In his book, Christmas Is Not Your Birthday, Mike Slaughter reminiscences about his and his friends’ excited anticipation of Christmas, carefully researching catalogues of toys daily, “like racetrack junkies studying betting odds, circling and prioritizing the desired commodities in hopes of a Christmas Day payoff.” Christmas, he writes, was like a second birthday but “a much bigger and better deal”!
The “its all about me” is a carefully crafted creation of slick marketing campaigns designed to convince you that happiness and fulfillment will arrive packaged in ribbons and bows under the tree on Christmas morning. And even if you’ve progressed beyond concerns for your own “Christmas payoff”, it’s likely that you still find yourself buying into the “fulfillment through consumerism” mentality regarding your children, grandchildren, loved ones. “Christmas has been hijacked and exploited,” Slaughter writes. “We have professed allegiance to Jesus but celebrate his birth with an orgy of materialism.”
The birth we celebrate is Jesus’- God’s incarnation coming into our world. Perhaps as followers of Jesus, the “Body of Christ” in this world, we need to take our unexamined Christmas celebrations, activities, and expectations and turn them “Inside Out!”
Christmas Inside Out is our theme for the four week season leading up to Christmas. As individuals, classes, and groups we will look at our programs, plans, and ministries from a different perspective.
How can we offer Christ to others in unique, creative, even adventurous ways?
How can we take the love of Christ outside the walls of the church into our community?
Are there surprising, joyous ways to bless others during this season?
So, for example, your church staff has been experimenting with a few activities, such as offering extravagant hospitality to a group of social workers and caregivers meeting in our facility, including personal notes of thanks, goodie bags, and an over-the-top cheerful greeting upon arrival or taking bottles of cool water to road construction crews working in the summer heat, or asking you to take small loaves of bread from our World Communion service to anyone who might need a blessing— whether you know them or not. These were just some seeds to foster “thinking outside the box” about how we can be the hands and feet of Christ in our world, to bless others in non-traditional ways.
Each Sunday of Advent, Dr. Bruster’s message will take on a different aspect of this “Inside Out” theme: Christmas Outside the Trappings, Outside the Expected, Outside the Walls, and Outside the Holidays. And, just as a teaser, stories of our “Inside Out” Christmas will be a part of our Epiphany experience!