Make a giant Christmas card for the church gathering area. Invite people to sign it rather than sending Christmas cards to church members. Encourage signers to donate the money saved to a community agency and/or Gift of Hope. For church shut-ins, provide individual “mail bags” to collect cards from church members. Deliver the bag of cards to each shut-in when church carolers visit them during Advent.
Advent Family Fun Night
Kick off Advent as a community with a family fun night. Set up a series of stations with different activities, some designed to help participants celebrate Advent together and some designed to share with people who do not take part in the event (neighbors, shut-ins, etc.). Activities could include caroling, making ornaments, and making Christmas treats to share with friends (or eat yourselves).
Hold a potluck dinner or soup supper. Invite each household to tell one story about a Christmas tradition or the most meaningful Christmas they have celebrated. Consider having each household bring their family crèche. Share stories about each crèche—its origin, what makes it special to them, how they set it up each year, and other unique remembrances. Older adults can tell children what it was like for them as a child during Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.
Sponsor a trip to an art museum where people can look at how the birth of Christ has been portrayed in art from around the world throughout the generations. Focusing on the art surrounding the events of the Christmas story can give people a concrete means of making connections between scripture and the church year.
Saving the Christmas Tree for Lent
Charles Stickley, former pastor of Hurley (New York) Reformed Church, shares this Christmas-Lent tradition.
Each year we place a rather large tree (15′ to 20′) outside the church. It is decorated with white lights and red bows. The tree stays in place until Epiphany and then its branches are stripped leaving only the trunk. The trunk is cut lengthwise to make a large cross that is placed inside the sanctuary during Lent. The cross is draped in purple and has five candles that are lit each Sunday during Lent much like the Advent wreath candles. On Easter Sunday the cross is covered with flowers and a large white candle is placed in the apex of the arms. The candle is lit for the celebration of the light of love that is celebrated on Easter morning. For our church, it really ties together the seasons of the church year and their significance.