My greatest incentive to cleaning and decorating during the holidays? Why, having friends and family over, of course!
The other night my husband and I went door to door passing out 41 invitations to each house on our street for my annual Ladies’ Christmas Tea. I usually have this on a Friday morning a few weeks before Christmas.
This year we are in a new neighborhood but, already I’ve heard from several neighbors who are excited about getting together. We’re exchanging “favorite books” this year and the women are talking amongst themselves as to what their favorite book has been and who might like their book. One of my neighbors told me this morning how grateful she is that we are all gathering together as new neighborsand even more importantly, as new friends.
Our other neighborhood tradition is hosting a Holiday Open House. (And we’ve intentionally chosen to call it a “Holiday” Open House as we’ve had several Jewish families join us over the years. We’re certainly not “anti-Merry Christmas” but we want to include as many friends and neighbors as we can.)
We’ve hosted these two gatherings for many years and the Open House is one of my children's favorite traditions. Everyone contributes in some way. Whether it’s helping to bake or clean, making place cards for the food, sharing their toys with other children, or greeting guests at the door, everyone gets to participate.
We invite everyone we know to come, including neighbors, co-workers, friends from past duty stations who now live nearby, church friends, gym buddies, the kids’ school friends and their families, cashiers we’ve met at local stores, the mail carrier, the office workers at places we frequent, etc. (Keeping these thoughts in mind: there are many other events going on so not everyone we invite will be able to attend, but they will feel special having been invited. We set the time for a two-hour block – the amount of work it takes to clean your home and open your doors is the same for a few friends as it is for lots of friends; you might as well make the most of your time and invite lots!)
We bake/prepare 5 or 6 food items (think super easy: meatballs in the crockpot, cookies, crackers with a cheese ball, mini quiches, pretzels with dip. Costco is a lifesaver here!) On our invitation we let friends know they’re welcome to bring a favorite finger food to share. A few will be relieved they can come and not have to bring something while the majority are happy to bring a dish. We usually have much more food than we would ever need.
One of my fondest memories is after everyone has left and we, as a family, sit around and talk about the people we are privileged to know and love. We talk about observing the different conversations that took place, the friends we knew in Norway who were in a lively conversation with the single mom who lives next door to us, the letter carrier who didn’t know anyone, but who left with the name and phone number of a church member who’s invited them to church next Sunday.
We recount God’s faithfulness to us and are grateful for the privilege of simply inviting friends and neighbors in and watching Him work.
This season, would you consider opening your home to even a few friends and neighbors? Inviting “everyone you know” may sound intimidating to you, but what if you invited the neighbors on either side and perhaps the ones across the street?
It’s not too late to write out a few invitations and get them out. And if your calendar is full, consider an “After Christmas Open House” in January, when things quiet down and people still need to feel appreciated and loved.
Michele Husfelt serves as a ministry assistant for NorthStar Church Network and heads up our Neighboring Initiative.