12 Ideas to fill your Christmas (and the strange week after) with more Wonder

Photo by Blue Ox Studio @ Pexels.com

by Rev. Adam Weber

This article was re-posted from an email – subscribe at adamweber.com.

The older you get, the easier it is for Christmas to feel boring and mundane. Or even worse, it’s easy for Christmas to feel like a chore, something to survive. This doesn’t have to be the case though! With that in mind…

Here are 12 ideas on how you can put some wonder back into your Christmas (and the strange week after):

Note: This isn’t a checklist. Just some ideas. We often build things like Christmas up in our minds and think everything has to be perfect. Let go of your expectations! Not every moment is gonna be Instagram-able. It can’t be! And that’s okay.

1. Look for a way to brighten someone’s day.

Pool some money together as a family or friend group. $20 total. $100. More. Discuss (and pray!) about things you could do or needs you know of. Think of an organization you can bless. Or maybe someone around you who is going through a hard situation, is lonely, or just needs some encouragement. Then go for it!

2. Share highs and lows.

With a friend over coffee or with your family during a meal. Have each person share a “high” and a “low” from the last couple of weeks. You might be surprised by what your family shares. You might even surprise yourself! We need more places to share celebrations and the low moments we walk through.

3. Go on a drive to look at Christmas lights.

Make hot chocolate, put on some Christmas music, and start driving. Important note: If 10 minutes in it’s not fun anymore (and the kids are screaming bloody murder!), you can be done. Drive around and encourage the car to share fun things you see along the way!

4. Read the Christmas story together.

Every year, one of my favorite moments is when Bec and I read the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20) with our kids. Seeing my kids connect with God. Thinking about what it was like for Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men—there’s really nothing like it. Important note: Don’t make this boring or feel like a chore! Make it fun. Protip: If you have kids, use the Kids Bible App to watch the story. Or watch the Bible Project video.

5. Bake some cookies.

With a friend, your spouse, or your kids. Get a recipe (here’s my Grandma Dahle’s chocolate chip cookie recipe), the ingredients, and jump in. Have kids? Don’t be like me and get uptight about making a mess or the recipe not being exactly right. Let the kids lead the way. One step further? After making the cookies, take some to a neighbor who might not have many visitors or to a friend!

6. Take a walk.

I walk year round (even here in the freezer we call South Dakota). Walking is great for your body and also your mental health. Get some fresh air. Take in the stars at night. Walking is good for the soul, too. As I walk, I almost always end up talking with God. Telling Him what I’m worried or dreaming about. Advice: If you know how to worry, you know how to pray. Just start telling your worries to God and not just to yourself.

7. Serve somewhere. 

At your church. The Salvation Army. A food pantry. Anywhere you see a need. Note: This is a great way to bring joy, impact your city, and love people any time of year. If you’re struggling with worry, being anxious, or feeling miserable, one of the best remedies I’ve found is to serve, to take the focus off myself and put it on others.

8. Let your kids decide. 

Give them a budget and have them plan an outing. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll be surprised that you asked! “Dad really?!” And you’ll be surprised by their creativity. (Hopefully they don’t burn the house down in the process!) Your job? Be fully present and follow their lead!

9. If you have a fireplace, use it!

Away from Jesus, one of the greatest sources of peace in my life is my fireplace. I’m not joking! In the winter, I sit by it every single day. Fun fact: As I type this, I’m sitting in front of my fireplace. Whether it’s a gas or wood fireplace, there’s something about a fire that is good for the soul. At the Weber house, we have a wood fireplace. Gathering the wood from outside, getting it started—it’s almost meditative.

10. Watch a Christmas movie together.

Good popcorn is required! It doesn’t matter which Christmas movie (although I’d vote for Christmas Vacation!). Sure, you may have all of Home Alone or Elf memorized by now, but there’s something so fun and magical about Christmas movies. Plus, if you have kids or a spouse who hasn’t seen your favorite movie, it’s a great chance to share something you love.

