Gathered Near to Us

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Being around family and friends is my favorite part of the holidays. In fact, I daresay it is the best part of the holiday season because it encompasses almost everything else we love about this time of year — good food, bestowing and receiving gifts, decorating the house, enjoying yearly traditions. Fellowshipping with our immediate family and brothers and sisters in Christ energizes our souls and helps us remember what the holiday season is about — to slow down and give thanks for our blessings, joys, and even trials that teach us the value of life.

One tradition my family has continued throughout the years is to have into our home several of the older members of our congregation each December. These wise owls, who also have become our “adopted grandparents”, may be further along in years, but their spirits are as bright and vibrant as ever. For me growing up, it was always an exciting event. We worked like busy bees to clean house, spruce up decorations, cook food and goodies, and practice our piano pieces that our guests always asked us to play. It was no different this year, for it is an absolute joy to be around these faithful Christians on such a merry occasion. Minds are alive and laughter is never spared. Spiritual wisdom is bestowed in light conversation, kind and uplifting words are spoken, and the beauty of Jesus is seen in each of these soul’s lives. My favorite time of the evening is when we settle down in the living room, enjoying the soft glow of the Christmas tree and sharing stories of years gone past while sipping on warm cups of coffee. It is what some might call that mysterious “Christmas magic”. This year, I couldn’t help but think as I soaked it all in how all the bustling preparation is always worth it — for this is what makes each Christmas so special.

Another family tradition of ours is gathering at my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve with as many of the extended family members as possible. Being around close family can get crazy at times, but that is what makes such fun memories! We feast, feast, feast on a wonderful meal supplied chiefly by my grandmother as the grandkids cluster around the “kids table” and the “adults” gather at the dining room table (for there are too many of us to fit around one table). There is plenty of jesting to be had, especially if one of us “moves up to varsity” to sit at the dining room table instead. We catch up, tell stories, and groan at the “adult’s” stories they tell about our younger years. Once again, the most memorable time of night seems to be when everyone gathers in the den, all snug with full stomachs and Christmas cheer. We exchange gifts, play games, sneak seconds of dessert, and engage in meaningful conversation. What a wonderful blessing family is!

I often wish I could bottle up this energy and carefree spirit that is so often present when we gather together in the holiday season. Though I’ve told of only two instances this year, this feeling of togetherness makes itself known anytime we are near to those we hold dear. Fellowshipping with those in our church family, visiting or extending a helping hand to an ailing friend, or even enjoying a fun night with close girlfriends reminds us what a blessing kindred souls are.

Thinking about my family makes me all the more grateful for God’s family, those who share a “like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1). I encourage you to take full advantage of your church family, those Christians who are there to strengthen and uplift you as you do them. Not only did Jesus set up the church to be His messengers to a lost world (Philippians 1:5), but He also gave us an amazing support system. No matter our ages, members of the body of Christ can point each other to the Head whenever we begin to stray or become disheartened. As His children, we are able to have fellowship with each other as we are interwoven in His love (1 John 1:3). How can you get much better than that?

Even though this holiday season gives us abundant opportunities to relish the time we spend with our friends and family, let us never forget the value of gathering near to those who are dear and faithful to us and cherishing the time we have with them throughout the year.

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

If you want to know more about the family of God and all the blessings it brings, the answers can be found in the New Testament. If you’d like help getting started, see the “Study” tab above!

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