This article was written by Emily Smith, the Children’s Specialist at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Tis the season for tinsel, twinkling lights all a glow, gift wrapping and hanging bows, but in a year like no other, does the hustle and bustle of traditions past leave something in people’s hearts that truly last?

Grand Avenue Baptist in Fort Smith decided on a new approach this year, and their Christmas festivity UNDeck the Halls rang through the night as families came to see a trail of lights. Each scene depicted something of movies past knowing what it offered wouldn’t last. A card display after each scene read “Christmas is more than…” – until finally the last destination displayed the greatest gift of all ever foretold. Isaiah 9:6 proclaimed the birth of a baby so long ago to bring hope to the world on that first Christmas morn. Over 180 cars drove through the displays and learned that Christmas is more than the hustle and bustle of the holiday season: instead it’s really about Jesus, the main reason. Families received not only the message of the birth of the King of all Kings but also family bags with candles, ornaments, and treats. The experience didn’t stop here as the church followed up with a QR code to continue the UNDeck the Halls discussion at home.

When you think of Christmas traditions, the family is usually at the heart. FBC Rogers decided to incorporate a worship experience where families would play a part. Designed for kids, the “Family Christmas Experience” combined music, skits and a message to provide a great opportunity for family worship in the midst of the pandemic. The experience has been a blessing to many in the community and given families the chance to worship and have fun during the festivities.   

With families still in mind, several churches took the Christmas experience home this year—tucked into a box with prayer guides, activities, crafts, and goodies all wrapped up with a bow. Advent boxes seemed the way to go as some families found themselves with more time at home. Parkway Place in Little Rock themed their Christmas Experience from the book “Unwrapping the Names of Jesus” along with kits for families to complete on their own. Second Baptist in Arkadelphia included, in their boxes, two ornaments—one for the family and one to give to a neighbor. The best birthday ever was remembered as churches celebrated with a Happy Birthday Jesus Celebration. Some did this through take home kits of party supplies, devotional, and games, while others incorporated the birthday celebration into their weekly programs.

Other churches like Park Hill in North Little Rock and New Life Baptist in Alexander took their experience to the parking lots with advent calendars, games, cookies, cocoa, mission ideas and treats. New Life’s family kits included instructions for a Dough Holy Night along with fun holiday challenges, Christmas conversation starters, gratitude game, and scavenger hunts. First Southern Baptist in Bryant created a Nativity Story Trail that used QR codes to the story of a love that never fails. Story signs were displayed upon the doors of the church for families to discover more together.

Churches didn’t forget the volunteers that help their ministries function; instead, they were included in this year’s celebrations. This was done by highlighting a volunteer of the week or sending them a delicious homemade treat. Beech Street FBC in Texarkana celebrated with an ole’ tradition, during the cold weather, by highlighting their volunteers in ugly Christmas sweaters. Prizes of course were given for the winners of the best dressed leaders! Fun competitions, handmade ornaments or mugs filled with treats were just some of the small gestures to thank volunteers.

From advent boxes, drive thru events, and handmade ornaments to family worship experiences, the true message of Christmas still rang clear, in spite of this absurd year.  

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