Growing up, my family had a lot of Christmas traditions. New pajamas on Christmas Eve, Bing Crosby’s album playing as we came down the stairs, and a special breakfast following the unwrapping of all our presents. Perhaps one of the traditions I remember the most wasn’t actually a tradition at all.
Every Christmas Eve, my mother would have a set itinerary of when everyone needed to be bathed and ready and what time we needed to be leaving the house in order to still get good seats at Mass. We’d get there way too early and one of us would volunteer as tribute to lay out all the coats along the pew and safeguard our spot while everyone else ran around in the courtyard.
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
The Journey to Christmas Mass
Christmas Mass is always packed with relatives who are just along for the ride and teenagers being forced to go by their grandparents. There are families there who have never brought their kids to Mass before and drag along their littles with arms full of toys and snacks (like real snacks, not just a bag of Cheerios). These people will likely take “your spot.” They might even be talking on the phone and smacking their gum as they wait for Mass to start.
We are All Called
For a long time I viewed the Christmas (and Easter) only Catholics as irritating imposters. Sure, you’re Catholic, sure. How come you have no idea when to kneel or what the responses are?
In reality it was me who was doing the “faking.” How could I call myself a Catholic while I sat in that pew, silently judging those around me and missing the miracle that was right in front of me?
The Eucharist is the miracle that happens at every Mass. But on Christmas, right underneath the greatest miracle of all, is the miracle that the Baby Jesus brings in the lost sheep. Regardless of the reason why they have shown up to Mass, the Christ Child, in His sweetness, beckons them closer to His manger. He calls them to feel the sweet touch of His fingers, and delight in His newborn breath.
We are all called.
Welcoming Visitors to Our Parish During Christmas
Now, the challenge to us who do have a “favorite spot” in the pews is to do our best to make sure that all those in church—for the first time in a long time—find a favorite spot, too. What can we do help them come back the following Sunday? Here are some ideas.
Invite Them to Get Involved
Some parishes will have a children’s Christmas Eve Mass. Sometimes that means a children’s choir and/or a short nativity play. Maybe you have some friends with kids who are Catholic but aren’t practicing. Invite them to the children’s Mass and have them get their kids involved!
Invite Those in Your Circle
Ask your friends and family who may have fallen away from the Church to come to Christmas Mass with you! A lot of times, people are just looking for an invitation to return home. You can be that invitation.
Volunteer to Be the First Impression
Volunteer to be an usher or greeter. The jobs will vary from parish to parish. But Christmas Masses are always looking for more volunteers. Get involved! Sign up to be that welcoming and understanding face people see when they step into the church (perhaps for the first time in a long time). Plus, when you hand out the bulletins as people leave, you can say something like, “See you on Sunday!”
If you’re like me, and volunteering with four young kids is pretty impossible, there is something quite simple you can do. When you see another family in front of you or behind you that is also struggling to keep littles quiet and engaged, smile at them. Giving that knowing smile and look that says, “Hey, you’re doing a good job and I totally get it.” Then after Mass, make sure you actually say it. Just let them know that you see them and you’re happy they’re there.
Secret Scripture Santa
Finally, if you’re a little more introverted and talking to new people can sometimes give you hives, here’s another idea. Order a set of the BIS Scripture cards. Grab a handful (or all of them!) and write in the corner, “For you!” Then when you get to church early on Christmas Eve, say a little prayer, and then tuck them in next to a missal. That scripture card might just might be what someone needs to read to bring them back home.
Letting People Come to Him
Now I’m not saying that getting to Mass early so that you can have “good seats” is bad. As a family, I’m sure we’ll be doing that since our littles pay attention better when closer to the altar.
But this year, just be at peace wherever it is that you end up in the church. Be welcoming to all those around you. Offer a smile or a kind word to the people who look like they’d rather be anywhere else.
The Heavenly glow of the manger brings all people together. Sometimes we just need to take a small step back and let someone behind us get a little bit closer.
The Heavenly glow of the manger brings all people together. Sometimes we just need to take a small step back and let someone behind us get a little bit closer. #BISblog //Click to tweet
What are some ways you intentionally reach out to people visiting your parish for Christmas Mass?
Bubble Gum and the Baby Jesus: Welcoming Visitors to Our Parish During Christmas #BISblog //Click to tweet
Susana Starbuck is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is wife of a youth minister and mother to four littles five and under. She lives in Phoenix, AZ and enjoys reading a good book, posting her highlight reel on Instagram, and drinking wine. You can connect with her here.