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Come Home For Christmas initiative opens doors

Come Home For Christmas is an initiative of the Catholic Church which aims to offer a seasonal welcome to Catholics who for different reasons no longer or rarely attend Mass. The message is: Whatever your story or journey, the door’s open for you. Rebecca Bretherton explores the possibilities.


Building relationships at Christmas

Buy pretty much anything for Christmas and the store will try to build a longer relationship with you. A voucher for January or an opportunity to give feedback online: ways to make us long term customers. Share a festive meal with friends and as you remove your party hats to leave you will probably make arrangements for your next get-together. The meal was good but the longer friendship is more important.

Come to Mass this Christmas as a stranger and it may be a different experience. We know our Christmas Masses will be full of folk we never normally see. Visitors may be warmly welcomed on Christmas Day but do we make any attempt to build lasting relationships? The sad answer is that sometimes we do not consider that it is worth trying. We can even be a little judgemental about people who only come to church ‘once a year’ and a bit cross when they take our favourite seats. We expect that we won’t see them again until next December. It’s a shame that we miss this golden opportunity to get to know them better.

More importantly, this is our chance to help them to grow into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Do we even consider that they might want to get to know Him better?

To start a relationship we need to want to know someone. 

Christmas reminds us that God wants a deep relationship with us so much that he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live with us so we could know Him better. That is what we are celebrating and is what makes Christmas a perfect time to propose this Good News to others. We believe we have a mission at Christmas: to share the message that God is longing for that deep relationship. This Christmas is part of His plan to draw us all into Himself.

If we really believe that our mission is to bring God’s Good News to people, we must understand that when someone comes to church at Christmas, it may be the start of a longer journey back to Church or they may be actively looking for God in our parish. 

We cannot expect that anyone coming to our parish Masses at Christmas for the first time or after many years away from the Church is ready to be a disciple. Nostalgia for carols or a family celebration may bring someone to Mass but it is unlikely that they will be ready to commit to more. They may have many questions to ask or obstacles to deal with before they can believe we would want to share our lives with them. If we don’t show that we want to help, who will? 

The Christmas season is a busy time but with a little Advent preparation we can be ready to welcome visitors, not just for Christmas, but to a full life with Jesus Christ and His Church.

How can I use Christmas to help others encounter Jesus Christ?

  • Reflect on what Christmas means in your own Christian life. We cannot share what we do not have ourselves. 

Then:

  • Simply invite someone to come to Mass this Christmas: ‘I’m going to church, would you like to come with me?’ Be prepared for them to say no; it won’t be a wasted invitation. They will  know that you thought they were worthy of the invitation. They may gladly accept your offer.
  • Speak to the person sitting next to you at Mass this Christmas. Tell them you hope to see them again soon.
  • As a parish, invite people back for January. Highlight your New Year’s Day Mass and Epiphany in the notices and in your bulletin. While it’s obvious to regular church-going Catholics that there will be Mass next Sunday, visitors may need an invitation. 
  • As a parish, consider having a well-advertised evening in January to provide an opportunity for church-going Catholics and others to ask questions about being a Catholic.  Advertise this at Christmas in your notices, your newsletter and the notice board.
  • Make sure all your regular activities are displayed on your notice boards at Christmas, especially RCIA or Journey in Faith courses. It’s important that visitors see that we want them to join us.
  • Advertise how someone could have confidential questions answered in the parish. 
  • Plan to come to the Creating Missionary Parishes event in Newmarket on 13th January 2018.

Whilst this resource has been created to offer a seasonal invitation and welcome, the journey back into the Catholic Community can, of course, happen at any time.

Have a look at two helpful websites: www.comehomeforchristmas.co.uk and www.catholicscomehome.org

Pictured above is Tessa Brewster at the St George’s Christmas Tree Festival in Norwich – a great example to consider.

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