One of the best things that we give in the weeks before Christmas is an invitation. Friends invite each other to dinner. Families invite each other to spend a day together and exchange gifts. People go out to plays and concerts. A neighborhood gathers together for a party. It is great to receive an invitation at Christmas.
I encourage you to pray about who you might invite to Christmas services. Every year at our Christmas Eve services I meet people who have never been to Floris UMC before but were invited by someone in the congregation to join them. They are typically surprised and happy about what they have found.
There are several reasons people have told me they were grateful for the invitation:
- Music – They actually knew the songs, even if they typically don’t go to church. And the music of the choir, band, handbells or vocalists on Christmas Eve is typically some of the finest of the year. Great music is simply inspiring.
- Offering – They are often surprised that we are actually giving all of the Christmas Eve offering away to people who are poor and vulnerable. A lot of people are disenchanted by Christmas consumption. When they learn that a large, generous offering will be used to bless people in need as a way to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is refreshing. It is what Christmas is supposed to be. It makes the most cynical heart feel glad.
- Message – Few passages in the Bible are as familiar as the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s Gospel. The message of Christmas is about God’s love for us and the hope we can find in Christ. A stereotype that people often hold about church is that it is condemning and angry. Hearing a clear message of God’s love and grace is good news, something that is often in short supply.
- Candles – What a small thing it is to light and hold a candle, but how inspirational it is to see its light in a darkened room. When we sing “Silent Night,” and on the last verse hold the candles up in the air, it is startling to see how the light seems to magnify and fill the room. It gives me a sense of hope every year that Christ is breaking the darkness of the world.
Part of our role as Christians is to help people see God in the world. Sometimes that is through what we do to bless others. Other times it is through the love of Christ that we express in how we live. But one of the best ways to help people see God is to invite them to an experience of worship where God’s Spirit will speak to them directly through something that happens when we welcome the presence of Christ at Christmas. With one invitation, you might make someone’s Christmas something special. Who is God calling you to invite, so that at Christmas, they might say, “Today I saw God”?