Advent is a special time for the church – as it should be! The church calendar is full of activities such as practices and events like the hanging of the greens, the Children’s Nativity Play, the Christmas Cantata, the cookie exchange, Christmas caroling, Sunday school class parties, staff luncheons, special fundraisers, collection of gifts for families or friends in need, special advent small group studies, and so much more. It is a wonderful time of year! And, it is a hectic time of year. This is especially true when you add all these extra holiday happenings to the regular church calendar events and to everyone’s already personally jam-packed schedule and calendar! Pack on the pandemic layer to this already boiling pot of chaos, and you have one heaping potential burn-out mess.
What if we paused all those extra church events this year? I know, that sounds like crazy talk. But, just hear me out if you would please. This world has gone through some crazy stuff these past couple of years. There is a mental health crisis. People are worn out, burned out, fried up, and worn slick. Folks are lonely, depressed, anxious, fearful, and hopeless like never before in our lifetimes. Our neighbors are searching for community, hope, joy, peace, comfort, a sense of purpose, well-being, and belonging. Church, that is exactly what we as the Body of Christ have to offer! But we have to stop the fury of activity and focus inside the building to first take notice. We then have to be willing to take the next step and go to the community. Be with the community. Gone are the days of expecting the community to walk into the church.
Church, it is time to take Christmas into the community! Rather than spending all the time investing in only those already gathered in the church family, let’s challenge one another to start an advent small group study with unchurched friends, co-workers, and neighbors in one another’s home, pubs, libraries, online, restaurants, parks, back porches, (for those in warmer climates), malls, etc. Post notices on social media about inviting new friends to join. Choose a resource that is seeker friendly that requires no preparation and easy to facilitate such as the devotional I wrote with my friend, Rachel Gilmore, Voices of Christmas. It is super easy to both follow and facilitate. It provides options for daily and weekly reflections. It even provides a launch into the new year with a vision board exercise that could easily convert to an on-going group experience if the group were to decide to continue.
By slowing down, investing in others, spending time reflecting on what this season is really about, and building relationships with people outside the faith you will likely find a more meaningful and less stressful Christmas than you’ve had in quite some time. And likely, you and your small group will be blessed beyond your imagination for taking Christmas outside the church into the community. Will you join me?