By Caitlin Chodakowsky
In my experience, Christmas and New Years are the worst times of year to be lonely. When I was seven, my family and I immigrated to Australia and for years I longed to celebrate Christmas with my relatives back in South Africa.
After what I considered a few lonely Christmas', my mum did the most extraordinary thing: she started inviting other people who were lonely at Christmas around for a meal.
Suddenly I realised that I was unusually blessed to be in a loving close-knit family and there were many who were lonelier than me, people who struggled through the festive season with a heavy heart over the death of a loved one or a broken relationship, and people who had no family or friends at all.
This thought reminded me of a vivid story Jesus told about a wedding feast, which in that day was a joyful Christmas-like celebration that lasted up to a week.
According to Matthew chapter 22, Jesus talked about a king who was preparing the wedding feast for his son but the invited family and friends all made excuses as to why they could not attend.
In response, the king decided to open up the invite to whoever was willing to come and his servants went out onto the streets and invited people "both bad and good" to attend as guests.
The people who accepted the king's invitation prepared themselves and respectfully dressed in wedding attire to celebrate the big occasion.
However, one man just came as he was, not bothering to dress for the occasion. The king was insulted and threw him out of the party into the darkness.
Jesus told many parables like this one to explain what the Kingdom of God is like.
This parable illustrated the fact that one day there will be a massive banquet of celebration in Heaven. God first invited Israel, His chosen people, and some of them rejected Him as their King. Through Jesus Christ, God then opened up the doors of heaven to whoever would be willing to come. Jesus said, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved" (John 10:9). In the story's conclusion Jesus warns that those who do not face God on His terms, believing they can reject His invite or rock up without preparing themselves respectfully and appropriately, will be cast out into the darkness.
Whether this year will be a lonely Christmas for you or one filled with big family festivities, you need to consider whether you have accepted heaven's invitation and are prepared for the biggest banquet you could ever attend. In John chapter 1 verse 11 to 12 it says, "[God] came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God."
The good news is that Christmas is about God's rescue mission from the ravages of sin and death. It is God's gift and invite to eternal life. The key thing is that such a gift has to be accepted, just like an ordinary Christmas gift or invite. As we do that by faith, we are adopted into God's huge family and receive the eternal blessings and God's wonderful forgiveness that comes with it.
The invitation is not based on who you are, good or bad, but on God's kindness towards us. I'm not sure about you, but when I leave this life, I look forward to the biggest family banquet celebration ever and no more lonely Christmases! •