Recently we had a fun weekend here at Nativity as we announced our return to the Maryland State Fair for Christmas Eve, for the first time since 2019. If you don’t know the back story on “Christmas at the Cow Palace” (as we say around here), check it out in Rebuilt. Bottom line, we go off site to a larger venue for the popular Christmas Eve Masses, a practice we suspended during COVID and now need to return to.
But the point is, we are already immersed in planning for our biggest night of the year. The space has been reserved and rented, contracts signed, vendors lined up, so we are well on our way.
Unless you’re in a similar situation, moving off campus, you probably don’t have such concerns. But you can certainly be thinking about your Christmas celebration even now. For most parishes it is the single biggest opportunity to reach the unchurch in your community, introduce yourself to newcomers, and reintroduce yourself to all those parishioners who haven’t been around for the past few years.
The most important job in preparation for Christmas Eve isn’t about decorating and preparing the space, selecting the music, or even writing a Christmas homily. It’s about introducing your current parishioners to the idea that Christmas Eve isn’t about them, it’s about the people who aren’t in the pews. This might mean that they agree to give up their seat for the evening, attend a less popular Mass time, park off campus. Better yet, it could mean agreeing to serve as a greeter or host minister providing an enthusiastic welcome to new comers.
The other thing you and your parishioners can get started on now is a strategy for making an invitation to unchurched family and friends, who very well might consider an invitation to church for Christmas Eve. Our strategy is simple, we call it “invest and invite.” Parishioners invest relationally in someone they know who is unchurched. Then, when the opportunity arises to make an invitation to join us for Christmas Eve. This year we are even preparing business card size paper invitations people can carry in their wallets with the basics for joining us for Christmas.
It’s October! It’s time to start thinking Christmas!