Presbyterian Church USA has put together a great resource entitled Ideas for Reclaiming Advent and Christmas.
Even though this resource is intended primarily for Presbyterians, it is applicable to all Christians and people of conscience.
In Advent we wait for the coming of Christ. At Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Shape your seasonal celebration to be one centered on the true meaning of Christmas. Prepare for the holiday by simplifying life, incorporating prayers, giving alternative gifts and serving sustainable foods. Share the love of Christ with others throughout your life with a living witness this season.
The resource, provided as a PDF download (click here), offers great suggestions on how we can reclaim Advent and Christmas in a variety of ways. Below are some excerpts.
Living the Season
Society places many expectations on us (and we place expectations on ourselves) to create “the best Christmas” by outdoing each other and what we did last year. Avoid running ragged and becoming exhausted by deciding early in the season what will be meaningful for you. Then be intentional about choices throughout the season.
Pray and Renew: Holidays can be a great time to teach, learn and write new prayers. Encourage visitors to pray and give thanks. Consider your family’s everyday prayer life, too. Rotate who prays before each meal from person to person, year to year, so everyone has an opportunity to pray.
Slow Down, Make It Memorable: When we get caught up in shopping and preparations, it is easy to forget about Christ. Relax. Savor both the season and Christmas Day. Christmas is a holy day and the focus should be on God, not on materialism.
Greenery as Life, Creation and Renewal
We celebrate the birth of our Savior during Christmas. With the onset of winter, there are fewer signs of life, which can make it difficult to celebrate birth and renewal. The church has traditionally remembered Christ’s birth through the introduction of signs of life during the season of Advent:
Advent Wreaths: Rather than purchasing a fresh Advent wreath, you can make one. The lower branches of a Christmas tree that were cut to fit it into a stand make excellent wreath material. Find ocal and organic options for greenery by visiting a local farm or farmers’ market. Use beeswax candles in your wreath. They are organic and biodegradable.
“O Christmas Tree”: While there may not be a Biblical basis for having a Christmas tree, bringing greens and signs of life into our homes has become a standard part of Christmas tradition. If you have an artificial tree, it is best to use it as long as you can. If you purchase a live tree, go local. Visit a tree farm for a memorable outing with family or friends. After the holidays, treecycle!
The Magi traveled a long distance to bring gifts to Jesus. Their gifts honored the child and provided for the family. Today, gift giving can be a tricky topic. Like the Magi, we should find humble gifts that honor our loved ones while honoring Christ and remembering why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.
Fair Trade Items: Selecting fair trade answers God’s call to liberate the oppressed and set the captives free. Coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and snacks from the Presbyterian Coffee Project make great gift baskets or stocking stuffers: .Fair trade handicrafts support the self-development of people worldwide through the Global Marketplace: . Fair trade sports equipment is made without child labor:
Meals: Give the promise of food and meals to people on your list. Promising to eat lunch with loved ones at their workplace or school once a month is a great way to spend more time together.
Food plays an important role in holiday gatherings. Many Bible stories tell of God providing food for the weary. As Christians we can be conscientious about where our food comes from and how it is produced, so that our food choices sustain life rather than injustice. Here are some ways to embody the life of Christ through your eating and food preparation this season.
Cook and Bake Responsibly: Many baking items such as sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and spices are harvested under grueling conditions. The people who bear the brunt of hard work and low pay are the most vulnerable: women and children. Purchasing fair trade baking goods, as well as snacks, chocolate and beverages helps prevent child labor and oppressive working conditions and ensures workers a fair wage. Natural food stores in your area should sell products with the Fair Trade Certified seal.
Keep It Local: Local foods require less energy to transport to your table and help minimize your environmental impact. Visit Local Harvest for markets and farms in your area. Purchase locally sourced meats from free-range, organic producers. For help choosing foods that suit your needs visit Sustainable Table. Consider creating a vegetarian or vegan feast from local farm goods.
Minimize Waste and Packaging: While recycling is far better than adding waste to landfills, buying items with no packaging or reusable packaging is the best option. Compost raw food scraps as a way to enhance your or a neighbor’s garden soil.