An open-house Christmas party is a good way to break the ice with your neighbors.
An open-house Christmas party is a good way to break the ice with your neighbors. (Getty Images )

Like many people in southern suburbs, we live in a subdivision. People rise early, get home late and spend most of their time in their cars and houses.

When time changes in the fall, Nashville is the recipient of early afternoon darkness. For several months, workers can leave home before daylight and get home after sunset. It is a bit hard to cultivate relationships with people you can't see.

Last week, I watched a neighbor open his garage door while driving up our street, pull inside, then close the door before exiting his car. He was never outside. I guess it was he; it could have been she.

Busyness. Relocation. Isolation. It seems more difficult than ever to build constructive relationships with people on the same street.

If, then, God has placed us where we live (and He has), then it follows He's called us to be lights in that part of the world. Here are a few ideas on how you might use Christmas as the ultimate icebreaker to further relationships in your neighborhood:

1. Hand-deliver Christmas cards. We've done this twice on our street, and will be doing it again this week. We use the same card for every neighbor, and write our name and street address inside.

I suggest finding a Scripture-based card that bears witness to the reason for the season rather than a generic secular card. Scripture-based cards bear witness to the Light. (A broad selection can be found at LifeWay stores).

We rarely find people at home, but when we do, the door is open—literally—for a brief introduction or conversation. This year for the first time, we included times and dates for our church's "Christmas Eve Eve" and Christmas services.

2. Have a Christmas open house. One year, we hosted a drop-in Christmas Open House for the very small neighborhood we lived in at the time. This is easy and does not have to takes weeks of preparation.

Use simple invites and mail or hand-deliver. Make the time clear: 1-3 p.m., 2-4 p.m. or whatever. Make it a drop-in party so people can feel free to leave if they run out of things to talk about or feel comfortable arriving with only 15 minutes left.

Serve hot apple cider, coffee and a couple of other options. It's OK to mix in a few store-bought snacks, but it's good to have some homemade goodies. Your neighbors will appreciate the time you invested to bless them.

3. Have a full-blown Christmas party. One of our LifeGroups had a Christmas party Saturday night. At various times, three different couples arrived seeking a party at a different house. They didn't know they were at the wrong house. Two of the couples actually walked in the house where we were before realizing their party was down the street!

People are looking for parties at Christmas, so why not have one? You don't have to have a sermon; your décor can tell the story. Most people can tell the difference between Jesus and Frosty. Christmas parties can open doors to relationships where there were none.

4. No neighborhood, no worries. But not everyone lives in a neighborhood where door-to-door deliveries are practical, right? That is absolutely the case. So let's hear from you: What are some things you've done at Christmas to reach those in your community who might not know Christ? Leave your stories in the comments.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Green Hill Church blog.

Marty Duren is a longtime pastor, writer and blogger/social media enthusiast. Prior to becoming executive editor of LifeWay Pastors, he was the Manager of Social Media Strategy for LifeWay and Content Manager for The Exchange. He and his wife, Sonya, have three adult children and one awesome grandson. Marty and Sonya live in the Nashville area.

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