Wednesday 18 December 2013
We asked Christians surrounded by non-Christian family at Christmas for their tips. This is what they said.
BEFORE CHRISTMAS DAY
Invite them to church
- Some families might not be happy about you being a Christian, but they generally love Christmas. So inviting them to anything Christmassy is a good idea: carols services, Road to Bethlehem.
- Invite your family to church on Christmas Day, but give them notice. If they don’t want to come, still give them notice that you will be going so they can plan around it. The last thing you want is to appear to be ignoring your family or skiving off from Christmas day prep duties.
- Although going to church on Christmas Day is a wonderful ideal, sometimes it can be the worst decision. If for some reason you’re staying with family and everyone turns up at the time of your church service, or it could be seen as rude and disrespectful to go at that particular time, it might be wise to go on Christmas Eve. On the other hand, you might want to make a statement. It’s a decision to be made through prayer and with wisdom.
- If you’re on holidays for Christmas and plan to go to church, make sure you choose your church well! Their Christmas message might not be quite what you were expecting.
- Invite a friend who doesn’t have somewhere to go for Christmas to your family gathering. It shows other-person centeredness on your part, both to your friend and to your family who wouldn’t have thought of this act of generosity. It’s sharing both parts of your life with the other.
Have realistic expectations
- Manage your own expectations: Realise you might feel all sorts of conflicting feelings on Christmas Day, as you are celebrating Jesus your Lord and Saviour, but your family aren’t. You might feel sad, angry or frustrated because you can’t celebrate in the way you wish you could, and because they aren’t worshipping Jesus with you.
- Accept the day isn’t fully yours and that you’re just called to be faithful. God knows you long for your loved ones to know the Lord. Be a servant to your family and ask God to give you eyes to see them as he sees them. Also don’t forget to reflect upon how God has changed you and your family over time.
- PRAY! Pray for opportunities to speak snapshots of the gospel through the day and pray for opportunities to love your family and be the “fragrance” of God’s kingdom to them.
ON CHRISTMAS DAY
Choose things which point to Jesus
- Give cards which are related to the good news of God incarnate where you can or buy charity cards or charity gifts at Christmas. For example, TEAR and World Vision have great gift catalogues. If your family really don’t like these, respect the way they show love by showing them love with a physical gift.
- Choose the music on Christmas day. Get upbeat contemporary Christian carols, not the de-Christianised ones.
Be a servant
- Pull your weight in the family preparations/cooking/clean-up. Don’t use the excuse that you are doing all the stuff at church – to mean that you are slacker when it comes to family stuff.
- Be prepared to say ‘Grace’ at the dinner table. As the token Christian, it may well fall upon you to do the ‘Christian thing’ at the table. You might even want to volunteer! Have a good Gospel-centered ‘Grace’ up your sleeve for this moment.
- If you want to drink alcohol, perhaps think about bringing your own. One person I know buys a slab of light beers and just drinks them. It’s his way of showing he likes to drink but doesn’t want to get drunk.
- If you are going on a Scripture Union mission right after Christmas, think about how to speak about what you will be doing without being boring or vague. How will you describe it in a way which explains what you are doing but doesn’t alienate them?
- You will do lots of small talk. Think about how you might talk about your year without saying it was “busy” or “hectic” or other conversation killers.
- Don’t eat too much at lunch and make sure you have a few moments to “recharge” throughout the day. The last thing you want is being so tired you can’t talk to people, particularly those who need your friendship.
- It’s a great witness to really be present and interested in your family’s life, their Christmas, plans for the holidays, dreams and hopes for next year. Think ahead of time about what everyone in your extended family is up to so you can have things to talk about. You want to be interested in their lives and show that you care.
- In the time after Christmas when everyone has empty diaries and nothing to do, this is the one time of the year when the society stops and you can have a less hurried conversation. Think about who you might spend time with.