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Should Christians celebrate Christmas or not is an age-old debate. For a believer, though the birth of Jesus (his life, death, burial and resurrection) is something that should be celebrated every day, Romans 14:5-6 gives us the freedom to choose if we want to observe a special day or not. So, in this article, I don’t intend to argue whether we should celebrate or not, but rather talk about the ways we could use the Christmas season in order to preach, clarify, and encourage one another with the message of Christmas and its implications. Churches use different events and ways to achieve this goal; hence, we must learn from one another and make the most of this season. These are not necessary to use but can be beneficial for us. Here’s a list of things that we’ve done over the years which could be of help to you:
1) Advent series in our main gatherings – The word advent means “arrival” or “an appearing”. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of His second coming. As Israel longed for their Messiah to come, Christians long for their Saviour to come again. The Advent season typically lasts for four Sundays. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, or the nearest Sunday to November 30 and ends on Christmas Eve. During this advent season, we focus on teaching the reason for Christ’s birth in our sermons. The intent is to remind the believer of the great reason for Christ humbling himself and being born as a human and to encourage them to live out their lives based on these glorious truths and eagerly await his return. We also send out special invitations to friends, and colleagues who don’t know Christ. The message of Christmas and the gospel is presented in a simple manner (no/minimal Christian jargon) in these sermons, so that the newcomers too can understand and respond. Since these are done in our main gatherings, the newcomers get to sit through a whole church service, observe every element and watch the gospel being lived out in the community of believers.
Listing a few examples of our advent series sermons:
a. Reasons for Christ’s birth
i. Christ came to save sinners- 1 Timothy 1:12-17
ii. What child is this? - Hebrews 1:1-4
iii. The sinless man-made to be sin for the sinful- 2 Corinthians 5:21
iv. The Word was made flesh - John 1:1-18
b. Why we need a saviour
i. Dead in sins - Ephesians 2:1-2
ii. Living in the passion of the flesh - Ephesians 2:3
iii. By nature children of wrath- Ephesians 2:3
iv. But God…Ephesians 2:4-10
c. Promises about Jesus
i. Sin and the promise of the redeemer - Genesis 3
ii. The promise of the blessing to the nations - Genesis 22
iii. The promise of the everlasting king - 1 Chronicles 17
iv. Promise fulfilled - Luke 2
2) Christmas Eve services – While it might not be possible for people to join for all 4 weeks during advent, a Christmas Eve service/party on the 24th night, or any other day can be helpful. Here’s another opportunity to invite friends and acquaintances who don’t know about Jesus and present the message of Christmas and the good news of Jesus Christ to them. Typically, in these services, we have carol singing, games, a Christmas message and dinner together.
3) One-on-one meetings at home – We also encourage the church members to meet people at their homes and share a meal together during this season, especially on Christmas day. These private meetings have been helpful to reach out to those who have no idea or an incorrect understanding of Christmas. Singles in the church often join a family for this meal, and this has been a great opportunity for the singles to get involved/discipled in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
4) Children’s Outreach – Children can easily get carried away by the glitz and glamour of Christmas. While the church can have several events to reach out to the kids, parents should not miss the opportunity to shepherd their kids’ hearts in this season. The primary responsibility to bring the child up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord lies with the parents (Eph 6:4), and so we must be intentional to teach them the significance of Christ’s birth and what blessed news that is for them. Advent devotionals like the two below have been useful tools that we’ve used to help our own children, especially for older kids:
• Come let us adore him – Paul David Tripp
• A Christmas that we didn’t expect – David Mathis
5) Prayer – While the Christmas season can be a time when we can easily get lost with the busyness of ‘doing events,’ we must not neglect to pray. We must be praying before, during and after these efforts, if they are to bear fruit. We must seek the Lord for open doors (Col 4: 2,3), for clarity (Col 4:4), for wisdom (Col 4:5), for boldness (Acts 4:29), for God to work in people’s lives (Acts 4:30), and for us to grow in the knowledge of Him (Col 1:9,10). Apart from our individual prayer times, pastoral prayers and church prayer services are wonderful opportunities to pray together as a church.
The Christmas season is a time when people are generally receptive and interested in knowing why we do what we do. It is a wonderful opportunity and we should be excited and use it to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Yet, how wonderful and rewarding it would be if we had this fervour and passion throughout the year. The truths that we believe in and hold on to, should be our meditation day and night. These truths that we believe in and have the privilege of knowing, should be lived out and proclaimed every day of our lives. May we not lose sight of these truths through the year and may it not grow dim, especially our desire to reach out. May each of us be intentional in looking for opportunities, and persistently praying and may God give us wisdom to use this season, and the whole year, faithfully, and for His glory! May God help us.