What Does Christmas and Community Look Like at Your Church?

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In the past month I’ve had the opportunity to visit a couple different churches for various occasions (a baptism and to visit family). As I glanced through church bulletins, I was struck by the creative and unique ways churches were partnering with the community to spread the love of Jesus during the holiday season.

One church organized Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes and also had special programs planned for those in the community who are grieving. Another church was encouraging members to write letters to prison inmates and was also hosting community breakfasts on Saturday mornings in December. My church is partnering with Mel Trotter ministries—a local homeless shelter—to provide gifts and essential items at a time when the shelter is extra busy.

What does Christmas and community look like at your church? I’d love to hear how your church is spreading the love of Jesus in special ways this time of year.

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Community Builder

Immanuel CRC in Ripon has a long history of opening her doors to the community during the weeks leading up to Christmas, as well as multiple options for members to reach out and give to those in need during the Christmas season and cold winter months. 

The Ripon Oratorio Society presents the music and message of Handel's Messiah on the first Sunday of December. This year is the 71st year! It hasn't always been hosted here at the church, but for many years now it has been. We also open our social hall and provide a warm lite-luncheon after the performance for the 70-90 voice choir and all the attending congregation. This luncheon is hosted by us and another sister church, Almond Valley CRC. 

Another community event is hosted by Voices for the King, a men's choir made up of men from nine different area churches and directed by Barb Viss.  This is the 7th year they are giving a free Christmas concert. The offering received goes to one of the local organizations, such as Stockton Gospel Center or Bethany Christian services, or Modesto Pregnancy Center. 

As a church, we encourage members to give to those in need. We offer Angel Tree (60 area children whose parent is in prison receive a fun gift and a useful clothing gift). We collect hats, mittens, scarves and jackets for men and women ministered to by Seafarers International ministry in Palm Beach, Florida. We collect food for the local Interfaith Ministries Food Bank. 

For the past 9 or 10 years we have opened our doors, providing a home for Family Promise the week leading up to Christmas, as well as three or four other times during the year. We provide breakfast and a warm family meal at dinner time, as well as many volunteers who spend time with the families displaced by homelessness. We also have a "Christmas party" and give small gifts to each of the guests. 

The Friendship Club which meets at Immanuel goes on a hayride, singing Christmas carols and goes to a local senior living complex, spending time with people there, telling the story of Christmas and enjoying some sweet holiday treats. 

Christmas is a great time to introduce a neighbor friend to your church! Prayers for a community within the church to welcome and enfold new attending neighbors. For all gifts and abilities to be welcome and enfolded in the congregation, reaching the community, one person at a time. 

 

Admin

Geri, thank you so much for giving us a glimpse into Christmas and community at Immanuel CRC in Ripon. What a wide array of events and giving opportunities that all reveal a heart and passion for spreading the love of Jesus. I too pray for new neighbors to be enfolded and welcome. Thanks again for sharing. 

Participant

Every other year a nearby public school uses our sanctuary for their Christmas concert.  Their  gym doesn't work so well for them and they prefer a stage.  It's fun to see our neighbours and their children in our building having a fun time.  We offer the space free of charge as a way to be a good neighbour at a festive time.

Our deacons also provide Christmas hampers for another local public school.  Our neighbourhood is changing and there are more people living in basement suites.  Some of them have financial burdens and we are able to help them have a blessed Christmas.  This year one of our small groups that meets in the neighbourhood near the school will assemble and deliver the hampers to the school as a service project.

The four Advent evening services consist of a family oriented film night (with popcorn), a Taize service (a quiet break from busyness), a children's service (singing, story and craft) and a service of lessons and carols (ending in candle lighting).

Every year we wonder whether to sing "Ere Zij God" in the Christmas service.  Should we stay true to our Dutch immigrant background or should we move on?  We asked our 20-something youth elder what to do and as a result we're singing it again this year. We sing songs in Swahili and Latin so why not Dutch once a year?  Apparently it's more beloved than the Christmas remake of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."  

On Christmas dau we also light the disco ball that's in our sanctuary.  We bought it for a space-themed VBS one year and have kept it up.  It helps us blow the lid off in praise of our incarnate King.

Admin

Tom, thanks for sharing! What a creative and generous church. I love that your church allows the nearby public school to use church space for free and also that you have noticed a shift in housing and have responded to that specific need. But perhaps my favorite thing you shared is that you have a disco ball in the sanctuary that 'helps blow the lid off in praise of our incarnate King.' LOVE that image!

Community Builder

The Village declares December to be 'Fallow Month' and it is when we close down all meetings and gatherings except for Sunday worship services which we also scale back. We invite people to use the time to spend with family and friends and most of all with God. It is a rich and restful time for all and rejuvenates us for the new year. We have a small candlelight service where we read Scripture and sing carols the Sunday before Christmas. It is a wonderful tradition. 

Admin

Rod, thank you for sharing this counter-cultural approach! What an incredible gift it must be for everyone in your church to be given time to spend time with family, friends and most of all God. I think the candlelight service is also a powerful tradition and it is something I personally look forward to each year. 

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