A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Shedding Some (Christian) Light on the Holidays

Posted on: December 13, 2012

I admit it: I like watching animated Christmas programs from the 1960s. My favourite is A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Peanuts gang mocks Charlie Brown for questioning how commercialized the holiday has become, but after Linus tells them the story of the first Christmas, they realize that celebrating means more than receiving gifts. It’s a message that still rings true.

Ironically, it’s challenging to celebrate Christmas as a Christian. Schools can have holiday concerts, but you won’t hear any carols. Many workplaces have rules about whether employees can say “Merry Christmas” to customers. And this week, I was stunned to hear on the radio that federal government employees have permission to decorate their workspaces for the holidays.

Is this discouraging? Definitely, but I can still think of a few small ways we can bring a Christian perspective to this season:

Wish people a merry Christmas in person, by mail or by e-mail. Cards with “Merry Christmas” as the sentiment aren’t very common these days, so for greeting cards with “Happy Holidays” inside, I write “Merry Christmas” in my message. The Canadian Bible Society offers e-cards and seals; the Society of the Little Flower and stores like Liturgica and the Gift Shop at St. Patrick’s Basilica also offer Christian greeting cards.

Include nativity scenes, Advent wreaths or rings, and ornaments with Christian themes in your holiday decor. I have an Advent calendar my mother purchased years ago from Avon that features a Christmas ornament and song for each day, some of them carols. Christian gift stores and card shops like Hallmark carry some beautiful ornaments and Willow Tree nativity pieces.

Participate in a community holiday parade with your church group. Kids in your family might enjoy sitting on or walking beside your church’s float, even though it’s cold (and you can always have hot chocolate after). Seeing your group can remind people that your church is part of the community.

Give to or volunteer with a charity. Members of my church prepare Christmas shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and food hampers for those in need. Charities such as the Ottawa Food Bank, the Ottawa Mission, the Snowsuit Fund and the Ottawa Humane Society always need donations and volunteers.

Welcome visitors to your church over the holidays. If you’re shy like I am, it can be hard to walk into a church you’ve never attended before. And for people who attend only at Christmas or Easter—or those coming to Mass after a long time away from the Church, or even for the first time—a friendly face might be just the encouragement they need to come again.

If you’ve got some ideas for shedding a little Christian light on Christmas that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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