Practicing Warmth This Holiday Season
by Alex Hardt, Associate Pastor: Youth and Young Adults
I love the Holiday Thanksgiving for a multitude of reasons, one being the food (not as much this year cause of diet), two being hanging out with people I love, and three being that it’s a time to recognize God’s blessings in our lives. It’s a time of year when we can look back at the year and see what amazing things God has done in our lives. This holiday season is not about gifts or buying things (okay well maybe food), or sending cheesy cards to people or trying to find a pot of gold. It’s about being together with the ones you love and cherishing the blessings that each of you have experienced.
Each Thanksgiving I am grateful for things like a roof over my head, my family, my friends, food on the table, and so much more. I also recognize that there are people who this season and every day of the year go without. I remember that our state is experiencing a huge fire and many people are losing so much. So perhaps this Thanksgiving can be about practicing warmth.
What does practicing warmth look like? It’s about sharing the blessings we have received with those who are going through hardships, struggles, or feeling alone this Thanksgiving. Practicing warmth looks like Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus tells of the final judgment.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Within our own home we can talk about the needs of others, we can creatively come up with ideas of how to address them, we can listen to one another and communicate the value of each individual person. I love this paragraph from the Fuller Youth Institute blog. “Great creativity and innovation begin with empathizing, which Brené Brown refers to as ‘feeling with someone.’ Empathy helps young people to see and feel, rather than assume, the needs in their churches, communities, and neighborhoods. Young people are more able to utilize their creativity and passion in alignment with the things in which God is already at work when they know to feel with the people in whom God is already at work.”
During the week of Thanksgiving and through the Christmas season (and yes even year round) there are lots of opportunities for us to spread warmth. There are shelters in need of volunteers to serve food, food banks, clothing closets, or other ways to get involved. Serving regularly with your family teaches empathy, warms hearts, and it’s a ton of fun.
Local Shelter List: https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/cgi-bin/id/city.cgi?city=Modesto&state=CA
Find a cause that your family is passionate about such as homelessness or the fires in California or children in poverty. Pray about it as a family and then ask everyone to give to the cause within the family. My family sponsors a child through Compassion International. My wife and I give monthly while my kids make cards each time we send in our donations. We are working at cultivating warmth in them. When they get older we will ask them to contribute financially too.
Let the needs of others be woven into your prayers. As we pray for the needs of others, our eyes/hearts become more aware of what is going on and we tend to share the warmth of God more. One of my favorite songs is by Matthew West. Here are the lyrics below.
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, yeah, I created you” (now listen)
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yeah
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something