Twelve Ways of Christmas

How to Share Jesus During Advent

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According to recent surveys, over 90 percent of your neighbors plan to celebrate Christmas this year (at least if you live in America). They’re not likely to observe the Muslim Ramadan, the Hindu Diwali festival, or Buddhism’s holiest day of Vesak. But every year, 300 million Americans still choose to celebrate Christmas, despite 75% of them not being able to accurately explain what Christmas even means.

They will gather with friends and family. They will enjoy large meals and fancy parties. They will decorate trees, string lights, give generous gifts, and maybe join in for a carol or two. They might even be among the 50 percent of Americans who say they plan to attend a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service (Pew). But for three out of every four Americans, it will be a hollow holiday, a Christless Christmas. Unless, of course, the other one of those four chooses to introduce them to the One who can make them whole and fill them with hope, peace, and joy.

At Christmas, Jesus “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Will you join him and use one of the most useable times of the year to be part of Christ’s mission? The harvest is still plentiful, but are fewer and fewer Christians willing to work the Christmas fields and enjoy the Christmas harvest? Christ said, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35).

Consider twelve ways we might sow and reap this Christmas.

1. Host

The holidays offer a myriad of opportunities to have people over to your home. You can invite others over for family meals, dinner parties, work parties, dessert gatherings, neighborhood functions, or school holiday celebrations. Christmas affords you the opportunity to gather for anything, whether secret Santa, ugly Christmas sweaters, or a good Christmas movie.

A Christian’s presence is powerful; our aroma is noticeable (2 Corinthians 2:14–16). God can spread the knowledge of himself to others through your marriage, your family culture, your decorations, your bookshelf, your artwork, your language, your countenance, your kindness, and most explicitly, your words.

2. Say Grace

As you host, consider how you might carry out some normal rhythms of your household, such as prayer before meals. Whether before a crowd or at your table, you could say something like, “Well, thank you for joining us and being our guests. Before the evening gets away from us (or before we start to eat), let me give thanks to God for you, this food, and this Christmas season.”

I cannot imagine a person balking at a prayer that asks for hope in life, requests help in sickness, and thanks God for the joy and love that come through Christ. Take opportunities to share the good news of the gospel through a Christmas prayer. And as you pray specifically for them, expect God to answer!

3. Personally Invite

Many of us have asked a friend or neighbor, “Would you like to come to our Christmas Eve service?” The emphasis of this question is on the event itself and their desire to attend. Consider asking instead, “Would you come with me to our Christmas Eve service?” The accent of this latter question is on the relationship, not the event, and their availability, not their desire.

Personally invite them — not text them — face-to-face with a card in hand to a Christmas Eve service with you, or to a Christmas dinner with you and other Christians, or to attend your child’s Christmas play with you. Connect the invite to you, not the event. Jesus invites us into relationship. When we say, “Would you come with me?” we use much of the same tone that Jesus did when he said, “Come and you will see” (John 1:39) and “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19).

4. Ask with Interest

One of the ways we display the mind of Christ is by taking notice of others (Philippians 2:3–8). Our questions, our genuine care, and our offer to pray with others in moments of fear, uncertainty, hurt, or joy destroy distant and lifeless views of God and help to communicate a warm, welcoming, safe, and intimately acquainted heavenly Father.

Ask someone if the Christmas season is one of pleasure or pain, or a mix of both. Are the holidays an easy time for them, or more difficult? Ask them what their childhood Christmas was like or if they have any lasting Christmas memories — good or bad. Christmas is a time to show how much God cares for them and about them.

5. Give Meaningfully

Can you think of a gift you might give to a neighbor or coworker or family member that communicates thoughtfulness because you remembered something this person said or did? Explain why you thought of him. Most often, the best gifts are personal. God gives that kind of gift. Consider giving an ornament, framing a picture, buying some artwork, purchasing a book, signing a Bible, or printing out a poem. Include a handwritten note with it. They may never forget it or ever part with it.

6. Respond Thoughtfully

Sometimes, asking thoughtful questions means we will get questions in return. “What are you doing for Christmas?” “What are your Christmas traditions?” “What will Christmas Eve or morning look like?” “How do you celebrate Christmas?” Be prepared to respond in turn or answer their questions too.

How will you talk about reading the Christmas story from the Bible? How will you speak of attending a Christmas service? How can you explain Jesse trees, advent wreaths, or Christmas nativities? Your responses can cut through the shallow cultural conceptions of Christmas and replace the hollowness with real, heavenly hope. Be ready to give the “reason for the hope that is in you” this Christmas (1 Peter 3:15).

7. Pray Faithfully

Consider praying every day between now and Christmas for one neighbor, coworker, family member, child, sibling, or parent. What might God do in you and in others during three weeks of concerted prayer? Prayer keeps friends and loved ones before God, but it also keeps them in your mind and then in your plans, as God establishes them (Proverbs 16:9). May this Christmas not become prayerless.

8. Share the Story

Christmas is often a particularly inviting time to share the gospel story. Tell others that God made us for relationship, our distrust and disobedience broke that relationship, Christ was born and died to restore that relationship for all who trust in him, and one day God’s people will be reunited with him in heaven and the new earth. Share the gospel story of the bad news, good news, and future news. It’s the best news!

9. Forgive Fully

You will inevitably be wronged or disrespected this Christmas by your spouse, kids, friends, coworkers, neighbors, or even strangers. When you are, you have two options: hold them hostage in your bitterness, or forgive them as you have been forgiven (Matthew 6:12). Every time you pray through the Lord’s Prayer, you ask to be forgiven as you have forgiven others. Don’t be a Christian Scrooge, but release all resentment into the loving hands of Jesus. Don’t just speak of forgiveness, but show it. When you do, others may see that they need it too.

10. Ask for Forgiveness

Apologizing and asking for forgiveness can point ahead to the gospel. The three sentences “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” are powerful and rare. When uttered to another, we admit sinfulness and a need for grace. At Christmas, when you see your sin, own it, admit it, apologize for it, and ask for forgiveness. Those who ask may have never heard anyone apologize so sincerely. God may use our words as a model for them to pray, “Be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

11. Serve Selflessly

The Christmas story reminds us that Jesus “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). If Jesus has served you so sacrificially, are you not freed from self and free to serve others? Serve by doing dishes, throwing away wrapping paper, baking goods, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or serving a family in need. Jesus came as a suffering servant, and we can reflect him by serving and alleviating suffering of all kinds.

12. Visit the Emergency Room on Christmas Eve

Jesus spent time with the suffering. He healed the bleeding woman, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, offered assurance to the sinner, and restored ableness to the disabled. He reversed the effects of the curse wherever he traveled. No one wants to be in an emergency room on Christmas Eve. But what if caring believers went to provide a hand, hug, or prayer to see them through it?

Christmas is one of the most celebrated times of the year. May these twelve ways of Christmas give you ample opportunity to invite others into your celebration.

serves with his family as part of the college ministry staff of Table Rock Church in Boise, Idaho. He has led teams of staff and students over the last twenty years in evangelism, discipleship, and missions mobilization. He’s also the author of The Christmas Story, which helps Christians share the gospel during the holiday season.