11 ways to #BeChristInChristmas

christmas meme1. Don’t get mad at people when they wish you “Happy Holidays.”  I’m not sure who decided that anger is the right Christian response to a polite greeting from a stranger.  I say “Happy Holidays” all the time.  Is it because I’m a politically correct, overly emotional, too-sensitive, mamby-pamby, liberal pinko who hates Christmas and wants to hang an Obama Tree in my living room?  Maybe, but I’m only a few of those things (I’m not telling which).  I just think it is a nice thing to say.  People that are looking for Christ at the check-out register of Target might be looking in the wrong place.  Frankly, I’m not too interested in finding Christ at my daughter’s public school either.  Check that.  I can find Christ anywhere, but I find it in the heart of my neighbor, not in slogans, signs, or songs.

2. Go to worship.  It might sound overly simple, but maybe we can look for Christ in his house.  The purpose of worship is to connect with the divine, so look for Christ in the hearts of your brothers and sisters.  Find Christ in the songs of the ages.  Find Christ in the passing of the peace, in the breaking of the bread, and in hearing the Scriptures read and proclaimed.  If you’re not a church-goer, give it a try.  Most churches are at their best in the weeks leading up to and on Christmas Eve.  There are few moments of the year I enjoy more than singing “Silent Night,” and lifting a candle on Christmas Eve.  I’m not going to guarantee that every House of Worship will suit you.  The body of Christ has many flaws and scars, yet the presence of Christ can be found in the midst of this imperfection.  Then go out into the world and be the presence of Christ for others.

3. Read the Bible.  Again, sounds simple.  There are a lot of ways to encounter Christ, and one of them is to read the stories of his life.  Read the Christmas stories as found in Matthew and Luke.  Read about Jesus’ ministry and discover what he said, who he loved, where he went, and what he did.  Allow the Sermon on the Mount to challenge your life.  Allow the parables to challenge the way you think of the world.  Discover the radical strangeness that is the Kingdom of God.  Be like a tree planted by the waters, and delight in the stories of Jesus.  Then maybe his birth will mean something more.

christmas check list

4. Volunteer.  Give your time to a cause that is meaningful.  Use your talents, skills, and passion for something larger than yourself.  Love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God.   Find a soup kitchen, a food pantry, a clothes closet, or a shelter that needs help.  Sign up with the Boys and Girls Club.  Offer to teach a class at your church.  Volunteer to read to kids at your local elementary school.  Then after Christmas is over, keep doing it.

5. Shop fair trade.  Buy products you can feel good about.  Support economic justice by making sure that the people that created the products you buy are paid a fair wage.  There is a shop in downtown Davenport I buy a lot of stuff from called SIS International Shop.  Equal Exchange is another great company that I love to support.  Ten Thousand Villages is a wider chain with some great merchandise as well.  

christmas meme 2

6. Buy gifts that will improve relationships, not just add to clutter.  A few years ago my brother, sister, our spouses, and I decided that we weren’t going to buy each other presents.  Instead we gave our parents a night with the grandkids, and the six of us went to dinner and bowling.  I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like, so I cherish that night we shared much more than any t-shirt or book that they might have gotten me.  Last year my daughter got a big Lego Star Wars set for Christmas.  It was great, but the best part of that gift were the hours that we spent together working on it.

advent books7. Make one of these.  I could buy a cheap box with terrible chocolate to pop out each day leading up to Christmas, or I could make this.  The Advent calendar of children’s books is an amazing idea I’ve seen from a couple of people on Facebook.  I hope I take the time to make the latter.  I’m afraid I’m going to end up buying the former.

8. Go on a prayer run.  This is a term I first heard from a follower on my Facebook page.  She told me that while she runs, she prays.  She solicits prayer concerns from friends from church, and takes them with her as she goes on a run.  Sometimes she listens to the Bible as she runs.  I’m hoping she adds the Pulpit Fiction podcast to her playlist too.  The point is, she’s improving her physical health while at the same time strengthening her spiritual life.  She told me recently that she ran her first 5K.  I’m so glad she shared her joy with me on the FB page.  Now I share her idea with all of you.  You can also participate in the 2014 Advent Run to Bethlehem.  The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is 103.2 miles.  Last year, 23 different people made a total of 67 entries in our Advent Run.  There were entries from 14 different states plus London, England. We went a total of 255 miles.  Join in the virtual run to see if we can cover that distance as a team between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Here is the link to submit your run.  It will open on Thanskgiving Day, 2014.

