Connecting With Our Neighbors This Christmas Season

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Even though I cringe every time I see a store’s Christmas display before Thanksgiving, congregations and their leaders are already planning their candlelight services, Advent readings, and Christmas celebrations. Many churches will be asking the question, “How can we connect with our neighbors this Christmas season?”

Our natural tendency is to focus on the events and worship services that we can invite our neighbors to attend. The invitation is critical—a 2015 Lifeway Research study indicated that among the 38% of Americans who do not attend church at Christmas, 57% said that they would likely attend if someone invited them. Of course, this means that 41% indicated that, even if someone invited them, they would be unlikely to attend church at Christmas (2% were undecided).

So what can a church do to think about how they will connect with these neighbors—the ones unlikely to attend even the most well-prepared worship service or celebration?

The first chapter of John provides us with a missional view of Christmas—the mission of God that takes place through the coming of Jesus Christ. Reflect on these verses, as retold in The Message, along with a few missional Christmas ideas that your church can try this year:

What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
 the darkness couldn’t put it out. (John 1:3-4)
The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Life
he brings into Light. (:9)

Where do you see God’s light already shining in your neighborhood? 

  • Invite your youth group to make “Christmas Light” awards for your neighbors, and deliver the awards along with a plate of cookies to those houses.
  • If permitted in your neighborhood, host a Christmas carol sing with your neighbors around a bonfire (maybe one of your neighbors will let you use their fire pit!).
  • One church used luminaries to create a prayer labyrinth on the church lawn and invited their neighbors to take an opportunity to slow down during the holiday busy-ness.

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish. (:14)

What does it look like to be the incarnational presence of Jesus in your neighborhood?

  • Commit to prayer walking your neighborhood every day in December. Pray that the eyes of your neighbors will be opened to see God’s glory this Christmas season.
  • Could you join along with your neighbors in a community service project, a holiday food or clothing drive, or Christmas caroling at a local nursing home?

We all live off his generous bounty,
gift after gift after gift.
We got the basics from Moses,
and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
This endless knowing and understanding—
all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. (:16)

How can you extend God’s generous bounty to your neighbors this Christmas season?

  • Offer the most precious gift of your time. Invite a lonely neighbor for coffee and listen well to their story.
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Thank you for showing us how to do some out of the box (and into the light) thinking about this, Amy!

Guide

A note about food/clothing/toy drives - while it makes us feel good to give, we need to be sure that we are doing it in a way that helps rather than hurts. Last year Andrew Ryskamp, CRCNA Diaconal Ministry Initiative and Ron VandenBrink, National Director Diaconal Ministries Canada did a webinar on this topic: https://network.crcna.org/deacons/helping-helps-christmas-and-beyond

Thanks for your comment Wendy. Dr. Glenn Smith from Christian Direction in Montreal and a Resonate partner makes the comment that, when you start with a persons "needs", ministry will be never ending because needs are never satisfied. He suggests that effective ministry starts with hospitality and friendship. Through hospitality and friendship our perspective changes and allows us to see resources in a community where before we only saw needs.