Many parents ask this question, because they know the primary reason for the season is Christ. In their minds, attending Mass is the best way to celebrate the Savior’s birth, so they want everyone to go. But, they also know that telling family members they have to go might create tension. Talk about getting caught between a rock and a hard place!
As a concerned parent, remember that Mass is NOT the starting point for faith renewal; a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is. Therefore, the best way to help your children rekindle their practices is to incorporate the real meaning of Christmas in your pre-planning and during their stay with you.
Decorate your home to reveal a Christian, rather than a holiday, theme. Make the crèche a centerpiece in your decorating. Send Christmas cards that include a Bible passage about Christ’s birth, instead of a “Ho-Ho-Ho” message from Frosty. Buy family members a present that reflects the Catholic faith (a beautiful cross to hang in their home, a wall hanging with a meaningful Bible verse, their own crèche…) Make cut-out cookies of the Holy Family or the shepherds or the Magi.
Make Christ’s presence visible when the family is gathered. Play a Christmas music list that includes more traditional hymns and fewer secular classics. Read the story of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-14). Put up a Jesse tree. Bless the crèche and have the youngest member of the family place Baby Jesus in the crib. Make sure you say prayers before your meals and at bedtime. Tell family stories about past Christmases that end with a prayer of gratitude to God for keeping your clan safe from injury and harm and for giving you so many blessings (like Baby Jesus.)
Finally, let everyone know when you are going to Mass, and sincerely invite them to join you. Don’t nag or force or criticize. Pray that they will accept your request. If they do, remember to thank them for attending. If they don’t, continue to love them as Christ loves you, rather than criticize, nag or apply pressure.
God’s best to you and your family this Christmas season!
By Alice Heinzen
Director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life