Suggestion for a Christ-Centered Christmas

Suggestions for a CHRIST-CENTERED CHRISTMAS

I BEFORE THE DAY BEGINS:  

Invite dinner guests with musical ability to bring their musical instruments

Have family members set DVR to pre-record Football Games; pre-record or purchase/rent CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, or other cartoons, or CHRISTMAS MOVIES.  These will be handy for intervals such as between main meal and desert or as alternate After Meal Activities.

Community Games to Have on Hand:  Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash

Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube (See item VIII below)

POST-ITS with #s on them, coordinated to # of guests.  Separate #s for Adults and # for Children.  Have each guest take a #. (Children’s # on one color post-it; adults, another)

Display and have available a Bible & Children’s Bible opened to Luke, Chapter 2.

    A Book(s) or Copy of Clement C. Moore’s THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and the poem/song THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.  Have these available for After Dinner Activity. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/visit-st-nicholas

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

Christmas Carol Music Books or Song Sheet or PowerPoint copies displayable on TV (If your TV & computer are integrated, have the “tech” in the family work on this in the weeks prior to Christmas.  Otherwise, make copies of Song Sheets or just the lyrics.)

 

I             CHRISTMAS EVE (or Morning) – Replace the colored Advent Candles from your Advent       Wreathe with White Candles, and add a fifth White Candle at the center of the Wreathe.

Prayers for the Occasion available in Catholic Book of Blessings and online at

http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/adbless.htm

II            CHRISTMAS MORNING: A Short Prayer before Opening Gifts: “Thank you God for the Gift of Christ in our lives. May the beauty of his birth bring new life to our faith and help us to appreciate all life, all children throughout the world. Thank you for the gifts before us.  Fill us with Gratitude for you and for one another. Keep us young at heart.  Amen.”  If children are present and not too anxious, invite the family to sing an Inspirational Christmas Carol such as “God Bless Ye, Merry Gentleman” before opening gifts.  If no children are present, read Luke 2: 1- 21 and Matthew 2: 1-13 before opening gifts.

 III      CHRISTMAS DINNER PRAYER: Once everyone is seated, invite each person to say in ONE WORD, what they are feeling—with 2 qualifications: 1. NO EXPLANATIONS AS TO WHY they feel this way (you’ll give them examples below) 2. NO ONE MAY COMMENT or on another person’s feelings. There are no “right or wrongs” feelings.  Therefore, comments like “How can you feel that on this day of all days?” are forbidden!  God loves us and understands all our feelings whatever they may be. It’s Important that you give example that include a full spectrum of feelings: “happy,” “sad,” “worried,” “thankful,” “frustrated,” “loving,” “frustrated,” “hungry,” “pleased,” “anxious,” “grieving,” “peaceful.”  ALSO:  GUESTS MUST BE FREE “TO PASS.” After each person states his or her feeling   Start Grace with these words (Read/ Pray SLOWLY): “Dear God, Here We Are–Our family and friends–and these are the feelings we bring to this Christmas Day.  Helps us understand the beautiful way You accept each us as we are. Make us confident in your love so that we may be at peace and feel your presence among us.  Help us to make the most of this meal, this day, and our time together.”  Then invite everyone to join in the Traditional Grace before Meals, OR if your company is of mixed religions, substitute the Christian Grace with this: “Blessed are YOU, Source of Life, God known by so many names, help us to experience Joy this Christmas Day and lead all peoples on to the pathway of peace.   Bless all our family and guests.  Bless our Meal and our Conversation. Amen.” 

IV    FIRST COURSE ACTIVITY (soup/salad), and /or Hors D’oeuvres:

Ask: What do you remember about the First Christmas Story?  Include both the Biblical, Legend and Folk tales if you wish.   Begin with the children by number, then adults by number. Everyone gets “help” sharing the Christmas Story as needed.

Conclude this segment by having someone Read Luke 2: 1- 21 and Matthew 2: 1-13

V MAIN COURSE:

ASK: What event or circumstance are most significant for me about Jesus’ story today?

Invite each Guest to share his or her memories of the best Christmas that they have ever experienced and why it is an important memory for him or her. TRY TO KEEP THE MEAL AS LEASURELY AND UN-RUSHED AS POSSILBE.

Any Similarities between Jesus’ story and the Christmas memories shared?

