The Word Gets Out
I’m a pastor. Pastors don’t just “skip” major holidays on the Christian calendar. Advent was coming in about a week, and I had to make some quick decisions. How was I going to break it to the congregation about my bold, new initiative to skip one of the most holy days of the year? As grace would have it, there was a way to start the conversation.
Over the summer, we cleaned out the church. When I say “cleaned out”, that’s what I mean. Almost all of the junk that had accumulated over the past ninety years or so was either sold, given away, or thrown out. Included in all of that was all of the old Christmas decorations and the fake Christmas tree that we used in the sanctuary. I took the opportunity to make an announcement in church on the Sunday just before Thanksgiving. This year, we were not going to spend money purchasing new Christmas decorations. We would do something different; something to get us back to the true meaning of Christmas. We were going to decorate the sanctuary with all sorts of nativity sets provided by the congregation.
I also announced that Robyn and I would be skipping Christmas in our own home. This would mean that the parsonage would be undecorated, there would be no Christmas tree at the parsonage, and that we would not be getting gifts for anyone.
Unfortunately, this announcement in the middle of a worship service did not come as good news to everybody. After the service, I was approached by a few people wondering why we would not have a tree in the sanctuary. The problem, it seemed, was that a tree was needed to supply the names and gift ideas of the people for whom we were purchasing gifts.
I also seem to have miscalculated the willingness of the family to go along as well. Some of my family members were in the congregation that day, and had already purchased Elwood some Christmas gifts. They were upset and worried that we were taking Christmas and away from him. It seems that my announcement did not go as smoothly as I had hoped.
So I backtracked, a little. The following Sunday, I told the folks in the congregation that a Christmas tree was fine in the sanctuary, but that we would not be spending church money to purchase it. To ensure that my craziness didn’t spread any further, I put someone else in change of decorating the sanctuary. As it ended up, I actually let the church use my own personal fake tree in the sanctuary. After all, I wasn’t going to need it.
As for presents, we let everyone know that it was fine for them to purchase gifts for any of the three kids, but that it wasn’t a necessity. To my shock, this came as a relief to most members of my family and congregation. Even more surprising, there are more than a couple of people joining us in our “Christmas skipping” revolution. And almost everyone I know is taking a fresh new look at what they have done in the past and are opting for reduced Christmas activities this year. (It’s amazing what $3/gallon gas and $5/gallon milk will do to a budget.)
But “skipping” Christmas sounds so harsh. And it’s not even accurate. We’re not skipping it. We’re trying to find the true meaning this year. What we needed was a catchy slogan…