When our kids were younger, we used to go to church on Christmas Eve. Our church has a regular weekly attendance around 1,200 however, on Christmas Eve the number of folks who kneel in the pews swells to over 5,000.
To the regular attendees of Christian churches, these extra 3,800 people are often labeled the “C & Es,” which of course stands for “Christmas & Easter.”
Partly because of the crowds, and partly for other reasons, several years ago we switched our family Christmas service to 8:30am on Christmas morning. Our tradition now is to spend a quiet Christmas Eve with just the six of us enjoying fondue, get to bed at a decent hour, and then rise in time for 8:30 mass.
The kids look around on Christmas morning, but we don’t open any presents until we get home from church and have breakfast.
Some have called us the meanest parents in America, but with our kids now 15, 14, 13 and almost 12, it is a Christmas routine they adhere to with a certain pride. Apart from “stocking presents,” we have also adopted a practice of three presents per child… just like Jesus got.
All of these traditions have developed out of our desire as parents to walk the line between what our secular society has turned Christmas into, and the true meaning of the holiday. So far, it is going pretty well.
I have held several church leadership positions over the past thirty years, and in every one we have faced the challenge with how to encourage the C & Es to come back, even just a few more times a year.
Let me dispel a common misunderstanding… churches are not like Amway or pyramid schemes. We’re not after sheer numbers or money. The goal in getting episodic visitors to come again is rooted entirely in wanting to share good things. People who regularly attend a particular church do so because they get something positive from it.
Just like a entertaining movie, a tasty restaurant or a favorite store – when you find something good you inherently want to share it.
I like to think of religion like hats:
- Not everybody wears one
- There are hundreds of varieties & styles
- There are only certain ones each of us can comfortably pull off
- Once you find one that works for you – it tends to become a part of you and something others can recognize on you everywhere you go
I cannot speak to other religions, other faiths or other practices. I have been a practicing Christian my whole life and that is my experience. I have attended some festive occasions in other religions, but with respect to spreading the word, I can only share what I know.
So, here is an idea I respectfully ask you, my readers out there, to consider:
IF you don’t regularly find yourself in church
IF you went to church this Christmas
IF you got something positive (a thought, a feeling, a vibe, a notion) out of the Christmas service (other than making your mom happy)
THEN I encourage you to go back for more.
Maybe you liked the feeling of the hat on your noggin, but the one you tried on Christmas Eve didn’t fit your head or your style. That does not mean that hats aren’t for you – all it means is that you haven’t found the right fit just yet – keep looking.
If you know that you’re simply not a hat person – that’s cool too.
This time of year is filled with family, togetherness, stories, history and all the forces (good & bad) that come in the mix. It opens us all up to possibilities that don’t come any other time of year.
Sunday morning I noticed some new faces in the pews. Sure, some of them might have been visiting family who had not yet headed home, but I hope a few of them were folks who came back to try on that hat for a second time.
If you feel like there could be more than the things already in your life… like you might be missing out on something good – then it might be time to go hat shopping. But be sure to take your time and find something that fits.
Copyright © 2016 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved – Find Something That Fits.
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