Do you have family members who are away from the Church?
Are you not sure what to say to them when they are home for Christmas?
Fallen-away friends and family will most likely be more willing to share about matters of faith and be open to invitations during the special, grace-filled time of Christmas.
In a recent study, 47% of the adults surveyed said that they were more open to matters of faith during the Christmas season. The study also found that “the most effective method for bringing people to church is through personal invitations by family or friends.”
It can be difficult knowing what to say or do when you are around friends and family who are not practicing the faith during the holiday season. Remember to keep an attitude of humility and mercy. Mother Teresa famously said, “If you judge them, you have no room to love them.” Let us not judge our family why they have wandered away from God, but rather meet them with a spirit of mercy. Mercy over our hearts to have compassion for others and to alleviate their misfortune. Evangelization, leading others to God’s saving love, is truly a key act of mercy in the Christian life.
1. Be Peaceful as We Await the Prince of Peace:
It is easy for everyone to get stressed out during Christmas. My family usually has at least one major blowup per family visit. But, you can be a sign of contradiction in the midst of stress. Focus on Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and find your tranquility in him.
You may ask, “What does that have to do with my loved ones?”
Your example will not go unnoticed, especially if you tend to be anxious or were the primary instigator of arguments in the past, (I’m not speaking from experience or anything).
When we change our behavior because Jesus has changed us, it makes others want what we have.
2. Stay Focused on Jesus:
There are a lot of distractions during the Christmas season, including cards, gifts and parties. All of these things are good but we can lose sight of the spiritual aspect of Christmas.
When I went home for Christmas as a fallen-away Catholic, I always knew that my parents would continue with the traditions of my childhood. We would carry Jesus to the manger on Christmas day, light Advent candles, and say prayers before opening gifts.
My parents’ piety was sometimes irritating to me. But what I didn’t realize was that all of these things built a foundation in me, a gut instinct that recognized that a Christmas without the spiritual can be glittering and glitzy, but ultimately empty of transcendent meaning.
3. Look for Opportunities to Share Your Faith:
Heaven kisses earth on Christmas. Families get together. Rivalries pause. Stores close. Wars cease (at least temporarily). It is as if time has stopped. Jesus, the God who came to save us, is truly with us in a special way.
During this year’s peaceful Christmas intermission, look for opportunities to talk to your loved ones about your faith. Just share the wonder of knowing a God who loves you and who has been there for you this year. Point out how he has worked in your life and don’t be afraid to point out how you think God may have worked in the lives of your loved ones.
4. Be Normal, Loving and Down-to-Earth:
This may sound like odd advice, but when I was away from the Church, I was most moved by Christians who interacted with me first on a human level. I was impressed by Christian friends and relatives who loved me for who I was and appreciated my gifts, my thoughts, and my time.
When I felt like people were interacting with me as a means to an end, (i.e. just to convert me), I was turned off. People are not here for us to try out “strategies” on. They are here for us to love, to accompany.
This mode of evangelization is effective because this is how Jesus interacted with the people he met. The person standing in front of Jesus was always the most important thing to him. The people knew this, and it was this kind of love that changed them.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out:
There is a spirit during Christmas that fills people with openness toward one another.
This is the perfect time to reach out, to invite, to ask simple questions.
“Why did you stop going to Church?”
“Would you be open to coming with me sometime to X (Mass, adoration, or any other Catholic event)?
“How do you feel about God these days?”
Questions, rather than statements begin conversations. And Christmas is a time of grace that may just allow conversations to turn into baby steps back to the Church.
So, fear not. God is with you. In our interactions with others, he is there, guiding us and opening the hearts of those we love.