Even though we have Thanksgiving and Advent, and the opening of the Year of Mercy to celebrate first, Christmas plans are already in the works. Parishes have sent the Christmas Mass schedules to their envelope companies. Choirs are planning their extra Christmas rehearsals. The environment committees are planning the decorations for inside and outside of the Church. The social concerns committees are organizing the food collections, the giving trees and other works of charity that will take place in Advent so that the needy will have something special for Christmas. The dates for confessions and the Advent Reconciliation Service are set. These are all important preparations.
How We Approach the “Crowds” is Also Important
One of the usual conversations about Christmas in parishes is around the crowds that come; the overflowing parking lot (come early to get “your” seat); and the many faces that we don’t recognize. The sheer numbers make us pay attention to the “extra” people. That’s how we think of them: extra, not really part of our community.
Actually, they are part of our community already, but at Christmas (Ash Wednesday and Easter) they become visible—not like the rest of the year when they are not. At that important moment when we can actually see them in person, we can welcome them, we can offer them gracious hospitality, a beautiful celebration of the Eucharist, an inspiring homily, unconditional love—and perhaps, a reason to come back more often.
Celebrate Christmas with Us is a Great Web Message
Christmas, Ash Wednesday and Easter are the three times a year when the word “church” is looked up most frequently on the Internet. When people look up Catholic Church in your zip code on the Internet before Christmas, what will they find when they click on the link to your parish website? Will it be a welcoming message announcing the times of services and expressing the desire to share the joy of the season with everyone? Will they see a beautiful photo of your sanctuary or nativity scene at Christmas, or perhaps a Celebrate Christmas with Us video? Will they know if they come to your Church on Christmas, they will be welcome?
Don’t Just Wait for Them to Come to You
It is great if a welcome-for-Christmas message is on your website for people to find. It is even better if you take the message to people through your parish Facebook Page (as well as your outdoor signage). Using Facebook ads, you can inexpensively send your welcome and Christmas greetings to all of those in your parish zip codes who are on Facebook. Make it a beautiful message, short, but warm, inviting and loving. Include a link to your website and a hashtag (#yourcity) as well. Christmas is a time to remember and give witness to God’s great love for us in sending his Son into the world to redeem us. Use your website and social media sites to share that message with the people around you. Get your plans in place now.
How will your parish share your Join-Us-for-Christmas message with those not in Church regularly?
FYI: Christmas Videos
As I did for Ash Wednesday and Easter, I will create customized Join Us videos for parishes that would like to use them on their websites and/or on social media sites for Christmas. Parishes will need to provide 2 photos, Christmas Schedule and all contact information. How to Order details will be provided next week.