Christmas! Don't we seem to have a love-hate relationship with Christmas? We are reminded over and over that Christmas is "the hap-, hap-, happiest time of the year" yet we know that for many people Christmas is emotionally challenging. On one hand Christmas celebrates a divine event of salvation while on the other the traffic snarls on the shopping roads and the incessant commercialization wears us thin. And then there is the circumstance that until recently-and sometimes still-my fellowship of churches had decided that we shouldn't celebrate Christmas or most any holiday for that matter. In this blog I lift my voice to give a resounding YES, let us celebrate Christmas--and with gusto. So to encourage you and lift your spirits here are 12 reasons I believe churches should publicly, visually, and with heartfelt enthusiasm celebrate Christmas and a suggestion of what we can do for every reason:
#12: Because there are two months of anticipation. Easter and Christmas are the two holiday seasons that fill our cultural calendar. From Halloween to New Years people are thinking and preparing for what is coming. What a great time for vibrant, life-touching sermon series.
#11: Invite people together: it's PARTY time. People are ready for invitations in the Christmas season. Having parties is what we do. It's easy, it's not awkward, to invite because peoples' social walls have lowered. We took one of our neighbors to a local production of White Christmas who had yet to accept any other invitation we had offered. Invite people to parties where they can rub shoulders and make friends with people who are Christians.
#10: Families come together. Christmas is family time. As the colder, darker months take hold families turn to traditions that hold them together. We tell more stories, play more games, and work more puzzles together at Christmas. Christmas togetherness opens opportunities to see how life is treating those dear to us and to lend an encouraging ear or a helping hand. Create events that give families something faith-building to experience together.
#9: Christmas calls people to pay attention to one another through the giving of gifts. Even those bizarre white elephant parties require some thoughtfulness, to those who we care for even more so. When people are in this gift giving mood it is so much easier to raise conversations of faith. How are you celebrating Christmas? What blessings have you encountered this year? Open spiritual conversations with the people around you.
#8: The world is more aware of God. There are over 2 billion Christians spread around the world in every continent, country, and nearly every culture. At Christmas season the decorations, the colors, symbols become more religious. These symbols can be deeply meaningful confessions of faith displayed in ways that at other times of the year might be hidden or even dangerous. Give a gift in the name of Jesus to someone in another country.
#7: Christmas brings heaven near. Think of the songs: Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, and Joy to the World. The star at the top of the Christmas tree is intended to light the way to Jesus just as the star of Bethlehem did the night Jesus was born. People are more ready to look for the way back to faith at Christmas. Invite people you know who are not active believers to a celebration Christmas event.
#6: Peace is magnified. In the pre-dawn hours of Christmas 1914 British private Frank Sumter heard the German troops singing Silent Night. Soon the British troops joined in. On Christmas Day German and British soldiers came out of their trenches to share the Khaki Chum's Christmas truce in the no man's land of the battlefield. To whom will you bring the presence of peace?
#5: Because people are more willing to take themselves and their children to Christmas services than any day of the year, other than Easter. Let's give them the opportunity to worship God! Hold an expressly Christmas worship service.
#4: It causes children (and adults) to ask to hear the story. Watching so many Christmas movies this year I am amazed at the overt and explicit language and statements of faith many make. For some reason these faith statements in God or Jesus are considered acceptable at Christmas when they are not at other times of the year. People want to hear the Christmas story of the baby born in the manger. Make the nativity story part of your daily vocabulary during Christmas.
#3 - Christmas focuses the attention of the world on something beyond itself. In a self-serving world service to others gets noticed. This year our church staff carried over 60 poinsettias to the local elementary school we care for. Oh the joy on the children's faces to see all those flowers and the delight of the faculty and staff, many who said, "No one has ever done this for us before!" Spread the joy and serve someone this Christmas.
#2: Jesus, the Messiah, was born. That's the point of Christmas--right? Let's emphasize it. Christmas occurs close to the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. At this dark, cold time in North America Jesus shines brightly as the light of the world. Be a beacon of light; share the source of your faith with others.
#1: God came down to live among us. Yes, his name was Immanuel, God With Us. And we are his people. He invites us to join the heavenly chorus of angels "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The savior has been born!" Let God live within you so brightly people will ask, "Why are you different?"
Merry Christmas to all and blessed New Year,