That can be the ultimate put down. Saying “You don’t matter to me” is even worse than saying “I don’t like you.” Maybe in our prime days of strength and self-sufficiency we may think we can get along without others, but as we get older or go through some sort of stress situation, we really want to know that there are people who care about us.

In our culture, Christmas is an annual time to make sure our caring circles are intact. There’s the large circle of people who are on our Christmas card list and the circle of our neighbors, delivery people and folk we bump into when we’re shopping. But the circle that matters most is those whom we identify as FAMILY. For some of us, this may involve an extended group of twenty or thirty relatives who make sure they gather at one time and place over the holidays. For others, it’s a more limited family of two or three, but it’s just as important and reassuring. The church family is very meaningful and real to many of us at ABC, and we try to find special ways to be together at Christmas time (see image above from Christmas 2019).

Many of our traditional Christmas stories are about caring and not caring. King Herod’s edict to kill little babies in an attempt to cut off a new threat to his rule, the ruthless harshness of the miserly business owner Ebenezer Scrooge saying “Bah, humbug!” to anything Christmassy and the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas are all examples of the Who Cares? attitude. But these are all overwhelmed by the heart of the Christmas message that GOD CARES, and he has sent the Baby Jesus to prove it.

The COVID Pandemic seems to be reaching its peak just in time for Christmas. This has put a damper on most of the togetherness activities we normally look forward to during the holidays. All the ways we gather to reassure ourselves that we care for each other are much more limited. We want to reach out and show that we care, but that turns out to be a very dangerous thing to do right now. We can potentially hurt the ones we’re trying to love. We have to restrain our caring impulses, which means that many of us are left feeling lonely and uncared for.

It may turn out that some of us will die from the COVID disease during this Christmas season, and as we go through the final stages, we may be isolated from all the people who care about us. That’s really sad. Fortunately, most medical doctors and nurses know about how lonely dying people may be, and they do their best to be a substitute family during a patient’s last days. They’re trained for this; that’s why they’re known as professional caregivers. Along with their scientific medical courses, they actually study how to provide a Circle of Care for the patients they help through their darkest hours.

But they’re still not the personal caregivers a lonely patient would choose to have close by toward the end. This is very frustrating to those of us who genuinely care and want to show it. What a comfort it is to know that Jesus cares for our loved ones, even when we’re not able to reach out and touch them ourselves. Even if they’re far away, even if they’re intubated in a hospital ICU, we can be assured by the words of the old hymn that they are “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” And we can pray that the Lord will remind them of another familiar hymn, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.”

Here are some caring exercises for you during these next few days:

  • Strengthen your closest circle of caring, your family and special friends. Look for opportunities to heal old hurts, ask for and give forgiveness, verbalize your love to those who matter most.
  • Widen your circles of caring by doing something to give hope to homeless, unemployed and struggling families. Think about one particular person who seems to lack close family and friends and reach out to that person in some way.
  • Let yourself be cared for if you yourself are feeling alone and overlooked, maybe even to the point of saying “Who cares?” and giving up. Please tell someone who seems to be a caring person and be open to the care they want to give you.

Cultivate your relationship with Jesus, so that if the time comes that you are cut off from those in your caring circle because of circumstance or sickness, you will be fully aware that his arms are securely around you.

– Pastor George Van Alstine