who aren't likely to have many extras this year. You could take meals to a sick family or person. You could take elderly folks whose usual rides are busy to their appointments or shopping.

Be available, within reason, to those who just need to talk. They may not have anyone else who has the time to listen at this time of year and they may desperately need to be heard.  I wonder how many holiday related suicides could have been prevented if someone had just taken the time to really listen and hear what the person was saying and needing. Don't think you can fix all problems, but do know that sometimes it just takes one person paying attention to save a life. (Get help with people who are suicidal if you are not comfortable working with the situation. It's ok not to know what to do, but it's not ok to do nothing or to pass off a legitimate problem. As a man once told my dad, there are people who are faking it to get attention, but the one person you turn away who does commit suicide you will regret the rest of your life.)

Some possibilities may sound trivial, but they could make a huge difference in one life. Making a handmade gift for someone who is generally overlooked for such things might make someone feel valued who needs to feel valued. Maybe they don't have any close family who cares much about them. Maybe they're far from their native turf. For one reason or another they may usually receive "token" or polite gifts, never anything where time, effort and thought was invested. What about that teenager at church from a bad home? Think outside your usual group of people "we need to give to" and reach out to those on the fringes. Consider different age groups and even that disagreeable relative that no one wants around. This would be a Christ-like thing to do. Remember how the crowds told blind Bartimaeus to be quiet, but Jesus stopped and called Him to Himself and healed him! What an excellent reminder to reach out to those who would be pushed aside and silenced.

Mark 10:46-52 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

These are just some ideas of ways you might stop the busy-ness and show the compassion of Jesus as you observe His birth. You claim that you are celebrating the birthday of Jesus, why not do so in a manner that is honoring to the example He left us? Why not reach outside the box of your traditions and challenge yourself to do things worthy of the birthday of the Saviour who had compassion on people? Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Hebrews 13:12-16 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

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LINKS
Disclaimer on Bibles other than the Authorized King James
and possibly some content.

Here are some examples of ways that you can put shoes on this, or that others have done so.

The Joy of Showing Hospitality at Christmas - Here is an article from an Australian lady talking about ways that they show hospitality to people who are lonely and alone at Christmas time. Worth reading for ideas on how to put this into action.

Care packages for the homeless with a N.T. or tract included.

When Christmas Is Heartbreaking - A true story of how one woman received comfort and compassion during the dark time of a miscarriage just before Christmas.  Quote: "If we do anything at all praiseworthy this season, let it be the act of noticing others and reminding them that they haven’t been forgotten. Give that awkward hug and don’t pull away too soon. Send that email and love on someone with your words. Take back some of those gifts that you really don’t need and do something for someone else."

20 Christmas Activities for the Frailest of the Old - These are ideas of things to do with very frail elderly people, but some of them would work equally well with frail people with serious illnesses.

 

 

graphics and background by Mary Stephens
Girl with basket - altered excerpt from vintage illustration.
Tree - anonymous original photo. Altered.
Updated 2016; CA