9. Throw a Baby Shower for Jesus.  There is a women’s shelter near you.  There is a scared teen mother you know.  There is a Children’s Home that is struggling to stretch their budget.  Invite people to a Baby Shower for Jesus.  Have games, food, and decorations just like a regular baby shower.  Invite everyone to bring gifts just like at a regular shower.  Then give them all away to someone in need, and remember that Jesus said, “I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:40; CEB)  And if the idea of throwing yet another party before Christmas is too daunting, then wait until Epiphany (January 6, 2014), the day we remember the coming of the wise men to bring gifts to the baby Jesus.

10. Advocate for Justice.  The unnamed miracle of Christmas is that Mary survived.  Mary gave birth among animals and filth.  There was no professional to help her.  She was probably very young.  The fact that she survived the birth is a miracle that few name.  This Christmas, name that miracle. Tell the stories of the thousands of women who give birth in similar conditions every day.  There is a natural connection between the need to advocate for maternal health and family planning and the coming of Christ.  I wrote this reflection after I went to Washington to meet in Congressional offices on Capitol Hill.  Understand though, that you don’t need to go to Washington.  Write or call your local Congressional office.  They pay attention to what people talk to them about.

11. Tweet #BeChristInChristmas.  Share ways that you are being Christ to someone else this holiday season.  Use the power of social media to share the good news of Christians being like Christ.  Last year there were a few people that participated and shared some great ideas that included sending cards to soldiers, shopping for an Angel Tree, and singing in nursing homes.  I’m hoping that this idea can grow, and we can all be inspired to do something for mercy, justice, and kindness.  Be the hands, feet, heart, mind, and mouth of Christ this Christmas.  And please, have a very happy holiday!

12 Listen to this song by Christopher Grundy.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “11 ways to #BeChristInChristmas

  1. Mark Craddock

    Awesome! Would you allow me to share this in my church? Mark Craddock, pastor, Maple Grove Church of the Brethren, Lexington, NC

  2. Yes, of course. Thanks for reading and for the kind words. I’d be honored if you use this in any way.

  3. I love #9! I am a foster mom, and I think it would be wonderful to throw a party in Jesus’s honor that would benefit the children who come into foster care in our community. Thank you for this wonderful idea!

  4. Connie Pilkington

    Glad to know that someone else does not find Happy Holidays offensive. My husband and I will ring the bell occasionally for the Salvation Army, and they want you to say Merry Christmas. I prefer Merry Christmas, but when I am soliciting for money in a public place, I say Happy Holidays as I don’t know what religion the person coming out of the store is. I figure it is more Christian to say that than offend someone.

    Connie Pilkington

  5. bthomas

    Re: “Happy holidays.” No. Don’t get mad. Simply look at them and say, “Why one?” Ask them to be specific. Listen to what they have to say. Then wish them “Merry Christmas!” If they ask why, share with them how Jesus has made a difference in your life. This works well with just about anyone, even someone who is looking for Christ.

    The public schools are a wasteland. In this a broadly left-wing liberal educational establishment has effectively used the public school system as a tool by which to advance their political and social agenda. Of course they exclude Christ or any mention of Christmas, etc. from the public school system. It would be a threat to their agenda.

  6. Jeff Adler

    These are great ideas. We often advocate that “we may be the only Bible some people will read”. What a great time of year to add some emphasis and urgency to this. Thank you for a terrific post!

  7. Louise Margarite

    This is so great .. it is so positive! and Christ centered …

  8. Judy

    I love this although I am not “religious”. Re. Happy Holidays…. we have always said this! Growing up in the US, it meant Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! It is not meant to denegrate Christmas! I love these ideas.

  9. I’m sharing this with my FB friends and other colleagues. I am touched by #5 and #6. Also enjoyed your Lenten Disciplines of letter writing. Thanks for sharing such excellent material.

  10. Bobbi Meinema

    Excellent. Christians can sometimes respond to “Happy Holidays” in very un-Christ-like ways. This is full of great ideas.

  11. Bud Clark

    SCHOOLS are for teaching kids to THINK.

    CHURCHES, HOMES and PARENTS are for teaching kids to PRAY.

    If critical thinking threatens your religion, then there’s something wrong with your religion, and not with critical thinking.

  12. Hi. I saw you on a #chsocm chat and had to read about the #beTheChristInChristmas. I am doing a blog post where I am reflecting on this topic and wanted to share a link to your article and use your image “nothing can take Christ….” please let me know, Thanks @embeddedfaith.

