“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (Col. 3:12, ESV)
As we approach the holidays, many of us look forward to the joys of being with our close friends and families, singing familiar carols at church, and anticipating the sounds of excited children as they open their gifts amongst the aroma of fresh pine, homemade cider, and savory food. The Christmas season can elicit nostalgic feelings and comforting hopes to connect with the people we love.
But this is not always true for those in our communities who are homebound and isolated because of aging, chronic health concerns, a life changing disability, or ongoing mental health challenges. During the holidays, there are many people who feel completely alone. They may spend their Christmas in isolation, apart from the support of good Christian fellowship.
When I consider these challenging realities, my heart is moved to do something. And I hope yours is, too! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate our Savior’s birth by bringing comfort and joy to the people in our church or community who are feeling lonely? Here are a few ways we can reach out and show the love of Christ toward those who are homebound or isolated in this Christmas season:
1. Contact church leadership. Often, local churches have a list of people who are unable to attend regularly or are experiencing isolation. Talk to your church about the unique needs of each person and set up a time to visit.
2. Provide the ministry of “presence.” When you visit, display the love of Christ by being attentive to the other person. Be fully present, and leave behind any distractions. Don’t be in a rush to come and leave. Take your time and listen, asking questions about their life (this can be especially helpful for those who are aging and are losing their ability to remember immediate details), and pray for God to minister to this person through you.
3. Ask if you can bring their favorite meal and eat with them. Bringing food is a kindness, but your company is even more of a blessing.
4. Bring uplifting music. Offer to play Christmas music or some of their favorite hymns. Music can lift the spirits and bring hope to a discouraged heart. Singing together can be a wonderful way to connect.
5. Give a friendly hug or hold their hand. With their permission and when appropriate, demonstrate your care and concern with touch. If the person you visit isn’t talkative or has lost their ability to verbalize, you can communicate compassion through your non-verbal skills.
6. Send a card. If visiting is not possible, or the person’s health prevents them from accepting visitors, send them a card and let them know you are praying for them.
7. Pray for them and with them. Go to God on their behalf before you meet them, and while you are with them you can ask them if you can pray together. Make time after you leave to thank God for your time together, and remember to pray for them in the future.
8. Set a date to come again. If the situation allows, offer to come again. Visiting even once every few months will demonstrate that they are not alone, that someone cares, and more importantly, that God deeply cares for them.
When we take time to demonstrate the love of Christ to those who are isolated and lonely, God’s gift of comfort becomes tangible through our care. During this Christmas season I hope that we can be the hands, feet, and arms of God, reaching out to our friends who are homebound, just as the Lord Jesus came to this earth to reach out to us.
Crystal Keating serves with the Response Department at Joni and Friends, providing encouragement and practical resources for people affected by disability. She has advocated for true life in Christ to women with unwanted pregnancies, homeless families, and neglected children since 2000. She is also a graduate student, studying marriage and family counseling.