A few years ago I thought it horrible that merchants started Christmas decorating before Thanksgiving. Now all stores do it. Nevertheless, I have never been able to get into the Christmas mood before Turkey Day. I was shocked this year when some stores decorated with “holiday” lights, tinsel and started playing “holiday” (not Christmas) music at Halloween! My mood didn’t improve when the TV news announced that Santa was arriving at my mall two weekends before Thanksgiving. Then last weekend I heard that some neighborhoods have already put up their Christmas lights. I was further surprised yesterday to be greeted by white twinkling lights all over the grounds of an office complex near my house. “Tis the season…”
Merchants have learned well the lesson not to waste this season of giving and getting. Granted that their motive is purely “getting” but, nonetheless, they have learned how not to waste this once-a-year opportunity. A few lessons for church leaders:
Fifth Avenue starts early to get us in the mood to spend more than we have. What a shame when church leaders fail to fully prepare earlier so we can engage the community to hear the life-changing message of Christmas hope. I fully realize all the weeks of rehearsals that go into the special Christmas presentation, but what about the whole Christmas season – especially Christmas Eve, the time when nonbelievers are more likely to show up than at any other time? Too often that service which has the greatest outreach potential is given left-overs from all the preceding Christmas services.
Crafting an entire season of stirring worship and dynamic sermons that encourages believers to grow deeper and helps those far from faith draw closer is very labor intensive. It is a work of the Spirit that is bathed in prayer and preparation. Creativity is a lot of hard work. There are no shortcuts. To deliver fresh, challenging, dynamic Biblical sermons on Christmas topics everyone has heard since childhood is a labor of love that is well worth the effort.
Before-Christmas Sales are Followed by After-Christmas Sales that are Followed by New Year’s Sales
Lesson: It is important to begin planning in early December how to follow up with the people who show interest during the Christmas season. Smart church leaders will not only plan what they are going to do to draw people for Christmas but what they will offer to encourage these same people to return after Christmas. January is the time many make New Year’s resolutions; providing a reason and encouragement for Christmas attenders to start the New Year off in church takes a lot of thought and advance planning during an already busy season but it is definitely worth the effort.
Do Not Become a Religious Scrooge
We all remember Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and how the boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, worked so hard that he would not allow his workers or himself to take time for Christmas. Obviously, that all changed by the end of the tale. Too often we church leaders are like Scrooge – so busy with the business of Christmas that we find it almost impossible to carve out time for the Christ of Christmas in our personal lives. Maybe this year we all can learn a Christmas lesson from Mary who did not waste the experiences surrounding the birth, “kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” Luke 2:19.