Merry Christmas! Hearing those words can bring a smile to my face, especially from a loved one. Oh, but there is so much to do between now and Christmas, and each day of December seems to tick by at a lightning pace. In addition to our everyday business of working, keeping the house clean, getting children to their activities, and staying connected as a family, this time of year adds Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, Christmas decorating, and Christmas itself.
Before you start calling me a Bah Humbug, I love Christmas. I love seeing my children's faces light up when the Christmas decorations turn on for the first time, just like they did when they were younger. I love that our children are old enough to help decorate the tree without worrying too much about broken ornaments. Where I struggle, and I say this as a pastor, is how to keep still long enough to focus on the time of advent and Christmas and to make sure my kids also keep the meaning of Christmas in their hearts.
Let's be honest. The idea of adding anything new to an already busy schedule is terrifying, borderline sitting in the corner of my office rocking terrifying. However, suppose your season is just as busy, but you want to focus on the hopeful waiting of advent and the celebration of Christ's first coming in Christmas. In that case, I offer a few suggestions to transform what you are already doing into moments of faith formation.
Tree Decorating: I don't know about your family's traditions, but our family decorates the tree together, at least after I wrestle with the lights for an hour or two. Rebecca hands the ornaments to each child, and they find places to hang them. Rebecca and I usually hang the last ornament – a ceramic door with our last name over it – and then we take our picture. Offering a blessing before you start can transform this fun, although sometimes frustrating, task into a moment of faith formation. Here is something you can use to bless your tree as you decorate it:
God who created the birds in the air, the fish in the sea,
the stars in the sky, and the trees in the ground,
bless this tree as we decorate it and make it a joyful symbol in our home.
May its branches remind us of the shade and shelter
you provide for us and for many creatures.
May its trunk remind us of your strength.
May its lights bring us peace.
May we remember your gift to us this season, the gift of the baby Jesus. Amen.
Blessing Your Christmas Tree – Buildfaith.com
Spending time with your Church Family: This year, on Sunday, December 18th, we will have our musical celebration of Lessons and Carols, followed by our church Christmas Dinner. I hope you will carve some time out of your busy season for this festive occasion. It is an excellent opportunity to invite friends and neighbors.
Longest Night Service: Let's face it, the Christmas season can be challenging for many people. Whether they are grieving the loss of loved ones, are feeling lonely, or can't seem to get into the festive spirit they see in others this time of year. That is ok, and this year we are adding a service to our Christmas traditions called “The Longest Night Service.” This service, held on the First Day of Winter, December 21st, is a low-key contemplative service meant to give prayerful space to those who find the traditional Christmas celebrations challenging to manage.
Christmas Eve: We sing our favorite carols and hear the Christmas story. Berwyn UMC will have our service at 7:00pm. This traditional service with candle lighting and communion is a perfect opportunity to sit and rest in the light and hope that Christ’s birth brings as we listen to and sing our favorite carols to the Christmas story.
Christmas Day: We will have an informal celebration at our standard worship time of 10:00 am. There will be lessons, carols, and a brief message. Whether you come decked out in your favorite Christmas attire or show up in your favorite Christmas Jammies, you are welcome to this time of Joyful celebration.
New Year's Day: We will gather at our standard worship time of 10:00 am for the Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Service. The heart of the service focused on the Covenant Prayer, requires persons to commit themselves to God. Wesley found the service rich and meaningful, as expressed in his Journal: "Many mourned before God, and many were comforted" (April 1756); "It was, as usual, a time of remarkable blessing" (October 1765). "It was an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences ... I do not know that ever we had a greater blessing. Afterward, many desired to return thanks, either for a sense of pardon, for full salvation, or a fresh manifestation of His graces, healing all their backslidings" (January 1st, 1775). In London, these services were usually held on New Year's Day.
My goal this Christmas is not to add more activities and duties but to transform the things that we already do into meaningful ways of sharing the story of Jesus. You can find more details in this newsletter and on our church website at https://www.berwynumc.org/Christmas. What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
May your Christmas be Merry and Bright,
This post was orignally published in the December 2022 of the Lighted Cross. Please use the links below to view the full newsletter.