The Christmas season has always been a time of wonder and cheer for me. Growing up, and even now, there is anticipation for the season to arrive. For many people though, Christmas can be a great time of sorrow, with memories of lost loved ones and an increased feeling of isolation and loneliness.
One of my favorite things to do at christmas time is watch Christmas movies. I think I love ALL of them! My family generally begins watching Christmas movies over Thanksgiving break. This year, my husband wanted to watch the Tim Allen movie, ‘Christmas with the Kranks’, as our season’s kick off movie. Now first I should say that I DO love this movie, but for whatever reason I did not want to watch it that weekend. I cringed every time I thought about it. Finally on Sunday night, I relented and we put it on. As the movie progressed I felt the nudging of the Lord to look closer. I thought this was weird cause quite frankly there is not really anything spiritual about this movie.
Recently, and increasingly, the Lord has been prodding me to examine my heart and interactions with my neighbors. The movie, if you have not seen it (minor spoiler alerts!), is about a couple whose daughter will be missing Christmas because she is leaving home for the first time. The couple decided to “skip” the holiday and take a cruise, but at the last minute she changes her mind and comes home on Christmas eve.
Toward the end of the movie I began to get emotional, which is not my normal reaction to this movie. I was moved as I thought about my own life and what would happen to me in a tough situation? Throughout the movie, I laughed as I saw the leading couple avoid their neighbors. But truthfully, I’m ashamed to tell you that this comedic bit of fiction is akin to my actual avoidance. As this movie experience has continued to unfold in my heart over the past few weeks, I have made note of the opportunities the Lord has given me to connect with my neighbors. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that it is easy to get home from work or school (or whatever occupies your time) and leave the neighborhood by escaping into the sanctity of your own home.
As I reflected on this thought, I took time to observe my own row of houses. Rarely is anyone in their front yards or even their driveways. With the exception of arriving home at the same time, neighbors might not see each other for days or even weeks on end. This was the case for me until recently.
Digging deeper into things, I began to look to the scriptures about being a good neighbor.
“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Matt 12:31) Even though I’ve probably heard this verse a thousand times, I was honestly taken aback. I realized what a bad neighbor I had been. Generally speaking, I think I am good friend, co-worker, sister, etc… but when I really thought about being a neighbor, I have missed the mark.
Over the summer, a couple neighbors moved and new occupants moved in to the left and right of our home. Both neighbors were extremely friendly and greeted us. I was uncomfortable at first, but my husband, who is in my opinion a pretty great neighbor, was greeting them and making friends right away. I, on the other hand, would make myself scarce.
As I thought about how the families in the Kranks’ neighborhood rallied around them in their time of need, I began to have an ache in my heart for my own neighbors. I have found myself answering the door when they pop over. I am waving or saying hi if someone happens to be outside when I am. This year, I am planning to make christmas cookies for the neighbors. And unlike years in the past when we have done this, I will be walking with my family to our neighbors and delivering the cookies.
Though this article is not filled with thousands of scriptures about being good neighbors, I felt the second greatest commandment that Jesus gives us (which helps us to fulfill the calling of all christians) might be enough to compel you to look deeper. Where is God at work in your own neighborhood this year? The great commission begins with us bringing the Gospel to our own neighbors. How are you sharing the light of Christ in this season?
Sharing the gospel can look different across the world. Some are called to other nations, some are called to different cities. The idea of evangelism sometimes eludes us in our day to day living. Others of us do well when we are out shopping or eating at restaurants. Maybe you are even involved in serving your community in one way or another. But perhaps you are also like me, maybe you have forgotten the call to ‘Love your neighbor’ – the ones right next door. Our hope is that you will take time not only in this season but in all the seasons to demonstrate the greatest way we can love them, through sharing the love of Christ.