VI   AFTER MEAL BREAK ACTIVITY:  Share Birth Stories during walks & pre-dessert clean ups:

Postpone desert. Give everyone a break to sustain a slower, un-rushed pace to the day. Encourage guests to go for a walk outdoors if possible. If it’s too cold or raining, then engage everyone in a Pre-Desert Clean UP tidying up the kitchen and the table prior to serving dessert.

During the break, have all guests recall the story of the day each of them was born.  Allow time for the elders to inform youngsters if they haven’t already. For those who don’t know their story, have them imagine what it would have been like. Everyone will be invited to share his or her birth story during desert.

 VII DURING AND AFTER DESERT:

Once everyone is served, invite each guest to share his or her birth story

After each person shares (or an adult tells each child) Bless each person’s birth story by saying “As the Angels Sang for Jesus, the Angels Sang for you, too!  Everyone’s part of the story!  Everyone’s part of God’s plan!”

Invite Spontaneous Prayer: “For Whom and for What Shall We Pray for this Christmas Day?”

After all the stories have been told, and prayers are concluded, invite everyone to sing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” Why?  Because we are all part of Christ’s Story—a bigger story beyond the world’s measures of success and failure.  Life and Grace and Hope are the Eternal Gifts for everyone.

VIII AFTER DINNER ACTIVITY: Have everyone participate in Clean-Up:

OR, if space limitations in the kitchen, create Two Teams:  The Kitchen Team verses those who go for walks and/or play in the living room.  Try to have each team mixed with all ages, both men/woman/boys/girls if possible.  Spend the clean-up /walking time memorizing THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS OR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS or LUKE 2: 1-20.  Afterwards, gather together and see which Team remembers the most.  NOTE: The Purpose of the Game: Poetry opens us up to the spiritual and to appreciation of ritual: memory, context and associations.

IX          AFTER DINNER & CLEAN-UP:

Together recall ALL the Verses of  12 Days of Christmas OR of The Night Before Christmas OR Luke 2: 1-20.

Share the story and / or song together. Which Team Wins?

    Share the history of the Poems: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Visit_from_St._Nicholas

    http://www.wikiwand.com/en/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

    http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/2000/12/the-twelve-days-of-christmas.aspx

Recall and share the story of any Christmas Carol (or a person’s memorable experience of it)

Read one of the many stories and legends about Saint Nicholas

  1. https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/saints/saints-stories-for-all-ages/the-life-and-legends-of-st-nicholas
  2. http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/stories-legends/
  3. I’ve enjoyed THE BAKER’S DOZEN story of Saint Nicholas:

https://www.amazon.com/Bakers-Dozen-Saint-Nicholas-Tale/dp/0689802986?ref_=nav_custrec_signin&

X            MORE AFTER DINNER ACTIVITIVITES

Gather ‘round a piano and Sing Carols Together

Have Christmas CDs (Vocalists/ Choirs) and have people sing-a-long.

Karaoke Christmas Songs

Conclude with Christmas Caroling in the Neighborhood

XI          CHRISTMAS FAREWELL BLESSINGS:

Before Farewells or before the first person must leave:

BLESS EACH GUEST individually or collectively: “May the Spirit of Christmas remain in your heart—the joy of life, the gift of family, and angels singing your song as you continue to compose it all the days of your life. May your song(s) give God glory!”

INVITE ALL TO SING “WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS”

PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME with OPTIONAL CHARITABLE COMPONENT TO CHRISTMAS: INVTIE GUESTS TO BRING A SINGLE $ 1. BILL for each member of his or her family or party to participated in a PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME. Designate a charity and let them know what the dollars are for in advance OR have everyone vote on one of two or three choices before Grace (E.G, Catholic Charities for Puerto Rico Relief or Catholic Relief Services or Unicef.) Have some extra $1. bills around for those who forget.). The FIRST TIME anyone forgets to say Please” or “Thank You,” from the beginning of the Meal (after Grace) to end of dinner (i.e. “please pass the potatoes; thank you), he or she gets a WARNING.  The SECOND TIME he or she must surrender their dollar into a basket. Proceeds go to the previously announced charity. At the end of the day, people may contribute the Remaining Dollars or additional $ if they wish to the cause.

