by Pastor Tommy Johnston and Directors Diane Jordan and Nancy Singer
With the start of Advent, our desire is for all of us as the people of College Church to be inspired and equipped to engage anyone and everyone with the transforming love of Jesus and the offer of the gospel. We've collected a few thoughts from our staff to spur us on to that end.
How can I be Word-centric during Christmas?
Tommy Johnston: If you want to be Word-centric during Christmas, my advice is to keep it simple. Just because you have a few days off from your normal responsibilities does not mean that your time will be unoccupied. Travel, kids, family and the demands of hospitality all make up a wonderful whirlwind of activity that will effortlessly sweep the time away. As ever, you will need to carve out time to be intentionally fed by God’s Word or it simply will not happen. Let me encourage you to prioritize your alone time with the Lord as a simple yet vital step toward engaging others. From there, chances are you will have ample opportunities to share with others the riches of God’s Word.
If it’s not already part of your family tradition, make it a point to read the Christmas story together from the Gospels. Your family is already celebrating the event, so it only makes sense that they hear from God what it is all about. You could also take some time to memorize comforting verses that you can easily weave into conversations with friends and family. When people share something difficult happening in their life, you can point them to places such as Psalm 46:1-3, Hebrews 4:14-16 or Romans 8:31-32. Even if your comments are brief, God’s Word is powerful enough to transform hearts and minds. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just keep it simple.
How do I engage the whole family during Christmas?
Diane Jordan: Let me share a few ideas based on my own experiences.
I come from a large family. The majority of our extended family is in the area, and ages range from babies to my 86-year-old mother. Some family members are Christians—others don’t even attend church. We have three Christmas gatherings every year: Christmas Eve is spent with Jim’s side of the family; Christmas morning is spent with our children and grandchildren; Christmas evening is spent with my side of the family.
Here are some ideas based on what we have done in these various family settings.
Have a birthday celebration, including a birthday cake, candles and singing “Happy Birthday” to Baby Jesus.
How do I embrace generosity during Christmas?
Nancy Singer: It seems as though every year, Christmas decorations, candy and music appear in stores a little earlier. Black Friday isn’t even just the day after Thanksgiving, but every day from Halloween on. We fret about the commercialization of Christmas, but when it comes right down to it, even Christian families can get caught up in the frenzy that surrounds Christmas in America.
Many years ago, my immediate and extended family decided that we had enough “stuff,” and to accumulate more “stuff” was not only foolhardy but in direct contrast to the parable Jesus taught in Luke 12:16-21. Of course, provision for gifts would be made for the children, but for the adults, we would determine one or more charities who would receive gifts valued at approximately what we would normally spend on each other. It has been a joyful delight to seek out ways to give food and gifts to those who have more fiscal and physical needs than I do, all in Jesus’ name. Sometimes I even get to share why I gave them a gift, which opens a door to share the gospel. Some years I’ve given to an organization which can take my monetary donation and add it to those of others to make a significant difference in the lives of people locally, regionally, nationally or even globally. In the obligatory Christmas card or Christmas letter to family members, we note what gift was made to whom, and wherever possible, a statement of how those funds changed someone else’s life, even in seemingly small ways. A few interesting things have taken place since my family and I started celebrating Christ’s birth in this way. First, my joy in giving has increased dramatically and other family members have said the same thing. Second, talking to those outside the family about this practice has resulted in others putting into place similar ideas and feeling that same joy. Finally, I don’t have to stand in a long line to return an unwanted item or find room in the house for another “tchotchke.” This is truly a living example of how it is more blessed to give than to receive.
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