Merry Christmas – It’s Noisy Out There

Content by Cynthia Boles, Marketing Professional

make-equal-noisesRev. Micah James asked me to comment on one of THE questions of Advent. How do churches get their message heard in the midst of all the noise of the holiday season? This question is as common as a stuffed snowman…as inevitable as hearing “Silver Bells”.

And just as sure as Rudolph has a red nose, all the noise is about to start again. We’ll have weeks of holiday ads and shopping countdowns, and fretful Christians will wonder how to make sure Jesus is not lost in the wrapping paper and glitter.

I don’t know the answer to that annual question…but I know what won’t work. You simply can’t shout louder than the noise. There is no way to compete with the mighty megaphone of our secular holiday culture. All of the advertising, the fights over “holiday” songs versus Christmas carols at school plays, the tree ornaments on sale with Halloween pumpkins…churches don’t stand a chance.

The real “message” of Christmas is just too quiet, and this Christmas quiet is the secret of getting the message heard. The quiet beauty of the simple story is fresh year after year.

TheStarofBethlemem_NovaIt’s a simple story you tell in candlelight, when you read the Christmas story to your family. It’s about a mother and a father and a little baby. And miracles…and angels…and a star in the heavens.

It’s a story that comes alive when you take children to see the lights and decorations, and explain to them why Jesus was the light of the world, and why we celebrate His birth. When we slow down enough to really listen, we hear the story again and again. It’s sung in the carols…the ones you hear, the ones you sing, and the ones you hum in your own thoughts as you prepare your heart and home for Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas can be quiet, too. Holiday kindness isn’t noisy…a visit to the hospital or a nursing home is pretty quiet. A neighbor who is lonely isn’t expecting a brass band. Make a phone call to an old friend, do a favor for someone who needs your help. This may be the year you can patch up old hurts and restore relationships where there is unfinished business. You don’t have to make much noise doing those things. In fact, you might be pretty scary if you start shouting at people about how much you love them.

When you celebrate your holiday with quiet and peace…you will have room in your heart for so much joy you will have plenty to share.

What can the church do — quietly? 
I think the church can do the same thing on a grand scale. Slow down, turn down the volume (except on the music), and plan ways for the church family to celebrate the season together. Here’s what I would do if I were in charge of a church:
  • I’d encourage small groups like Sunday School and Bible study classes to share a pot luck dinner. If you’re not a part of one…do a dinner with that group you sit with every Sunday morning. You see them every week – it’s time to have a Christmas party. Nothing stressful, though.
  • I’d share sweet treats. Maybe a cookie exchange. Maybe the Advent Sundays feature cookie buffets after church. No good Christian can resist a cookie. And have copies of the recipes.
  • I’d look for service projects. Who in the church family needs some help? Maybe it’s something around the house…boxes that need to be moved or something else that needs some muscle and energy.
  • Who in the church family is sad this season? Death, illness, loss of independence…is there a way to offer love and extra kindness?
  • Who in the church family is having a tough financial time? There is always someone who has lost a job, or has had a catastrophic illness, or an accident that has upset their “normal” life. They could use some extra holiday fellowship and kindness.
  • Have you made that extra call to a new member? Or maybe someone you haven’t seen in awhile – call them.
  • What about the children? Which ones have lost grandparents or other family members? Whose parents have divorced?  What can you do to show you care? Maybe they would like to get their own Christmas cards from their church family.
What I’m suggesting is a quiet, almost subversive way to get the church’s message out. Maybe the way we start is to make sure that each and every member of the church family is touched in some way with a special message that lets them know they are appreciated, and loved, and valued. There is a season for everything, a time and purpose for everything under heaven. I suggest that Christmas is the season for quiet voices, for loving gatherings, for celebrations with people we love…or are coming to love. And that’s how you compete with the noise. You refuse to play the game.

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