BOOKS

Catholic Book of Household Blessings

https://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Household-Blessings-Prayers-Conference/dp/1601370466/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509732781&sr=1-1&keywords=Catholic+Book+of+Household+Blessings

To Dance with God by Gertrude Mueller Nelson features Great Ideas for Family Rituals & Prayers for Feast Days and Holidays throughout the Year

https://www.amazon.com/Dance-God-Family-Community-Celebration/dp/0809128128/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509732206&sr=1-1&keywords=To+Dance+with+God

THE BAKER’S DOZEN story of Saint Nicholas by Aaron Shepherd

https://www.amazon.com/Bakers-Dozen-Saint-Nicholas-Tale/dp/0689802986?ref_=nav_custrec_signin

Other Resources:

Blessing of Advent Wreathe and Christmas Manger

http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/adbless.htm

Advent Prayers and Rituals:

http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=1423

Here’s a fascinating article on THE CHERRY TREE CAROL:

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/post-biblical-period/the-origins-of-the-cherry-tree-carol/?mqsc=E3923718&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=BHDDaily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=ZE7ADFZ02

Suggestions prepared by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP                              December  2017

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Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

HAPPY SAINT NICHOLAS DAY to all who like to honor that noble and charitable Bishop of Myra in the 4th Century. Patron of children and safety for sailors and fisherman. I invite you to celebrate the day listening to my rendition of the Christmas Story. Available for free at
 
You may also download your own copy of this track on Amazon or Itunes or CDBABY. Only 99 cents and you help my ministries! God bless!

Advent Homily – the Christian New Year Begins Today

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ADVENT HOMILY, November 29, 2015 as inaugurate a mission/ retreat at Saint Paschal Baylon Parish, Cleveland, OH
Gospel of Luke 21: 25-28;34-36
Read all of today’s Scriptures at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112915.cfm

 

You remember Chicken Little? An acorn falls on the poor chick’s head. He’s so hurt, he can only relate to how he feels:. Pain and fear. Without investigating further, without take a step back for a broader look, he feels as if the sky is falling. That becomes his message. A goose, a duck and some turkey or other, hear the words, react in fear and form a parade announcing catastrophe. At last a Fox appears, takes an objective stance, sees the bigger picture and takes the initiative to gobble them all up. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Today’s Gospel may also fill us with fear but we must step back and move beyond scary language and see the bigger picture. If we come to Church regularly or engage in any serious bible study we know that Jesus is using a form of speech and imagery popular in his time: Apocalyptic Discourse. Apocalyptic images go beyond time and place with a message for the end of time which, ironically, pertains to the past as well as the future and remarkably to the present in which it is presented. Regarding the past, Jesus refers to persecution of his own people, the Jewish people, and other peoples in his past—All have suffered! And, in regard to his own life, he acknowledges the violence building against him will lead him to his Cross. Furthermore, he senses that this violence will give way to the persecution of the early Church. All of this feels like the end of the world. But for all this, Jesus trusts in God’s promise to literally send Christ back to us to address the world’s chaos at the end of time building on the Jewish belief that in the end, God will make all things right.

 

So you see, Jesus’ message encompasses all times and places. And so we may apply it to OUR times, to the tragedies present in today’s news: terrorists killing their fellow Muslims, Christians, Jews, Parisians and others; Americans shooting Americans in Chicago, Denver, Colorado Springs and Saint Louis And add to that the threats global warming, divisive politics and economic theories. In short, there’s Fear and trepidation in every Age.

 

So what’s the now and forever message for us today? It’s this: Amidst the ever-present battle of good against evil, Jesus comes Down to Earth to be with Us. As he arrived in a manger, he will come down to earth again at the end of all things. Meanwhile he comes to us everyday with this message: Do not Be Afraid I Am With You; Stand erect – Your Redemption is at Hand! This is a Gospel that inspires courage! Jesus wants us to be a hearty people. First, we must acknowledge that if we are to truly receive Jesus, we must follow his pattern, his sense of direction. We have to come down to earth, too. Amidst conflicts in news, even at work, at home: we must acknowledge our complete dependence on God for the air we breathe and the water we drink.

 

To keep a “down to earth” mindset, we must throw out all judgments, discard our aesthetics–what we like and dislike, who we like and dislike. We must acknowledge our common humanity. Only then can we abandon our fears and participate in God’s will. For in and through our COMMON HUMANITY ( for common humanity is what Jesus took upon himself) will we accept the truth that battle between good and evil exists in all of us. All of us. Indeed, Jesus comes down to earth for ALL. He shows no partiality. He POURS OUT his spirit to be part of the world’s solutions instead of adding to the chaos and insanity. With Christ’s help we can be ALERT for the signs of good in whoever and wherever we see it in the clouds, on the earth, in a human face. Because in God’s eyes, no one is better than anyone, no one lesser. God cares NOT for our achievements or our failures, God simply cares; God wills the good IN ALL, FOR ALL. Better keep humble, stay down to earth or we’ll miss the grace offered through that tremendous truth.