11. Light a candle.

In the midst of the bright, shiny Christmas celebrations, the hard things you’re carrying often get lost in the shuffle. Whether you’ve lost a loved one this year, or years ago, take a moment to acknowledge to yourself and to God that you are still grieving. Feel whatever feelings you’ve been carrying around. Let the light of the candle remind you of Jesus’ hope in the darkest of times.

12. Attend a Candlelight Service.

If you grew up in church, you’ve probably attended one. The pastor stands up at the end of the service, you sing “Silent Night.” Everyone holds their candles high, while you do your best to keep your kids from starting the person next to them on fire. It might seem cringy, but the moment the whole church is lit only by the flames of candles and everyone sings the final “Christ our Savior is born” is so powerful. Let the holiness of the moment fill you with wonder this Christmas. 

Wherever this Christmas finds you, I hope these ideas fill you with wonder and a deeper sense of God’s love for you.

Adam Weber is a pastor, author, and host of The Conversation podcast where he interviews guests about life, leadership, and loving others well. A native South Dakotan, he is the founder of and Lead Pastor at Embrace. He is the author of Talking With God and Love Has A Name. Adam received the Distinguished Evangelist Award from The Foundation for Evangelism in 2016. He and his wife, Becky, have four kids: Hudson, Wilson, Grayson, and Anderson. You can follow Adam on social media @adamweber.

Equipping the Local Church Grant Cycle Opens January 15

The Foundation for Evangelism is pleased to announce it will open the 2023 Equipping the Local Church grant cycle on January 15. A total of $350,000 is available for grants of $5,000 or $10,000 to small and medium* church congregations, or clusters of churches working together, in a Wesleyan-tradition denomination.

During the 2022 Equipping the Local Church Grant Cycle, 31 grants were awarded totaling $230,000. The projects included a wide range of evangelistic disciple-building in the local church context including:

  • Establishing a children’s and youth summer leadership program based on Wesleyan-tradition Christian values that invites and nurtures children and families in the faith.
  • A Sunday-night supper open to anyone in the community that invites conversation around a particular scripture.
  • An online church designed for those struggling with addiction or family members and friends of addicts.
  • A weekly respite night for foster parents that provides a safe and nurturing place for children and a connection to a faith community for their caregivers.

The grant is intended to help launch an experiment or initiative to share the Gospel, faith stories, and invite others into a relationship with Jesus.

Any church or group of churches fitting the criteria may apply. A total of 30 small church and 20 medium* church grants will be awarded in the summer of 2023.

To help clarify the grant criteria and application process, an information session will be held on January 26, 2023 from 3-5 p.m. Eastern. You can register for the session at FoundationforEvangelism.org/apply-for-grant.

Applications open January 15 and will close February 28, 2023.

The Foundation for Evangelism Equipping the Local Church grant initiative seeks to empower pastors and laity in smaller local congregations to dream, take risks, and partner with God in the transformation of lives and communities. These grants are made possible through the generosity of donors, friends, and partners of The Foundation for Evangelism.

The Foundation for Evangelism works globally to educate and invite people into the Christian faith. Grants to pan-Wesleyan/Methodist leaders, churches, seminaries, and denominations impact Christian leaders across five continents. To learn more about our work, visit www.FoundationForEvangelism.org.

*under 250 participants

Christian Perfection

By Henry “Hal” Knight III

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Christian perfection, or entire sanctification, may be the most controversial of Wesley’s teachings. It was certainly one of the most misunderstood, which is why Wesley took such great pains to define it. Christian perfection, he said, is “purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God” and “the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked.” It is “loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves” (A Plain Account of Christian Perfection [Epworth, 1952] 109). It is “a restoration not only to the favour, but likewise to the image of God,” our “being filled with the fullness of God” (“The End of Christ’s Coming” § III.5, in A.C. Outler, ed., Sermons II [Abingdon., 1985] 482).

