Gretchen R. Crowe reflects on keeping Christmas with us throughout the year. She writes, “When…
Here’s how your family can keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year
People often remark how lovely it would be if Christmas could last all year. It’s a sweet sentiment, but most of us tend to believe that once the decorations come down, life must return to normal. But what if there was a simple way to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in your home all year long?
The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life gives families the power to keep Christmas year ’round by rooting their relationships and everything they do in the incarnate love of Christ.
Over the last 12 months, I have used this space to describe the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, an approach to family spirituality that allows you to bring Jesus home and experience your faith as the source of the warmth in your home. You may recall that the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life has three rites. The Rite of Christian Relationships enables families to overcome the selfish and sinful ways we often treat each other and helps us learn to build relationships rooted in Christ’s sacrificial love. The Rite of Family Rituals helps families cultivate both closer connection with each other and healthy Christian attitudes toward working, playing, talking and praying. The Rite of Reaching Out helps families find little ways to share Christ’s love with the people they encounter in their day-to-day lives. When families intentionally live out these three rites, they experience a grace that transforms their chaotic, messy lives into more joyful, intimate, peaceful domestic churches.
Returning to my main point, I would suggest that the reason Christmas feels so magical is that, at this time of year, the world unconsciously intuits at least tiny parts of the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life. For a few weeks every year, the world remembers the Rite of Christian Relationships, and suddenly decides family time should be important again. The world gives us permission to celebrate the Rite of Family Rituals, encouraging families to revisit special traditions, talk about what makes our lives more meaningful, have fun together and be more intentional about praying and worshipping together. Finally, in this season, the world reminds us to celebrate the Rite of Reaching Out, encouraging families to do little acts of charity for others.
I apologize if it somehow seems like I’m deconstructing Christmas spirit, but I do think there are several important insights we can gain by adopting this approach. In my counseling practice, when a client begins to improve, I ask them to consider what’s making the difference. Often, they say: “I don’t know. It was just better this week.” But that’s never the whole answer. If we’re having a better week, it’s not because something was magically different. It’s because we did something different. Perhaps we managed our stress differently or approached our day differently. Maybe we had access to different resources than we usually do. But if something is different, it’s because we did something different.
The same is true about the erstwhile magic of Christmas. The effect of this season is certainly wonderous, but it isn’t the result of magic. It comes from so many people suddenly doing something different. That feeling we all get at this time of year is created by people — families, in particular — unconsciously connecting with the mission that the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life invites us to live out consciously every day: 1) prioritizing intimacy over activity; 2) creating and connecting around meaningful daily rituals; and 3) working together to make the lives of people around us a little easier and more pleasant.
Instead of waiting for the world to give us permission to do this for a couple of weeks in December, my Christmas wish is that every Christian household would fulfill its prophetic mission to challenge the world to live this way all year long by our example. When Catholic families live the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, God fills our homes with the spirit of Christmas, which is nothing less than the incarnate love of Christ. When we decide to live this incarnate love at home, we are empowered to treat family life as the most important activity in the week, to maintain meaningful family rituals, and to remember to be a blessing to others in whatever little ways we can.
This Advent, I would like to invite you to learn more about living the Liturgy of Domestic Church life by joining our Facebook discussion group titled CatholicHŌM — Family Discipleship. Become a Catholic “Household on Mission” and remind the world that the secret to keeping Christmas all year long is choosing to intentionally live out Christ’s incarnate love every day in your household.
Dr. Greg Popcak is Director of the Peyton Institute for Domestic Church Life and the author of many books including Discovering God Together.