First things first: it’s not wrong to pass out an invitation to your Christmas service. It’s just not nearly enough.
Inviting people to hear the story of Christ’s birth is all well and good and necessary, and it’s true that a service like that can minister to people’s hearts. But having that be the sum total of our Christmas ministry is an abject failure to actually…you know, minister to people. They deserve more from Christ’s love than a glossy card with a time and date on it. Acting and serving in love will make those invitations all the more meaningful. So, this year:
1. Consider the bereaved. Do you know anyone grieving the loss of a loved one this year? The holiday season will be difficult for them. They may not feel like celebrating; don’t show up with lights and a tree. But do reach out if only to say “I am thinking of you” and if you want to offer some seasonal help – making a meal, wrapping gifts for them, taking care of some chores – by all means, do.
2. Be kind to the retail workers. Christmas is a trying time for those in retail and food service. Why not drop by a nice note or a gift or even a plate of cookies for your local employee or someone in a store who helps you out a lot? Be kind at the registers and in the store, too, no matter how frazzled you are.
3. Don’t forget those who are incarcerated. The “warm and fuzzy” Christmas ministries for elderly folks and children in need are a lot easier to donate to, sometimes, than ministries for those who are incarcerated. But people in prison need Christ’s love as much as anyone and many are lonely and struggling: give or serve or send a Christmas card.
4. Check up on the lonely elderly near you. Drop by for a cup of coffee or a chat, or even bring by a little Christmas ornament. There are many people far from family and in desperate need of company this time of year.
5. Help a neighbor. Hang some lights; bake some cookies; watch their kids for five seconds while they try to get the large inflatable snowman going in the yard. This is a great time to reach out to local people you don’t know well.
6. Shovel or blow snow for those who have difficulty doing it themselves This is always appreciated!
7. Embrace the Christmas bonus. If you have a service employee in your life – a housecleaner, a regular hair-dresser, a nanny, a yard guy, whoever – a Christmas bonus of some kind is a generous and thoughtful gesture.
8. Meet up with a group of friends in a public place like a coffee shop or restaurant to have a small Bible study or prayer session centered on Christmas. While you’re there, take the opportunity to be generous and kind to those who serve you. It will be an oasis for those lost in the middle of holiday prep and madness and a way of re-centering for the remainder of Advent.
9. Reestablish a relationship. Have a friendship or relationship that just died on the vine for no apparent reason, or because neglect/apathy set in? This is a great time to renew a connection.
10. Keep your priorities straight. Nothing makes a worse minister for the Gospel than someone who forgets it because they’re so determined to make Christmas “good” this year. Keep God in the center of it, and shrug off anything else that goes wrong, and you’ll be surprised how much of a ministry your peace and coolheadedness will be.