DEWITT, MI – “Pastor…This might have been the only time some of these kids heard the Gospel!” That statement rings loudly in my head every year as we approach the Christmas season, and it makes me very conscious of the various ways to share Christ during this time.
Have you ever considered how many opportunities the Christmas season gives us for evangelistic sharing and encounters? Before I became a pastor I hadn’t given it much thought other than just the celebration of “our dear Savior’s birth.” But over the years, I’ve discovered that December gives us a wide variety of ways to broadcast the Good News of great joy.
Before we returned to Michigan, I heard about a church in our association in Virginia that was having a “Hanging of the Greens” service. I was unfamiliar with this service at the time. But once I obtained a copy of the service after our move, I shared it with our church leadership. We decided it was something we wanted to include in our annual schedule. We print invitation cards three weeks before the service for our people to distribute. We also announce it on Facebook and in our local newspaper.
“Hanging of the Greens” is usually observed on the first Sunday evening of Advent. It is a decorating service with narrations explaining each decoration in relation to Christ. Following each narration a Christmas carol is sung as church members put up particular decorations—wreaths, window candles, the Advent wreath, and candles, etc. The climax of our service is the lighting of the Chrismon tree. Chrismons are Christian symbol decorations that remind us that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birthday. Children and their parents come forward to help decorate the tree before we light the tree. Then I give a brief talk about the Christmas story.
Soon after we started this tradition, we talked to our high school’s choral director about having the select choral group come and sing some Christmas songs prior to the “Greens” service. She was delighted at the opportunity. (We give the group an honorarium for coming.) Every year our service has approximately 25 high school singers who come and share their talents. And many times their parents come, too. One year in particular, we were reminded of the significance of inviting those young people. That was the evening the young lady from the group, a Christian, walked up to me during our fellowship/reception afterwards and said, “Pastor, thank you for inviting us. This might have been the only time some of these kids heard the Gospel!” Wow! I was overwhelmed, almost to tears, because I realized there are kids (and adults) in our midst today who do not know the real story of Christmas.
So I make it a point in early December to remind myself, our members, and attenders of the importance of the meanings behind our Christmas decorations. They can use that information to share the Christ story in their homes with unbelieving family members, or neighbors, or even out there in the marketplace when folks are admiring a wreath, a tree, or a poinsettia. It’s true that without Easter, Christmas would be meaningless. But thank the Lord the days leading up to Christmas give us plenty of opportunities to share the greatest Gift of all - Jesus.
Want more background info? Check out lifeway.com/Article/Christmas-traditions-rooted-in-ancient-culture. For more on chrismons: umcs.org/chrismons.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Dan Wilkinson is pastor of First Baptist Church in DeWitt, Michigan. Dan and Denise, his wife, are products of Michigan Baptists having grown up in Detroit area churches.