5 Ways You Can ‘Breathe’ This Christmas

Don’t just believe…breathe

Even though Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, we sometimes forget to breathe. Mark Schultz penned it the best — “we’re running just to catch ourselves.” We may experience moments of rest, but at the end of the day, Christmas can end up becoming more stressful than helpful. As Christmas Day approaches, I want to share five ways we can all breathe.

5 Ways You Can Breathe During Christmas

As a Christian, I find myself reassuring our family that we make sure to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s impossible to focus on more than one aspect of Christmas. We can enjoy several aspects of Christmas that are outside of Christ, but we can only actually focus on one. Hopefully, we choose to focus on the mission of Christmas (Click here to read about what I mean).

When we learn to focus on Christ, we’ll learn how to breathe. Christmas will move from chaos to mission; from overwhelming to a blessing.

Based on Advent, here are five ways we can practically breathe during the Christmas season:

Continue Reading »

Do You Celebrate Advent With Your Church Family?

FREE eBook: The Journey of Advent (Readings for Non-Liturgical Services)

Advent is one of the most important seasons of the Christian calendar. It saddens me that many non-liturgical churches dismiss Advent as ‘something they don’t do,’ because of its liturgical nature.  Even though I grew up in a non-liturgical church, we participated in Advent each year, and for the past five years, have had the privilege of leading our local church in doing the same. Does your church family celebrate advent?

Do You Celebrate Advent

Continue Reading »

Have We Derailed Christmas?

Chaos, Family, or Mission?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” sang Andy Williams.1  I completely agree, but I’m not sure we all agree with what makes it wonderful.  I actually think many Christians have missed the mark when it comes to Christmas.  It may even be possible that we have merged the good parts of secular Christmas with the mission of Christmas.  The only problem – we may have derailed the mission altogether.


When I think of Christmas, I think of three possible mindsets: Christmas Chaos, Family Christmas, or Christmas Mission.

1. Christmas Chaos

Everything is busier during Christmas!  Calendars are full of concerts, shopping, recitals, shopping, dinners, and… did I mention shopping?  If you’re not buying a gift, you’re in anticipation of opening a gift.  Every day is faster than the next and the temptation to “keep up with the Joneses”2 grows continually.

2. Family Christmas

Christmas becomes warm and sweet.  It’s when Christmas is about gathering together as a family, experiencing tradition from one year to the next, and celebrating the holidays with “good cheer.” It’s not about the gifts, but the people you care about.

3. Christmas Mission

This is when we focus on God’s ultimate gift to us – Jesus.  We remember God’s mission (gifting us with Jesus) and act in our mission (sharing that gift with others).  Just as God selflessly gave his Son to us to provide hope and peace, we act selflessly love others to share in that gift.

Is it possible to experience all three of these Christmas mindsets during the season?  Absolutely!  Can you focus on all three?  Impossible!

Most would agree Christmas Chaos, and the commercialism that surrounds that, is completely missing the mark of Christmas.  But where do we go from there?

We may #believe in the #Christmas #Mission, but do we actually value it? Click To TweetI think we may have fallen into the trap of believing that Family Christmas is the actual meaning of Christmas.  We may have actually derailed the beautiful hope that Christmas brings.  Yes, we may believe in the Christmas Mission, but do we actually value it over Family Christmas?

We know Family Christmas can’t be the center of Christmas, because not all of us have family.  If family doesn’t exist, does that mean that Christmas doesn’t exist?  No, of course not!  It’s a good thing that the Christmas Mission includes everyone!

Does that mean that Family Christmas isn’t important?  Absolutely not!  Family remains an important part of our lives.  It just means that Christmas doesn’t surround the family.  Instead, Christmas is about how family and friends experience the Christmas Mission.

Here are some ways we can refocus our thinking:

  • Care for those in need.

Nothing refocuses us towards the Christmas mission like selflessly giving.  It’s counter-intuitive for our culture to focus on giving, let alone giving selflessly.  What would Christmas look like if we, as family and friends, gave up something to help someone else?  We’re too quick to say we can’t afford to give, and yet focusing on mission means focusing on giving, not receiving.

  • Protect and embrace the birth of Jesus.

It’s one thing to read the Christmas story before we open our presents on Christmas morning, it’s another thing to allow the Christmas story to impact everything we do. I think we all too often get the “religious” thing over with so we can have fun.  We probably forget that, without Christ, the hope of tomorrow is gone.  Christmas time should be sacred.  That doesn’t mean Christmas is always serious, but our activities should bring us closer to Jesus, not further away.

