‘Tis the season again for pastoral planning of Christmas services, Christmas Eve services, Thanksgiving services, Advent services, special holiday events, church get-togethers, not to mention the usual rhythm of Sundays that always occupy weekly pastoral planning.
Let’s be honest. While we love this time of year, it can be exhausting.
Even more than the weight of planning with this season comes the deep pastoral burden of knowing our church members are being bombarded with cacophonous calls to materialism, concerns about money, family tensions and all of the other temptations and burdens that come with the holiday season.
Despite all of the logistical concerns about your church and the Advent season, you likely simply want one thing: you want your church to focus on Jesus.
Here are a few ideas to consider that may help:
Keep it simple
The church down the street is shooting elves out of laser cannons, and last year you really extended yourself to provide that one-of-a-kind holiday event. So how do you top it?
Allow me to give you a word of encouragement: Don’t. Don’t try to be the biggest draw or continue to outdo yourself with bigger and brighter. To be honest, during the next month or so, everything is going to be bigger, brighter, LOUDER and on SALE!!!! If truth be told, our church members can easily get glitz and glamour fatigue. In fact, with everything else going on, some of our best and brightest efforts may not even register with our church members.
The last thing any of us need is more noise. And while we certainly want more people to join us as we celebrate the Advent season, as Jared Wilson notes, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” If you’re trying to win people with big, loud and bright, you’ll just have to go bigger, louder and brighter to keep them.
Let Trans-Siberian Orchestra be Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and you be the local church. Sing the simple song of Emmanuel, God with us. There is nothing else like the message and truth we have in Christ. Keep it simple.
Events may be memorable, but traditions make memories.
Some of the strongest Christmas and Advent memories I have are from the traditions our local church maintained each season. From the simple glow of shared candle light and special moments for the kids, to the simple no-frills version of ‘O Holy Night’ we heard sung each year, those traditions told me that the Advent season was special. It was marked. It was repeated because it was to be remembered.
Still today, every year, I think about going back to my formative home church to participate in those simple traditions which they still hold. After all, your church family traditions may be the only family traditions some members of your church ever get to experience.
Do something. It doesn’t have to be big, just consistent. Traditions can be hard to break, but the right ones are easy to keep.
While it may seem uncouth to focus on the cross while that little baby coos so innocently in the manger, the Advent season is one of remembering the reason for the gift. Gifts come to us on specific occasions—birthdays, anniversaries and certain accomplishments. Gifts always have context.
Jesus came not just as a gift, but as the life-saving gift without whom we would have died in eternal separation from God. Our world was broken and lost in darkness. It still is. But Christ came to free us from sin through the cross. There is no cross without a manger, but there is no manger without a cross.
We celebrate Jesus because He did for us what we could not. Remember to share the full Gospel during this season. Jesus came—yes. But Jesus came to save us from our sin.
Hopefully, some of these ideas are beneficial to you. I pray that you and your church family will have a joyful Thanksgiving, a meaningful Advent season and a reflective Christmas together celebrating Jesus our Lord.