Wesley was also clear as to what it is not. Christian perfection does not imply a perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment. Nor does it mean we no longer violate the will of God, for involuntary transgressions remain. Those perfected remain subject to temptation, and have continued need to pray for forgiveness. It is not an absolute perfection but a perfection in love.

Teachings like this are common in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, and could be found in Wesley’s own Anglican tradition. What makes Wesley’s view distinctive is his strong Protestant convictions. We can see the effects in three areas.

First, he argued that Christian perfection is a gift of grace alone, to be received by faith. Sought by the believer, who, by grace, is open to receive it, Christian perfection comes in an instant, at God’s initiative. It is, Wesley said, “wrought in the soul by a simple act of faith, consequently in an instant.” In addition, he believed “in a gradual work both preceding and following that instant” (112). All of this is a work of grace.

Second, Wesley believed Christian perfection to be promised to everyone who believed—it is not only for a relatively small number of persons who belong to a monastic community, but for all persons in the midst of everyday life. Certainly, like monastics, believers undertake spiritual disciplines and belong to distinctive communities, but the disciplines are lived out in one’s daily life and the community involves weekly meetings in one’s neighborhood.

Third, Wesley held to Protestant notions of original sin, which meant there was nothing remaining in fallen human nature that either deserves or seeks salvation. Salvation was indeed by grace alone. This is why the Protestant reformers believed Christian perfection impossible in this life: the corruption of sin was simply too great and its influence too subtle for it to occur. Yet Wesley understood grace not only as forgiveness but transformation by the Holy Spirit. Unlike Luther or Calvin, Wesley believed the power of the Holy Spirit could take totally fallen human beings and over time completely restore in them the image of God, such that they would fully love God and their neighbor as God has loved them in Christ.

Many people today, as in Wesley’s day, find this teaching on Christian perfection hard to accept. One reason may be that we have not experienced the pattern of worship, community, daily devotion, and active service to others that marked the lives of early Methodists, and therefore lack the context in which it occurred. Another may be that we simply lack an expectant faith in the transforming power of God. But Wesley believed Christian perfection to be a promise of God to give us new life to the fullest. He also saw it as the source of deep and authentic happiness, for it restores us to the condition in which we were originally created. In any event, he argued that to seek Christian perfection would do us no harm, for as we do we continue the process of sanctification, and daily grow in the knowledge and love of God.

This article was originally posted as part of the Considering Wesley series on April 01, 2004 at CatalystResources.org

Dr. Henry H. Knight III is Donald and Pearl Wright Professor of Wesleyan Studies at Saint Paul School of Theology. His books include From Aldersgate to Azusa Street: Wesleyan, Holiness, and Pentecostal Visions of the New Creation (Wipf and Stock, 2010) and A Future for Truth: Evangelical Theology in a Postmodern World (Abingdon, 1997).

Merry Christmas! A Message From Our President

Merry Christmas from The Foundation for Evangelism!

I love that during the season of Advent, we light a new candle each week.

Every time we begin with a dark, cold wreath, gradually adding to the light, building up to a glowing circle of warm light that fills our churches and hearts.

The scriptures describe God’s arrival in human form, as Jesus, in a similar way. In Isaiah 9:2 it was prophesied:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.

And later in John 8:12 Jesus describes himself as light:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (ESV)

This Advent and Christmas season, The Foundation staff and board celebrate what God has made possible. The wonderful achievements made and lives transformed. If you prayed for our work this year, thank you.

We  are grateful for the support of our donors – both long-time and new.   Your commitment to sharing the Good News makes our efforts possible. If you gave a gift to the Foundation this year, Thank you.

We are amazed at the Kingdom-building work being done by those who have received grants this year. If you applied for a grant, thank you, and may God continue to bless you and your ministry.

In the midst of Advent, as we await the coming of the Christ-child, we wish you an abundance of light, joy, and peace.

Have a joyous Christmas!

Jane Boatwright Wood