ALABASTER, Ala. (BP)–At a holiday party she hosted several years ago, author and women’s ministry leader Page Hughes watched the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” with her guests while they enjoyed soft drinks and refreshments.
Before the movie credits rolled, Hughes shared that the most wonderful thing in her life was her relationship with Jesus.
“I had an operation with complications the summer before this party and almost died in my own home,” Hughes said. “During that time I had experienced such peace and never knew fear. I shared this experience with my guests.”
After she shared her feelings, one of the guests asked many questions about God, heaven and other spiritual issues.
Just a few weeks later, Hughes found out that the young lady who had asked the questions had died tragically.
“I’m not sure where this precious friend is spending eternity, but I know that I did what God was leading me to do,” Hughes said. “God was using me to give her another chance.”
Hughes, a member of Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., uses this example to show how everything in life – even the simple act of hosting a party in your home – can be an opportunity to tell others about Christ.
And each Christmas season rolls around, Hughes encourages women to entertain for the holidays with just that purpose in mind. While hosting parties is a wonderful way to share hospitality and the Gospel, she acknowledged that many women may feel inadequate in doing so.
There are many ways, though, to make entertaining easy and stress-free; there are also many ways to share a witness in non-threatening ways. She shares many of these ideas in her book, “Party with a Purpose” (New Hope Publishers, a subsidiary of Woman’s Missionary Union).
Several party ideas for Christmas that are easy to plan and host are:
— Cup of Cheer Party, at which all guests bring a mug wrapped for a gift exchange.
— A Few of My Favorite Things Party, at which each woman brings a copy of her favorite book for a gift exchange and the host shares her favorite desserts, decorations and recipes with guests.
— Giving Party, at which guests are told to bring items for a designated missions project.
Hughes said she encourages hosts to always find a way to share their faith at their parties.
“For every party I plan, I always ask how can I get the Gospel message across,” she explained. “At times I have a devotion time, share a story or a book, or maybe even put a verse of Scripture on a small favor I send home with my guests. For the My Favorite Things Party, you can share about your favorite story as recorded in Luke 2.”
Every great party includes great food, decorations and activities, and Hughes said these things easily can be planned as well.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Hughes’ favorite ways to decorate for Christmas utilize inexpensive items, many of which can be found around the house and yard. “Go out in your yard or a wooded area nearby and snip pieces of greenery,” she said.
“Place the greenery around your home and enjoy the beauty and its fresh smell.” She also said that lighting is an easy and effective decorative element; add lights to greenery or faux trees for a shimmering effect.
When it comes to food, Hughes again looks toward easy items.
Some of the easy appetizers she enjoys include peanut butter sandwiched between graham cracker sticks and dipped in melted chocolate. Tart apple slices served with caramel dip is another of her favorites.
“You don’t have to be a great cook to enjoy good food,” Hughes said.
Modern women often feel inadequate in entertaining, she said, because they feel the pressure to present a “perfect” party that isn’t actually practical.
“Television and magazines show fabulous party ideas, but women feel they can’t entertain because the standards are just so high,” Hughes said. “They can also be costly, which presents major stress.”
Women should look to the biblical story of Mary and Martha to help with this stress, Hughes said.
“Jesus told Martha that she was worried about many things, whereas Mary had chosen the best. Mary had chosen to make her guest the priority, not just the preparations,” she noted.
“The best hostess is the one who keeps it simple enough that most of the preparations are done before guests arrive,” Hughes said. “The party also needs to be basic enough that others don’t feel intimidated.”
THE HOLIDAY SEASON
Hughes and her husband, Les (senior pastor of Westwood Baptist Church), host many parties during the Christmas season.
“We have had ornament swaps and cookie swaps, as well as just times where we gathered for bowl games and the like over the holiday season,” she said. “We often just share times with family and friends.”
Hughes said that hosting such get-togethers is a wonderful way to get to know others around you and to share your faith with strangers and friends alike.
“In America today we rarely take time or have opportunities to get to know those who live on either side of us, work at the same place or even have children playing on the same athletic team,” she said.
“Partying encourages us to make opportunities to get to know others and celebrate our faith in Christ.”
An ornament swap held in her home just last year provided an opportunity to reach someone for Christ, Hughes said.
At the party, she read “The Parable of the King” by Beth Moore, which tells the story of a king’s daughter who ran away and became rebellious; when she came back home and confessed her disobedience, the king accepted her with love and affection.
Hughes said she received a letter months later from the granddaughter of a woman who’d attended the party. “The young lady had become pregnant out of wedlock and the grandmother purchased a copy of that book to give to her,” Hughes said. “The girl said she read it each week when she’d become discouraged.
“It had been a source of hope and forgiveness for her. She now reads the book to her young son, and said that she could never express her thanks for the gift I had given her.”
That experience, Hughes said, shows how God can use a party for a higher purpose. “I did not realize what God was doing. I was simply having a party, sharing a book,” she said. “God had much bigger plans!”
Cheryl Sloan Wrap is a writer for The Alabama Baptist, online at www.thealabamabaptist.org.