  • Experience Advent.

You may worship in a denomination where the advent liturgy is practiced, or you may now.  Unfortunately, I come from a denomination that has not traditionally practiced advent.  However, I grew up in a local assembly that did.  At Bethel, where I lead, we work through it every year.  It helps build anticipation of the arrival of Christ.

  • Share Christmas.

Spread love, joy and peace to those around us.  Live out the Christmas mission.  Show those around us that knowing the Saviour is life-changing and life-giving.  That might mean giving of our resources, or it might mean extending moments of love, joy and peace during moments of chaos.  It could drastically impact how you react in a busy mall parking lot.

Family is always a vital part of the Christmas Mission, but the focus can’t be on family.  If we do it right, our families should experience the Christmas Mission together.

Your turn…

What is the focus of Christmas?  What makes Christmas “wonderful”?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

How to Start a Christmas Campaign As the Local Church

5 Guidelines to Help Make a Christmas Impact

Christmas planning is well on its way.  In a world that’s hurting and searching for true love and joy during Christmas, the local church has a great opportunity!  What if the Local Church thought beyond their Christmas banquet and cantata and began to physically spread Christmas love and joy?  What if we focused on an outward Christmas campaign every year?


Last year our church launched a Christmas campaign called “Give Christmas.”  It was a joy-filled campaign including local and international projects.  What works in our context, however, probably won’t entirely work in everyone’s context.

To help us think strategically, here are some guidelines the Local Church can use as we “give Christmas” this year:

1) Partner with a local/global group.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel! There are numerous local and global groups that are already spreading the love and joy of Christmas.  Maybe the answer is to simply partner with one of them.

Here are some examples: Local gift-sharing initiatives (Happy Tree), Children’s Wish Foundation, Local food banks, Operation Christmas Child, Erdo, Compassion Canada, or World Vision. Feel free to share other groups in the comment section below.

2) Meet local needs.

Don’t just mimic what others have done, make an honest effort to meet needs in the community. Click To TweetDon’t just mimic what others have done, make an honest effort to meet needs in the community.  We don’t have to go very far to find a family who could use a gift of love during Christmas. Not sure where to start?  Make contact with a local food bank or town council.  These groups have helped us greatly!

In our campaign, we raise money to help make Christmas a little easier on a family.  Sometimes we can bless a family with a special gift, other times we can pay a bill and relieve some stress.

3) Join hands with other churches/denominations.

Local churches can do well on their own, but think of the impact that cooperation can make? After all, we’re not building our own kingdoms, but God’s kingdom.  It can be a local or global initiative; it really doesn’t matter.  Either way, cooperation increases our impact and encourages unity.

When we focus on God’s kingdom, the possibilities are endless. #GiveChristmas Click To TweetFor example, a Christmas project like Operation Christmas Child can only impact the world when groups work together.  Our local church will collect upwards to 75 shoeboxes, but together, our area is aiming to collect 2,400 shoeboxes, upwards to 37,000 as a province, 730,000 nationally, and 11 million worldwide.1  When we focus on God’s kingdom, the possibilities are endless.

4) Allow everyone to help.

The success of a church-wide campaign depends on the ability for everyone to contribute. #GiveChristmas Click To TweetNo matter of everyone’s social and economic status, we must provide a way for everyone to join the cause.  It’s no good to create a campaign that’s “out of reach” for some.  Instead, divide the project into smaller contributions, or encourage everyone to give a percentage of their income.  The success of a church-wide campaign depends on the ability for everyone to contribute.

5) Get the whole church community involved.

Sometimes we forget we’re a community.  Sure, we have individual ministries in the local church that target different people.  A church-wide campaign, however, needs to be a community effort.  Launch a campaign and get each ministry to support the campaign together.  Each ministry will bring something new to the table, while contributing to unity and strength.  It will make for a stronger Christmas campaign!

Now it’s time to create your Christmas campaign…

Use these five guidelines to help create a campaign that will have a great impact this Christmas.  If you’re a pastor, work through this process with your key leaders or board.

If you’re in lay leadership, dream big and present your idea to Church leadership.  Pastors and leaders are always eager for volunteers to take passionate initiatives!

Your turn…

Do you have some other guidelines for the local church?  Share them with us! Let’s “Give Christmas” together!