 

Remember Christ comes to us all the time, wherever we are, in whatever frame of mind-whatever we’re thinking or feeling today, he arrives in this WORD, in all the Sacraments AND ONE ANOTHER. Never forget the last part of this trinity! We are all in this together!

 

This Advent we must prepare for Christ at Christmas mindful of Christ today, tomorrow and the next day. Christmas may be an extravagant celebration but at it’s heart it is about nothing more than humility: God comes down to earth as vulnerable infant in stable poverty to remind us of our vulnerability, our need for God and what we have in common with every person on the face of the earth: life itself. Thus through Christmas, every human life is affirmed. You know this, I know this, yet the extravagance of holidays and holiday preparations can wreak havoc in our souls and create an almost apocalyptic battle within us. Advent invites to a broader outlook, a down to earth peace if we let it in.

 

Throw out all your expectations of what Christmas should be, could be. Get real, get down to earth. Recognize the battle of good and evil is in us and everyone. Apply Jesus’ Gospel technique of humility through active listening and caring: not judgement but understanding, not retribution but mercy—mercy with accountability but always with mercy; not condemnation but a willingness to work through the internal struggles in all of us. As the Body of Christ, we shall, we can, we must work on this reality together. For more than any holiday party or Christmas present, isn’t it better that people feel accepted and cared for? Of course it is. And you know and I know Christmas is about God’s care for us.
So this week, in this time, I invite you to our Advent Mission. Take a step back and enjoy a wider look at the Advent/ Christmas stories of Luke and Matthew. Attend to the feelings they evoke within you and others! We all know there is a deeper meaning beneath the wreaths and mistletoe-toe and our mission will give you the opportunity to savor what we believe. Plus, on the third day, at the third session, I’ll offer you concrete tools to help you make your holidays holy by helping everyone at your table to feel accepted, loved and cared for. Isn’t that what everybody wants?
I hope you’ll join me. If you were with me last Spring, you know what my ministries can offer. If not, give me a try now. As a Paulist priest, storyteller and actor, I’ll share my talents to help you attend to yours! A few hours investment of your time this week can make a difference for an entire season and beyond. It’s a gift you can give yourself that will be a gift to others, I promise you that. Mission Times and details are in the bulletin.
But whether you can attend or not, we are here together now, let’s keep ourselves in this present moment, for that is what we have. Allow your thought and feelings regarding what you’ve heard to seek Christ’s arrival in today’s Eucharist. Through it, may you experience God’s Care for you and those around you. For indeed, there is something falling from the sky this Advent. It’s GRACE.

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent Year B 2014 Fr. James DiLuzio

The Christmas songs are playing in the radio and the stores are celebrating already, beckoning our purchases to help us get in the holiday mood. Moreover, it seems our entire economy is dependent on buying Christmas gifts – an annual activity that has, in effect, become our patriotic duty. If our merchants don’t get in the black, if they are left with too much inventory at the end of the year, than the economy slumps and allegedly, everyone is in trouble. Indeed, some of theses merchants are our Church members and friends; family members are store clerks and sales people in the malls. And then, of course, there are the charities with a last appeal for their end of the year budgets. Even if we don’t have the money at hand, we feel obligated to take out the charge cards and run. Moreover, if we are honest, our feelings of self worth are often tied to gift-giving and receiving. Added to this, many of us cling to unrealistic expectations of what Christmas can accomplish in us and in others No wonder Advent and Christmas bring anxiety and frustration. While Spirituality invites us to simplify our lives, to do with less so others who have less may be brought up to our standards, we can feel discouraged, that we are letting many people down if we don’t buy enough gifts and treats to keep the economy going. We want to cultivate spiritual values, explore the values of patience and the benefits of waiting, of delayed gratification at the same time we feel obligated to follow the crowd, summon the cheer, to feel what we are supposed to feel rather than address how we truly feel. The office parties have already started. What are we to do?

