“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943 as a tribute to soldiers overseas during World War II, and has become a holiday classic. Nursing home residents are a bit like soldiers, but most of them will never be home for Christmas. The statistics say that 60% of nursing home residents in the U.S. do not receive a single visit from a family member in an entire year. There is no more important time to plan a special program than at the holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day each are opportunities to show God’s love through visiting people who are alone. Small gifts are wonderful, but the greatest gift we have to offer is our presence.
For those unfamiliar with nursing home ministry early October may seem a bit early to begin planing a Christmas program. But after having worked for 20 years of Christmas I have learned that the earlier we start the better. Usually we have a group of from 6-10 volunteers (mostly young people) who start out eager to help. What happens along the way is a combination of teen issues (boyfriend /girlfriend) or school and family changes that impact our ability to prepare. All in all I sometimes feel like we are just duct taping a few kings crowns together and turning up microphones for shy voices that the residents can barely hear. Thank God that Jesus takes our 5 loaves and 2 fish of talent and desire and multiplies it in a way that touches hearts and lives each year. Over the next week I will be posting a few practical ideas and guidelines that may assist you in your own community to get ready for Christmas once again.
In this computer age no one uses pencil and paper but I encourage you to at least try both. Physically writing things down helps to slow our thoughts down enough to consider in detail the people and the plan that will help make your program effective.
Make a List
- Meet with the recreation/activities director of your chosen local nursing home and find an open date on their calendar that works for you. Typically these calendars fill up more than a month in advance. We are written in for December 6 because the 13th was already taken!
- Ask for volunteers from your circle at church and friends and find out how many people you can expect to help. Will this work for the program you have in mind?
- Can the children (or youth) at your church be invited to participate?
- Think about small gifts for the residents. Have you asked the staff what gifts to give?
Pray for God’s creative ideas. Pray together with your team. Get started and trust that the Christmas message is full of hope for people who have been forgotten. Christmas began in the heart of God!
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. Luke 1:37
Ministering weekly for the last 23 years in Allied Skilled Nursing I have often wished there were more resources available for the residents. The reality of being partially disconnected from the local community and even their local church I see first hand the struggles and needs of people who have become my friends and extended family. Today I am making available a 31 day devotional called 31 Days of Hope for free this week in ebook form. If you are a family member a resident or a nurse this I pray thia month of readings will be a lifeline of hope that will draw you closer to God who is the truly Good Shepherd who has given us eternal hope in every dark place of life!https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075RRB5ZR
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
“How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives”
Go the lines from the Gaither song “Because He Lives” The sweetness of holding a baby is nowhere seen more powerfully than in a nursing home. Sadly there are few people willing to bring their babies in so the staff provides lifelike dolls for the residents to cradle. They gently rock their baby and their faces light up with smiles. It is almost as if God has built into us a response of hope for the future every time we see a tiny baby.
But our hope for the future is not based on babies, or baby dolls. True eternal hoe is based on the promise of God’s word. Whether sitting in a nursing facility or standing in a cap and gown waiting to graduate from high school our future hope is always in the love of God. His plans for us are to give us hope. His plans for our future are always for our good. We can trust Him to our final breathe here on earth, knowing that in a moment we will be breathing in our first breathe of heaven!
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV
For residents in a nursing home life can sometimes feel like a place of total defeat. You can see it in the stooped shoulders or hear it in the angry reactions to small annoyances. In our own home as we are passing through my wife’s battle with cancer I am finding myself facing the same struggles. I feel like a rowboat caught in the tidal wave of serious illness and family turmoil. That is exactly the situation which the disciples faced as the accompanied Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had asked them to pray with him for one hour; but the Bible tells us that
And when He rose from prayer He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow. Luke 22:45
They were overcome by sorrow, but not their master. Jesus had prayed till His sweat fell like drops of blood. Jesus had continued interceding even when they felt defeated. In the same way He is interceding in heaven for you and I today. Neither our sorrow nor our despair will cause Him to abandon us. He will come and awaken us. He will carry our burdens. He chose in that dark garden to pay the full price for our sin to give us hope. It is that hope which lies behind the cry:
O Grave where is your victory? Death where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55