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With the flu season almost upon us and predictions of tightening restrictions, how are we, the church, preparing for this Christmas season? We were caught off guard and felt unprepared for celebrating Easter during a pandemic, but we do not need to be caught off guard this Christmas.

The majority of charitable giving occurs during the weeks leading up to Christmas, and those who are helping the poor and needy depend on these funds to get them through the whole year. Where I live in northern Manitoba, our church’s “Shoebox” ministry with Samaritan’s Purse has been affected as we are unable to travel freely to the depots to drop off our donations. I am thankful that Samaritan’s Purse has developed a program where you can pack a shoebox online with your choice of items.

Thanksgiving was a bit different for us this year as well. We were unable to visit our community’s nursing home, but the church ladies still made beautiful crafts to give to the residents, and one of our members was able to deliver them.

What ministries does your church and family participate in specifically at Christmas, and how will you ensure that these ministries continue even when restrictions are tightened again? Do you prepare food hampers for the poor? Or drop off gifts to the children of those who are incarcerated?

There are things we will not be able to do this year. We might not be able to visit people who are sick or in care homes. But we can still go caroling in family groups and sing outside, and we can send homemade gifts and cards or leave a plate of cookies on the doorstep after caroling outside. When our children were young, we got together with another family who also had children. We made cookies and went to homes in our neighborhood where people were alone at Christmas. The people we visited were delighted to see and hear the children and appreciative of our gifts, and it was also a very meaningful experience for our kids.

We might miss the children’s Christmas pageants this year, but Sunday school teachers can prepare meaningful packages to mail or hand out to their students and neighborhood children this year. There might not be visits to Santa, but children would be so delighted to have a visit from their Sunday school teacher!

And let’s not forget our youth. With some schools allowing no extracurricular activities and some churches allowing no youth programs, our teens are suffering higher rates of depression and suicide during these days. Many are experiencing a lack of meaning and purpose in their lives. Can we mobilize them into Christian service during this Christmas season? And as long as outdoor gatherings are allowed, we can organize events such as wiener roasts, snow sculpture contests, and other outdoor fun. Family units can also compete against other family units for best snowman or best decorated house. Offering great prizes can be motivational even for the most couch-potatoish of the crew!

As we think of ministry during this pandemic, much of our focus has been on technology, but there are many we are not reaching with this method. When I was sick in May, I was surprised and delighted to receive a phone call from a member of The Word Guild, a Canadian Christian writers association I belong to. The person who called asked me how I was and genuinely wanted to know! He prayed for me, prayers I know made a difference as I was rushed to the hospital that very night. On the other hand, I have heard of phone calls that seem rushed and impersonal, and leave the person feeling like just a name to cross off a list. I imagine it would be the same with any cards or letters we send. Taking the time to write a personal note will likely make all the difference, especially this year.

So perhaps Instead of focusing on what we cannot do this Christmas season, let’s prepare well by starting to think now of what we can do. This will be a very different Christmas, but let’s make it the best Christmas ever!

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