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

Operation Christmas Child: 6 Reasons Why You Should Participate

Most of us would agree that helping Children in need is a high priority.  Sometimes, however, we downplay our role in this process.  Perhaps it’s because we don’t think we can make much of difference or that our budget isn’t big enough to make any real change.  I want you to know that there is a great opportunity for you to help in a meaningful way!  You can pack a shoebox. Operation Christmas Child has been operating around the world since 1970.  Since inception, they have distributed almost 10 million shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries.  I want to offer you six reasons why you should participate in Operation Christmas Child this year.

Operation Christmas Child

1. You are helping children around the world.

Let’s start off with an obvious one.  Operation Christmas Child was created to help children.  Even more specifically, to give less fortunate children a taste of the giving spirit of Christmas.  Many of the children who will receive a shoebox this year have no concept of the commercialized Christmas we experience in North America.  These children will simply open a small box of loved-packed toys, hygiene items, school supplies and other small blessings.  These items not only bless children physically, but also bless them emotionally and socially as they quickly realize that there are people in this world that care about them.

2. You will partner with an organization who cares.

Samaritan’s Purse, the organization behind Operation Christmas Child, is a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization that has been meeting needs around the world since 1973.1  In 2014 alone, their efforts included providing over 76,000 households with Ebola infection prevention kits in Liberia and sending 60,000 shoebox gifts to ISIS-fleeing refugees in Iraq.  They also responded to disasters all over the world – helping 50,000 families in Nepal, 4,000 families in the Congo, and even relief for 800 flood victims in High River, Canada.2  While this is a Christian organization, and they care about the spiritual health of those they help, their primary concern has been meeting the needs around them.  Their finances prove this even further – 91% of their expenditures are directly related to their ministries.3  By participating in Operation Christmas Child, you’ll get to partner with this great organization.

3. You will bring unity within your family, group or work place.

Nothing else brings people together like helping others.  Whether you pack a shoebox as a family, group or work place, this project is guaranteed to bring you all closer together.  Families can include their children in the process of picking out items, groups can create a team project, and work places can pool resources to see how many shoeboxes they can pack.  The possibilities are endless.

Consider taking a photo of everyone who helped pack the box and place it inside the shoebox.  I’ve been told, by someone who handed out boxes to children overseas, that the children who receive photos are so grateful and overwhelmed to see the people who care about them.

4. You will teach your children how to give.

In a consumeristic world of want, want, want, get, get, get, Operation Christmas Child has the potential of teaching our children what it actually means to give.  Not only will children experience giving a gift to a child in need, they also get to experience giving, without expecting something in return.  It’s truly a selfless act that our society doesn’t usually promote.

Operation Christmas Child also teaches children the blessings they have.  No matter our economic situation in North America, we are beyond blessed when compared with many of the children who will receive a shoebox.  This project helps children have a deep appreciation for what they have and hopefully heightens their responsibility to help others.

5. You will be challenged to give.

Every year I’m challenged to do more.   Whether it’s to pack one more shoebox, volunteer my time with a local collection centre, or give an extra monetary donation to help the organization go further, this project challenges me every year.  Don’t think for a minute that learning how to give is only for children!

My wife had a great idea one year.  Instead of giving a regular gift to our family members, we packed everyone a shoebox full of smaller items (some needs, some wants).  For one thing, it was refreshing to scale things down for a change, but, more importantly, it helped us to focus on family and the real meaning of Christmas – Jesus, who is God’s selfless gift to us.

6. You will provide avenues of real transformation and hope.

Now that Operation Christmas Child has been in existence for a while, we are seeing real proof of transformation.  That transformation results in hope for many others.  Khin Khin shares a testimony of how she received a shoebox while living in a New Delhi refugee camp.  Years later, she’s living in Winnipeg, Canada where she helps pack shoeboxes to help bring hope to many more!

“Receiving the shoebox made me realize how a Christian should give for others,” she says. “Some children might not have people who care for them, so for them, it’s encouragement to know they still have other people who care for them and that God is always there for them when they don’t have anybody else.”4

Check out her story here:

In 2014, Canadians packed over 660,000 shoeboxes!  35,000 of those came from here, in Newfoundland, alone!  Let’s partner together and reach new heights in 2015!  Samaritans Purse is challenging Canada to collect 710,000 this year!  That’s only a 7.5% increase.  If we do our part in Newfoundland, we’ll need to collect 37,625 this year!  We can do it together!

By packing a shoebox we can join together to help kids around world, remind ourselves about giving, and help provide avenues of real transformation and hope!

Find a collection center near you…


If you liked this post, please take a moment to share on your social networks so others have a chance to read it as well!

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]