One Holiday, So Many Ways to Celebrate
What about Christmas? Do we embrace it, ignore it, celebrate it, or protest against it? There are as many opinions as there are people. Just ask them.
I think of Christmas as a season rather than a day. A season with the opportunity to share and show Christ to the world. A season of celebrating the birth of Jesus—who would bring us the gifts of peace, hope, joy, forgiveness, and redemption. A season filled with wonderment and anticipation. A season of love.
The Christmas story as recorded in Luke 2 has been told through the years via music, drama, and art.
I vividly remember during my first years as a Christian when our small church in Conneautville, Pennsylvania, put on Christmas plays. Rosanne Russell directed us as we worked diligently memorizing lines and directions so we could share the story of Jesus with everyone who came. An audience can become absorbed in the characters and story line leading them to the manger.
On another occasion, the churches from Meadville and Conneautville came together to present the cantata “Night of Miracles” under the direction of Ralph Pratt. I still get goosebumps when I sing out the first line, “Glorious night of miracles.” The music was majestic as it transported the audience to the night Jesus was born.
The Christmas season affords the church limitless opportunities to reach out into the community and world. My sister’s church, Central Church of Christ in Streator, Illinois, shares the story of Jesus through the “Bethlehem Walk.” Thousands experience the sights and sounds of Bethlehem with live animals and beautiful narration. So much time, talent, and hard work go into this adventure, but it is priceless to see families come through and be confronted with the gift of Jesus.
Our church has put on Christmas dinner theaters, and folks give tickets as gifts to their friends and neighbors. While here, they are blessed with good food and the message of Jesus woven throughout. The actors, musicians, tech folks, and servers give up many evenings for practice and production, but once again, people who do not regularly attend church hear the story. Michael, Cheryl, and Solomon always extend an opportunity to hear more of the good news.
“Christmas for the City” is on schedule for this year. We rent out a large facility downtown and invite families to come and enjoy several hours together. They are able to make crafts, see and hear the Christmas story, enjoy a photo opportunity, eat snacks, and view a delightful children’s program produced by Dave, Mandy, and their crew. Aaron and his outreach team spend countless hours organizing all the activities and hundreds of volunteers to make it happen. Why? So perhaps just one person will want to know more, or perhaps a small child will have seeds planted that will bear fruit later.
Some churches have a Christmas tree in the foyer with paper stars stating a specific gift; people may take one or more stars and buy the corresponding gifts. It’s all about meeting needs in the name of Jesus!
Finally, let’s not get upset with those folks who only show up for church on Christmas. They may be coming with a heavy, hard, or sad heart. Their life may be filled with conflict and hurt. We have the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus and plant a seed. Let’s not miss the moment!
Christmas is a unique time to teach children how to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.
Some display their nativity scene on December 1 and each day put one piece of straw in the manger to prepare for Jesus’ birthday. Every day, the children in the family pray for a specific person or talk about ways they can show kindness at school or at home.
In all the busyness of Christmas, it is important to have some quiet time—perhaps a candlelight dinner. It is amazing how even with preschool children this creates a sense of awe and wonder.
A birthday cake for Jesus was an exciting time in our home. We would make it and then talk about whom we were going to share it with. Sometimes it stayed in our home for guests, and other times we delivered it to another family.
On Christmas Day, many families begin the celebration by reading the Christmas story from Luke, and for one family in our church, the honor belongs to the youngest one who can read.
Christmas caroling as a family is a wonderful blessing. Our family went to sing to an older lady dying of cancer one year; it brings tears to my eyes when I remember standing in her living room singing “Silent Night.” Invite one or more families to join you in visiting retirement homes, nursing homes, shut-ins, and hospitals.
Keeping Christ as the center of Christmas can be difficult but it’s not impossible, and sometimes our children teach us about giving unselfishly. When our kids were younger, they chose something of their own to give away to children with special needs.
My son chose the first teddy bear I had given to him. He would not be deterred as I made other suggestions. I was the one with the problem of giving, and so my little guy taught me the pure joy of sharing.
Be creative. If your families live in the same community, have a family progressive supper where more than one can share the burden of the meal and you can enjoy each other’s homes.
Flexibility is a gift we can give to our families during this season. My heart hurts when I hear of families dragging their children to as many as five homes in one day so they won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. This is not what Christmas is about. We need to be considerate and loving to accommodate their schedules and other family commitments. It’s OK to create new traditions.
Every year I ask God to show me a specific need to meet during the Christmas season. I set aside money and wait for the right opportunity.
A few years ago, I was in a retail store in Fort Wayne, Indiana, waiting to check out, and there was a young woman on the phone talking to a mechanic. She was visibly upset, so I asked the other lady behind the counter if she knew what was going on. She told me the young woman was a single mom whose car had broken down and she just found out the repairs were going to be much more than expected. God had given me the opportunity and resources to help her, and it was exciting to be a part of his plan.
I love saying “Merry Christmas” to folks and having them respond back with “Merry Christmas to you.”
You see, the Christmas season points people to Jesus. In the midst of all the commercialism and busyness, our lights can shine for Jesus through giving, sharing, loving, and serving.
Jesus Christ is truly the best gift we will ever receive! Let’s share the gift!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21).
Linda Mirante is director of women’s ministries at Bachelor Creek Church of Christ, Wabash, Indiana, and a speaker at women’s conferences and retreats.