"Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace,
This holy tide of Christmas all anger should efface."
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," traditional English carol
Christmas time is a great time to think about Christian community and the bigger picture of God's plan for the salvation of mankind. That, after all, is what Christ's coming is all about. In Jesus, God became one of us so that He might walk among us, heal us of our iniquities, create us anew, transfer us into the kingdom of His love, and make us part of a new humanity. Of all the seasons of the year, Christmas is the best time to set our "Me-and-God" theology aside and discover afresh what it means to participate in the Global Brotherhood of the Redeemed.
"Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king;
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring."
"Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus," Charles Wesley
According to Paul, the Baby born in Bethlehem was none other than "the Firstborn over all creation" (Colossians 1:15). The apostle goes on to say that this Child, our Messiah, is also "the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross" (Colossians 1:18-20).
What we have here is a picture of a grand triumphal procession, singing its way through the world of time and on into eternity, gathering to itself crowds of new marchers along the way. How do we join that procession and become part of the celebration? For anyone who grasps the real meaning of Christmas there can be only one answer: we have to step outside our private lives, reach out to our neighbors, and do something for and with other people.
Whether you realize it or not, this kind of outreach and involvement is both crucial to the health of your marriage and a strong indicator of its vitality. Thriving couples who love God and each other also care about loving people. In an important sense, the strength of the bond that holds you and your spouse together is directly related to the value you place on human relationships of every variety.
So remember: December is the season for giving; and love isn't love until you give it away.
Make it a double! Or a triple! This date's focus on community affords you the perfect opportunity to call another couple – or couples – and enjoy a group date. Once you've got a group together, however, the regular Date Night principles apply:
Always act like you're trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and "woo" our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle, and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.
Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.
Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.
Step 2: Join the Triumphal Procession.
What can you, your spouse, and the couple(s) with whom you're sharing your evening do to become participants in the drama of Redemption and Reconciliation that the Christmas story represents? That's the question you need to ask yourselves as you plan this outing together. Here are a few suggestions to prime the pump:
- Retirement communities and nursing facilities are always grateful to have visitors. If you call ahead, it should be easy to set up a time when your group can stop by. Bring along a sampling of baked goods or some simple gifts and cards. If anyone in your group is musically inclined, take the opportunity to lead a few carols. If that's not your cup of tea, try spending the evening just talking with the residents and bringing a little Christmas cheer into their lives. You'll be amazed what an enriching experience it can be!
- Get permission to walk the halls of the pediatric wing of a local hospital. Bake some cookies or wrap up some small toys as presents for the children in the ward. Sing carols. Read the Christmas story. Do anything you can, however small, to help the kids and their families experience the joy of the season.
- Volunteer to help serve a holiday meal at a nearby homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or Rescue Mission. Take time to sit and talk with some of the folks in attendance. Listen to them and enter into their stories. As opportunities arise, share some of the details of your personal testimony with them. Look for a chance to draw them into the Good News of God's love as revealed in the biblical account of Christ's Nativity.
Step 3: Relax and unwind. Ready for a few questions?
After you bid a fond farewell to the other couple(s), find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to relax and emotionally connect through good conversation. Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging.
- What was your favorite part of the evening?
- What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn't know about me before?
- How can we be more community-minded and invest in the lives of other people in our city and neighborhood in the days and weeks ahead?
Step 4: Home Sweet Home
As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Think about additional ways you can share your lives with others and let them share their lives with you. Once you get home, however, it's up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!