1. Come to Christmas Eve worship.
It would mean the world to your pastor to see you (and even some of your family and friends) attend worship this Wednesday evening in celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ child. More than adding to attendance or increasing the offering, to have you present at this service—gathered together with all God’s people, hearing the good news of our Savior’s birth, adding your voice to the many hymns of praise, receiving Christ’s life-giving body and blood in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, sharing in our communal prayers, etc.—would fill your pastor’s heart with great joy. Understanding that you may be out-of-town visiting family elsewhere, attending Christmas Eve worship in that place—no matter where it may be—would be no less of a gift.
2. Listen to the Story.
While you’re at worship—though that pew seat may be so cozy as to make you sleepy, or your family is fit in so tight beside one another you struggle to participate to your full potential—listen to the story. There will be a story shared that night—and I’m not talking about your pastor’s sermon. The story of Jesus’ birth—the beginning of the good news, God’s entering into the world as one of us—will be spoken for all to hear. Listen to this magnificent story; let it dwell deep within your bones, and move through your veins. As it is read aloud, instead of reviewing what all has yet to be done before the next morning, let the Holy Spirit take hold of your whole body and enlighten you with this gospel. The story—though having happened far away and long ago—is a story for you in the here and now. Certainly, your pastor would love for you to keep up with him the entire way through his half-hour sermon; but realistically, he would prefer if you listened to the story of God’s love for the whole world begun in the birth of our Lord in a manger.
3. Go out and Share It.
So you’ve made it to worship and you did your best to listen to the story; now, go and share it. Hold the phone! You’re saying instead of receiving a brand new Keurig Coffee Maker, with its 400 different flavor pouches, you would rather me go out and share what I’ve just heard and experienced from one night of worship? Yes. As good as the first (attending) and second (listening) are for gifts, without the third (sharing) they are like an unwrapped and unlabeled box under the tree or an unassembled toy without the batteries—it’s not complete. While I won’t be physically there with you as you share with others what you heard about God’s love for you and for them born in the baby Jesus, our Lord and Savior; I would be more than happy to schedule some time to hear all about your going out and sharing afterwards. It would be a welcomed belated Christmas present. If you think about it, this is where the gift becomes three-dimensional: affecting 1) the person you go and tell, 2) your pastor who you are doing it for, and 3) you—serving as a blessing to yourself by blessing another with this gift of good news. The great part about this third piece of the gift is sharing can be done in multiple different ways: through word—telling—and deed—communicating this message through actions of love and service to others.
“What do you want for Christmas, Pastor?” Not that I expect any parishioners to ask me such a question, but if they were to, my response would be this: “The best thing you can give me is to come to worship Wednesday night at 9pm (be early and feel free to bring all of your family and friends!), listen to the story about God’s love for you shown forth this night in the birth of the baby Jesus, and go out from there sharing that good news with others whom you encounter.” Merry Christmas, friends!