  13. bthomas

    Re: Schools…thinking, etc. The issue is not that schools are for teaching children. It is that schools have been used as tool by which a left-wing liberal educational establishment has pressed its own social and political agenda without any regard to the will of the parents whose children are subjected to this “teaching” in the schools paid for by the parents.

    At issue is the effort of hostile secularist to force Christian faith into a ghetto, the force Christian faith and practice behind closed doors.

    As issue is that critical thinking as conveniently defined by those who are fearful of or overtly hostile to Christian faith
    At issue is that those fearful of or overtly hostile to Christian faith presume to be the ones who are to validate what they suppose to be critical thinking excluding any other thinking which they deem not to meet that standard.

    If you are frightened of vibrant unapologetic assertive Christian faith, then the problem is with you. There is no problem with Christian faith… exercised boldly in the public sphere. That is a bell you can not “unring.”

  14. karen

    Public school teacher here. Bthomas has shared his experience so here is mine. As a student, a parent, and a teacher the public school experiences of bthomas are certainly in keeping with my experiences. I also have charge of Christmas programs. There is always a sacred piece of music included in my programs. It is part of educating the public. An educated person should know the origin of Holy Days…what we now call holidays. It is up to parents and adult individuals to decide which holidays they practice in their homes. In the last 4 years at my teenagers school concerts and at my elementary concerts, I have heard the following music: Hallelujah Chorus, Carol of the Bells, Dormi Dormi (sacred Italian carol), Salvation, Rise Up Shepherd and Follow, o Come Little Children, and various African Noels. These are the ones I remember. There were actually more. The quality of the high school sound was collegiate and my little kiddos are pretty awesome too! At my son’s Christian University, there will be a couple of “secular” carols on the December Concert. I grew up going to church and hearing “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” always assuming it referred to the New Year Celebration as well as the 12 days of Christmas. It was never an issue until I was in my 30’s.

  15. rikatobes

    Hello! Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your thoughts! I really appreciated this, as I’ve had issues with people who instead scream to keep Christ in Christmas all day everyday.

    However I do have one question, and I realize by asking it that I’m sort of becoming “that person” who blows up over a grammar mistake, but I’ll have you know, I’m not blowing up haha I’m simply confused and hoping you can shed some light for me! 🙂

    In the seventh point you say:

    “I could buy a cheap box with terrible chocolate to pop out each day leading up to Christmas, or I could make this. The Advent calendar of children’s books is an amazing idea I’ve seen from a couple of people on Facebook. I hope I take the time to make the former. I’m afraid I’m going to end up buying the latter.”

    I’m fine and totally agree with everything up until you say “the former.” Shouldn’t former or first be the bad chocolate not the books? And then the same with “latter” shouldn’t that be the books not the chocolate?

    I guess my question boils down to if my understanding of former and latter is wrong, in which case I severely misunderstood this seventh point because I thought you didn’t like the chocolate, or if you simply made a very human error and switched the two, which is super easy to do and does not reflect poorly on your writing or thoughts if that’s what happened.

    Please tell me if you think I’ve blown up at you. I really do not want to come across that way, because I think this is a fantastic blog post and grammar is not the primary issue here, I just want to make sure I’m understanding your opinions correctly since grammar is making it fuzzy. haha soooo fun!

    Anyway, thank you again for taking the time to put your thoughts on paper and to share them with us, I know I have benefitted from them and I will for sure be passing it on to my family and friends so that they as well can benefit. Keep up the good work and blessings to you and your family! 🙂

  16. I’m going to admit that I often get confused by the whole “former” and “latter” thing. I probably shouldn’t use it as a literary device. I think you are correct though, so I edited the post. Thanks 😉

  17. Raven

    this is beautiful. I am a pagan (Druid) and even I can get behind this. I accept a “merry Christmas” from my many Christian friends (who accept me, as I accept them, because we are all good, generous, loving people who do good works) with the spirit it is given. I say “Merry Christmas” on December 24th and 25th (and January 6th, as I am part Ukranian), Happy Yule on December 21st, and Happy Holidays the rest of the time. It is far more Christian to treat others with love and kindness than to treat them rudely. Sometimes I think I show more Christian traits than half the people I see claiming to be Christian (who are really following Paul’s teachings, not Jesus’).

  18. mwarneridx

    Just remember “latter” = “later”, that is, the one that comes “later” in the test you’re referring to 😉

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