To start, we trust in our biblical heritage and allow the past to inform our present. We turn to our ancestors in faith. Exiled by the Babylonians, the people of the tribes of Judah were filled with anxieties and conflicted feelings. They found themselves once again strangers in a strange land. Their beliefs and customs were so very different from that of their neighbors and the societies of Babylon and Persia (today’s Afghanistan, Iraq & Iran. The prophet Isaiah and his disciples articulate a prayer on their behalf : “Why do you let us wander, O Lord . . . for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.” Did God truly abandoned them OR have they truly abandoned God? The answer is neither: God never abandons His own. Yes, the people are in exile, but didn’t God send Prophets to them? Yes! ISAIAH was there for them. And don’t forget Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Malachi and all the rest. And they had not abandoned God. They brought their questions and expressed their feelings to God- which is exactly what believers are invited to do. And along with their questions, they pondered life’s meaning and purpose, they pondered God’s plans.

Wisdom of prophets and our own human experience confirm that God’s most precious gift to us beyond life itself is free will. It’s the only gift that distinguishes humanity from all other creatures. FREE WILL is the gift that allows us, as the prophets say, “to wander as we will.” And so as Advent begins, faith invites us to make choices that bring us closer to the Spirit of the Living God. We need to set aside time to ponder and pray about what that might mean.

First we must admit that many of our problems and sufferings are of our own making. That includes our Advent anxieties and Christmas dilemmas. Humbly acknowledging our contributions to our own anxieties IS the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom also invites us to come down to earth and acknowledge our dependence upon God. That kind of humility aligns us with all living things who share with us the very air we breathe and water we drink. Never alone but always interconnected with the beauty, majesty and mystery of creation. That’s the mindset that cultivates A “Mindfulness of God in All Things.” That’s the spirit we need for Advent, Christmas and all year round. Seeing a connection between our life stories and that of Jesus will accomplish that, too. And so with these truths in focus I’ve prepared a retreat for you Sunday night to assist you in cultivating humility and awe and wonder in God’s presence, whatever your circumstances, whatever you are feeling these days. And I have tools to offer you that will empower you to see Jesus’ story as your story and your story as His because of God’s care for you and our world.

I’ll start by affirming God cares about you and your feeling — even your discomforting feelings, your sad feelings, your feelings of resentment and hurt and angers. People may not respond well to them, you may not even accept them with in yourself, but God does. Jesus does. It is why he took on the fullness of our humanity to be with us in and through all feelings and corresponding thoughts – not to judge or condemn but to transform them through his loving care, understanding and His wisdom to fortify and alter whatever kind of wisdom we may or may not have cultivated on our own. If you chose not to come to the retreat Sunday night, at least now I am leaving you with this thought: how much God cares about you and your feelings and the situations you find yourself in. And believing how much God cares about you makes all the difference in the choices you make for yourself and the care you may potentially demonstrate toward others. It will make a difference in how you experience Advent and celebrate Christmas.
We prayed with Psalm 80 today: (I’ll paraphrase in more conventional language): make us humble and contrite, O God, so we may and stand in continual awe of YOU who cares for us. Has God abandoned us? Certainly not! Has JESUS abandoned us? JESUS has given us His Word and His sacraments and one another. Jesus has bestowed the Holy Spirit. We are his Church and we are here amidst the malls, the decorated and un-decorated homes and the stacks of bills. DON’t Pass us by or takes the gift of faith for granted. The signs of the times require faith. They require a commitment to Christ and time spent cultivating that relationship to put all of our relationships in proper perspective. Commitment opens our eyes wide to see the many ways JESUS Comes to us, has come to us, will come to us in all hours of the day and night just as He comes to us now in this Word and EUCHARIST so he will come at the end of time. Psalm 80 also articulated this question: “Would that you might meet us doing right, O God! Oh, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” In what state of mind and heart do want to be this Advent, this Christmas and beyond. You have choices before you. Will you choose to participate in the parish Advent retreat and / or spend time in private prayer or other spiritual pursuits? What will they be? One thing for sure, we all need spiritual support to engage in our culture lest our culture engage us in what is beyond our control, in all that is material alone, gratification that is fleeting and disposable like the Christmas trees drying out on the curbs on or after New Year’s Day.

The choice is before you. You have chosen Word and EUCHARIST today. They are God’s gifts of comfort and joy to you in the here and now. If you would like to perpetuate these spiritual gifts and cultivate them throughout your nights and days, make choices like retreat and the many spiritual opportunities offers you here at Saint Sebastian’s in the weeks and months ahead. To use the popular marketing analogy: You contribute to the Church with time, talent and treasure. Do you want more for your money or less? And like our retreat, today’s EUCHARIST is here for the taking and all are invited to see and hear what God has in store for you now and always!

Would you like to hear a recording of excerpts from my Luke Live! Retreats? You’ll find an order form at

http://www.lukelive.com/luke-live-cd/

MP3 available in 2015