It's not the size of the gift but the intention behind it that shows the true meaning of Christmas.
The Christmas baskets were almost ready. Only a few donations were still needed. “If anybody can help,” the chairman announced, “We still could use a couple of soups, two bars of soap, and a book of stamps. I know it’s a lot and you guys have been real generous, but c’mon, y’all. It’s Christmas.”
This Christmas, find the truth of the Christmas mystery in popular holiday tales.
When the jaw of the 6-year-old girl slipped and her mouth opened ever so slightly, the storyteller knew he had her. She was no longer merely hearing a story; she was living in the world of the story. When the tale was over, she and her classmates laughed and applauded.
Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn’t need to be one more “to do” on a family’s already packed December calendar. Jesus was born to bring peace, not stress. The word Emmanuel means God-with-us, and the antiphon of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that defines Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Write Christmas cards
Although some people dread the annual stack of cards, envelopes, and stamps, for Elizabeth and Franc the cards provide time for Advent reflection.
Christians are called to harbor refugees as if they were the Christ child on the run.
It’s nearly lunchtime in the west Michigan city of Kalamazoo. “Auntie” Saheeda Perveen Nadeem, 64, stands over the stove in the kitchen at First Congregational United Church of Christ (FCUCC) preparing a nutritious lunch for 20 children living in poverty.
’Tis the season for contemplation.
Heavens! December! This means the Christmas countdown has been on for weeks or months, depending on which calendar you’re using. In Retail Time, of course, seasonal decorations have been on display since—oh, Halloween or so. However, if you observe the more traditional, liturgical sense of time, Advent began very conveniently this year on the first of the month.
Interfaith families are celebrating the holidays in unique and meaningful ways.
Samira Mehta started studying contemporary interfaith families, she says, because of lunch with a friend. Her classmate, an Episcopal seminarian, had recently met a teenage boy preparing for both his bar mitzvah and confirmation, and her friend expressed frustration with the lack of resources available to interfaith families in similar situations.
Lay-led celebrations are the lifeblood of the church.
It’s so often the women, it seems. Since that first Sunday morning when the myrrh-bearing women made their way to the tomb, it’s so often the women. The ones who teach catechism to the children, prepare the casseroles for the funeral luncheons, coordinate volunteers for the homeless shelter, lead the decades of the rosary before Mass, gather on Monday mornings to count the collection from the weekend liturgies, visit those who are shut in to bring the Eucharist and companionship.
To many mothers, Mary is a relevant role model.
Two years ago, when we were already busy with three young children, our family was blessed with Ezra. Right away we knew our fourth baby was the most go-with-the-flow of the bunch; he basically had to be, constantly consumed by the chaos of our busy lives. He was baptized on the first Sunday of Advent and we looked forward to celebrating the Christmas season with another child in tow.
The real story of Jesus' birth can't be tied with a pretty bow.
The account of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s gospel is a familiar story. It relates a miraculous conception announced by an angel; a young girl’s trusting assent to this divine message; a birth in a cozy stable (the rude smells overlooked by countless Christmas pageants and Las Posadas processions); a joyful announcement by an angelic chorus; and a touching scene of awestruck shepherds greeting a newborn child. Luke’s infancy narrative shapes our imagination of the Christmas story into a tale of glad tidings and hope-filled joy.
We are pushing our planet to its limits for the sake of a few fun parties.
Blank calendar squares that suggest a relaxing autumn disappear when the November page is pulled. In December we go from flurries to a full-blown snowstorm of activities that fall fast upon our household in blizzard-like heaps. The short days leading up to Christmas are jam-packed, but even when they leave me exhausted I love them. Every festivity and finishing touch makes the season special, even more so now with kids to share in our nostalgia.