Christmas at Nursing Home – Listening With Our Eyes

 And he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  Luke 21:2-3 ESV

Three years ago, we hadn’t met many of our neighbors yet since we had just moved in, so when I saw the teenage boy pull in the driveway across the street I called over “Hey good morning!”, hoping to strike up a conversation. Surprisingly he didn’t even turn his head to look at me, and headed into his house. I was a bit put off and grumbled about that “unfriendly boy across the street” to my wife later. Nancy paused to let me finish griping, then she said, “He’s deaf you know. He can lip read, but he had to be able to see your face.” In an instant, not only did my attitude completely change but I felt pretty silly to boot.

When ministering at nursing homes, whether for Christmas, or any other time, one of the most important things we can do is to listen with our eyes, just as my deaf neighbor would have done if He could have seen me. In this third and final installment on preparing a Nursing Home Christmas program, let’s take time to consider the value of really seeing the people we are called to serve. In the same way that deaf people lip read, we need to pay attention to people’s facial expressions and body language while we are singing, giving gifts or putting on a Nativity play. We shouldn’t just plough through our well-planned program, then announce proudly to others how loving and generous we have been. We need to watch people’s faces to see how they are responding. If someone is just staring off into space, then catch their eyes and smile. If you see those in the back, turning their heads or cupping their ears, move closer as they may not be able to hear the song. Don’t let your “Silent Night” be silent because they can’t hear the notes! Ask God for help to not only listen to the words of greeting as you shake their hands to say goodbye; but take time to see them as Jesus does. Then maybe we will hear more than people’s words. We will see them as God does when we learn to listen with our eyes!

Sharing Christ at Nursing Homes in 21

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Yesterday I shared a little about preparing a Christmas outreach into Senior Living communities in your own town. Today I’ll be presenting some practical suggestions that you can use, or re-configure to fit your own situation. Most importantly is that we try to find ways to carry the love of Christ into facilities that are just beginning to open again. Why shouldn’t Christians be the first ones in the door willing to bringing tidings of comfort and joy. this Christmas?

We need to think about how the same old goals of nursing home ministry can be done in brand new ways. When Sunday services in a nice comfortable chapel at a retirement village where I used to visit were cancelled, one of the residents went to the administration and received permission for us to meet outside at a little park area around a fountain. Someone ran a long extension cord out of a nearby building to power the microphone and while others brought beach chairs to supplement the few park benches, we had available. We printed out flyers to advertise our little gathering and prayed it wouldn’t rain. It was both amazing and wonderful how being outside allowed other residents of the village to see that they had somewhere they could go for fellowship, singing and prayer. Some people wore masks, everyone socially distanced and no one became infected by it. Most of all we discovered that the difficulties encouraged us to work together with everyone and that together we could bring the hope of Christ to our community. One woman did the organizing and scheduling; while two retired pastors took turns moderating our meetings, and I only needed lead the songs.

Eventually we were granted the use of a recreational building where we had air conditioning during our hot Florida summer but the lessons we learned at the fountain were precious and will remain with me forever. We are a family and every family has to work together to find unique solutions in different situations. At another facility, the recreation director eagerly invited us to come sing Christmas carols.

Our Florida solution was to do the caroling around the swimming-pool! Residents from the assisted living building overlooking the pool area could hear the music and as we went on our small group grew in numbers considerably. At the end of our time after we prayed, we turned around to leave and were surprised by one of the staff people with a food-cart serving everyone hot chocolate and ice cream! It reminded me of the scene at the burning bush when God called Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite people go. As you can imagine Moses was less than thrilled about how that was going to play out and God asked him a simple question,” What is in your hand?” and Moses answered, “A staff.” (See Exodus 3:2). In that same way, as we stand in front of our own burning bush, wishing we could pass through those flames to answer our own call to serve and God is asking each of us; “What is in your hand?” What opportunities do you have? Who can you ask to help? What abilities and talents has God given you? The answer may be something as insignificant as the stick in Moses’ hand, but God is not as concerned about what we have, but in how able He is to use anything and anyone that is given to Him in order to share the love of Christ with others.

These are the Sunshine newsletters that we distribute free of charge in several facilities

Getting Ready for a Crazy Christmas!

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV

Often about Thanksgiving I put out a post giving advice on how to prepare a Christmas program for nursing homes. But this year the plans of mice and men have definitely gone astray in more ways than anyone could have imagined. Due to Covid-19 our world is in many ways completely out of season. Nothing works as it once did if it works at all. Whether you live here in Florida where getting into a nursing home is akin to infiltrating North Korea or in California where meeting even with family members for Thanksgiving is under siege we have a problem Houston!

But from the many years of experience the Apostle Paul had to draw on he gives both Timothy and us a word of timely advice – “Always be ready for change” Now truthfully I really hate change especially when it comes to things like Christmas. I love the gentle drifting of snowflakes out the window (though I guess I’ve already lost that by moving South!)For me nothing says Christmas like the sound of Pat Boone singing “O Holy Night or the aroma of my wife making her annual Christmas candy. But change is on the calendar for all of us. In small part by making a general nuisance of myself on the phone to various activities directors I have learned a few things that may be of help to you if you are thinking of doing some Nursing Home outreach this year.

First, ask if there is some kind of safe setting in which you or a small group of people can do something of a Christmas program including caroling, cards or small gifts. Our small group took an offering and purchased 36 of the Large Print Advent Readers which I wrote to give out. Second be flexible with your schedules. In the past we have done Christmas caroling and or a Pageant in the early evening but as we will be outside in the parking lot this year we got in the schedule for 3 PM. Last of all as always, prepare, prepare, prepare! It will be worth it when you come to those precious 30 – 40 minutes in which to share the love of Jesus and some holiday cheer for folks who have been under virtual house arrest since March.

Be encouraged! God is still in control. We have been able to schedule meeting for two different homes and to give our books at a third. If you have any questions on anything please feel free to contact me by email @ revpete5@gmail.com or ask them here on this post. The last eight months have been a learning experience for us all. One thing that never changes no matter the circumstances is the mission to go into all the world and tell people the good news of Jesus Christ. What better time than Christmas to get on board?