Loving your neighbour may be easier than you think..

What would you do if the bell rang and you opened the door to someone, maybe a neighbour you vaguely recognise, who simply says, ‘Merry Christmas!’?

Well, I’ve been exploring this question this week by going out myself – with a friend and a basket of chocolate coins – and finding out what people actually do when you simply ring on their bell and say ‘Merry Christmas.’

First, of course, a few people are suspicious. They presume you are trying to sell them something or raising money for charity or trying to promote some event. But, when we explained that we were just dropping by to say ‘Merry Christmas!’, they relaxed, took a chocolate and wished us a ‘Merry Christmas’ too.

The whole experience was extremely heart warming.

We met a woman who told us her mother had recently died and so we were able to say a short prayer with her for her mum and the family. We had a chat with a man cleaning the lift of one block of flats and gave him a chocolate. We met a man who let us stroke his beautiful Irish red setter. There was a lady in a lovely Christmas jumper who told us how much she enjoyed the Church ‘happenings’ in the summer (she’s referring to our annual street party.) We bumped into the postman who was very pleased to take a chocolate. We saw a lady with a baby who wanted to know about our Monday morning playgroup. There was a delightful Asian couple who invited us into their home for a cup of tea. And another person, a delightful lady, who came and found us after we’d said goodbye to her and tried to persuade us to go back and have some of the Moroccan coffee she’d just brewed.

We had no unpleasant encounters. No one told us to go away.

We went home feeling uplifted by these little encounters and conversations with our neighbours. Encounters and conversations that had absolutely no agenda – other than wanting to be with our neighbours and to wish them a merry Christmas.

There’s a lot of disconnection in our culture, a lot of loneliness. We might try to address this by doing something for the people we believe are in need – inviting them to a lunch club or a church service or a school performance. But nothing really beats - or is simpler - than just going round to see people. Just for the pleasure of being with them.

Maybe this Christmas you might bake some cookies – or buy some Christmas chocolates, as I did – and then just go up and down your street with them, simply wishing your neighbours a happy Christmas.

It might sound a weird or scary thing to do. But I think you’ll be surprised to find what a lovely experience it is. And how much it not only nourishes the souls of your neighbours but nourishes your soul too.

At Christmas we remember how God came to be with us in Jesus. He didn’t come loaded with gifts for us, he didn’t issue invitations or put up a poster to get us to attend something. He just came to be with us. And he promises to be with us always – to the very end of the age.

And that is what we all need more of in our world today – the presence of someone who simply wants to be with us. For that reason alone.

Posted by Martine Oborne