Preparing for Christmas: Tips for keeping the holiday season holy

 

advent-haitian-nativity-cropped-690x356A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino* “Are you ready for Christmas?” Whenever someone asks that question, my heartrate accelerates as I remember all the things yet to do. However, if we thought about Advent a little differently, our “getting ready” could more of a holy time. Most of us strive to “keep Christ in Christmas,” but the busyness has a way of encroaching upon our joy and worship. We might benefit from deciding to make time for some important activities as we get ready for Christmas. Attending worship is an important part of the Advent season. Plan on trying a new service this year. Photograph by Angelia Sims of Angelia's Photography. Worship and devotion Worship with your church. Your congregation will probably hold some special services throughout the Christmas season. In addition to Sunday worship duringAdvent and Candlelight Christmas Eve services, plan to attend the children’s Christmas pageant, the choir concert, and the Longest Night/Blue Christmas services. If you do not have a regular congregation with whom you worship, find one near you using Find-A-Church. Worship with your family. Purchase or make an Advent wreath and hold a small service each Sunday night to help everyone in the family get ready for Jesus’ birth. Pockets, a devotional from Upper Room Ministries, has a kid-friendly plan for family devotions around the Advent wreath. Worship privately. Spending time alone with God can be a great way to draw closer. Upper Room Ministries publishes devotions every day of the year offer a scripture reading, a devotional thought, and a prayer. Discipleship Ministries has produced a guide for Advent worship in the home that includes things to do or think about each day leading up to Christmas. Join the UMC.org Advent Quiz. Every weekday in Advent we will post a trivia question about Advent or Christmas at umc.org/adventquiz. Whether you answer correctly or not, you will find fascinating things to read or watch every day to help you in your celebration of the season. Decorating and baking Pray through your decorating. Many of our Christmas decorations have religious significance. The wreath is round reminding us of the constancy of God. The Christmas tree is an evergreen, a reminder that God’s promises never fail. Even the lights can serve as reminders that Jesus is the light of world! Not to mention the nativity scene on the coffee table and the angels on the special Christmas party napkins. Whether decorating yourself or enjoying others’ displays, let the images spur you to prayers of gratitude. Bake some extra. When baking for guests, the cookie swap, or to give as gifts, take a few extra moments and make one more batch to give away. Then visit the local homeless shelter, food bank, first responders, or others with whom you want to share. Set up a Jesse Tree. A Jesse Tree can be used as different kind of Advent calendar. Each day an ornament is added to the tree. The ornaments are reminders of the story of our faith from creation to the birth of Jesus. As the tree fills, we are moving closer and closer to Christmas Day. Fairhope (Alabama) United Methodist Church has some wonderful instructions. Remember. These preparations are sometimes filled with memories—ornaments from our childhood Christmas tree, recipes your first learned from your grandmother, and more. Take the time to savor the memories and give thanks for the saints who have lived before you. Education Join a Sunday school class or Bible study. Many United Methodist congregations will offer special Advent education opportunities. These are wonderful times to learn something new, and to connect with others who are getting their souls ready for the coming of Christ. Study the Bible. The story of God coming to us in the person of Jesus—the incarnation—is central to our Christian faith, and a favorite topic of John Wesley. Get a good, devotional Bible study guide and delve into the meaning of Christmas from a new angle. Read a book. Maybe you have always wanted to know more about the theology of the incarnation or have always wanted to re-read Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Set aside some time every day todive into a good book just for fun, or to learn something about Christmas. Giving Give fair trade. Fair trade gifts, like those available through the vendors certified through The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), support companies that pay their workers a livable wage. These workers are then able to support their families and contribute to a just and sustainable economy. Give time. Find a mission that your congregation supports, or a neighbor who needs a hand and make a gift of your time. You might shovel snow, drive to doctor’s appointments, work at the soup kitchen, or take a meal over once-a-week. Give money. UMCOR also has some great ways to give gifts that will help others in amazing ways. Your donation to UMCOR can be designated toward specific projects in a series of categories that include things like hunger and poverty, water and sanitation, education, and health ministries. Also, continue to support the ministries and missions of your United Methodist congregation. Celebrate Sing. Christmas music is everywhere. Join in the song. Be creative. Write a poem or song. Paint. Create a collage. Crochet. Work with wood. Use your talents and abilities in celebration of the season and thanksgiving for the gift of Jesus. Throw a party! Children love birthday parties, so have your kids invite some of their friends to your house for a birthday party for Jesus during winter break. Play games, have some cake and ice cream. Mix birthday and Christmas traditions. Or invite friends over to celebrate Las Posadas, remembering that as Jesus has welcomed us, we are to welcome others. Enjoy the food. You may not need to be encouraged for this one, but remember the gift of food—even holiday treats—though not to excess. Let the abundance of good food be a reminder of the provision of God. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8). Be kind to yourself. Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves during this busy time. Give yourself permission to miss a party or two. Choose to be with family, to spend time alone, to see your child's Christmas choir concert at school, and enjoy the season. *Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.  

Resources for Vital Congregations

 

CHURCH LEADERSHIP

Lewis Center for Church Leadership

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor

GBHEM Leadership Resources

eLEAD

Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church

Englewood Book Review

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Ted Talks: The Golden Circle

Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability

Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability

Design Thinking

Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians

DISCIPLE FORMATION:

Be A Disciple

A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network

Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations

WESLEYAN STUDIES:

Living As United Methodist Christians

Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials

Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today

John Wesley Sermons: Anthology

REACHING PEOPLE:

Get Their Name

Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit

Canoeing the Mountains

Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People

Community: The Structure of Belonging

RESOURCES TO CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY:

Institute for Emerging Issues

Congregations 4 Children

GRANTS:

The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants

The Duke Endowment

OTHER:

The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
 
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:

  • Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
  • Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.

 
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at hfleming@wnccumc.net.
 

 

  • Resources
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