At our last community meeting, we started talking about Christmas. Yep, Christmas! It still seems so far away but it needs a little more attention this year as our celebrations will probably look a little different than in previous years. Our churches won’t have Christmas pageants, carol singing or fun family gatherings, most of us won’t be traveling and Tom and I won’t hold our usual Open House. The focus will be on small, socially distanced rather than large gatherings.
How do we approach the season so that we don’t lose the joy and the fun of celebration?
Following our discussion on Monday night, we established a Google document so that everyone can share their favorite foods and favourite traditions with the hope of combining these into some fun meals and activities over the season. It was suggested that we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas together, those days after Christmas Day that are still meant to be part of the Christmas season. We won’t eat together every day, but we will enjoy life together in ways that we normally wouldn’t. For churches, organizing Christmas Zoom coffees, game nights and other fun events with a Christmas theme might be something that will bring joy to people’s hearts and faces.
What plans could you and your congregation make now that will help make this a rich and joy-filled Christmas?
What new traditions could bring joy not just to us but to others during the Christmas season?
We will still buy and decorate a tree on the first Sunday of Advent, make an Advent jar, and watch Handel’s Messiah, this year on YouTube rather than a live performance. But there are some traditions that are not possible. I love our annual Open House not just because I love seeing our friends, but also because I love to bake and don’t want to have to eat all my shortbread and fruit cake myself. So, I am thinking about making Christmas treats for my neighbours, hopefully with other community members, and will also be sending out more and probably larger Christmas packages of homemade products than I usually do. I am thinking of making this Rosemary Orange salt scrub as we have so much rosemary we could easily supply the whole of Seattle. So, I get the joy of cooking and creating new things as well as the delight of sharing.
How could you encourage your congregations to birth new traditions that will not only bring life and hope into Christmas this year, but also in future years?
How do we shine the Light?
I notice that people are craving light this season. There are an unprecedented number of Christmas lights already twinkling in the neighbourhood, but we need more Our new resource Lean Towards The Light This Advent and Christmas, which will also provide the Godspace theme for the Advent season, seeks to provide just such a focus. All of us long to see the light of Christ burst into our world at this season in our personal lives, our communities and our world. Through daily reflections, poetry and practical suggestions, we hope that this resource helps you lean towards that light this year.
I also plan to watch my Advent video Lean Towards the Light again and use it to reflect on ways we could bring light into people’s lives this Christmas.
This isn’t the only light I want to shine during Advent and Christmas this year and it won’t be the only devotional I read. I also want to shine the light of justice and challenge myself with new ways to respond. The highlighting of injustice in our society is not a theme that we should ignore this Christmas. Donna Barber’s Bread for the Resistance: Forty Devotionals for Justice People is also on my reading list.
There are so many who have lost jobs and income, others who are grieving the loss of family members, many more who are filled with the pain of the many injustices in our world. All of us need to see light and love in unprecedented ways. Now is the time to help your congregations think about how they could bring light into the lives of those who are in need – maybe making toys for underprivileged kids, or provide festive meals for homeless persons, or reach out to those who have lost loved ones.
On Godspace, we have also noticed that Blue Christmas resources are high on many church leaders priority list and we realize that it is necessary this year for us not just to provide opportunities for joy and light-shining but also for lament and grieving. I hope that the resources we provide on Godspace will be of great value to you. I think the empty chair analogy is particularly poignant this year. If you have other suggestions, please let us know.
How will you incorporate lament into your Christmas observances this year?
At the moment, like most of us, I am more focused on getting ready for Thanksgiving than Christmas and I love to call this my thanksgiving season. I have just moved my gratitude garden to pride of place on the dining room table, and next week we will be painting leaves at our Community meeting. The focus on gratitude helps me prepare for the coming of Christmas.
What helps you focus on the season that is coming and ways to prepare? What other things are you thinking of doing with your congregation this year that will help you find light and hope as we move towards the celebration of the Christ child? How will you bring joy and laughter into this festive season?
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