“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” ( CCC 1817 ). We often think of hope as a wish or a dream for something new, better, or different, but as people of faith, hope anchors us in Christ ( Hebrews 6:19-20 ). This year has been difficult, and it has caused many to lose hope. How can our parishes share hope with those who need it most as we enter into the Christmas season?
First, we need to be sure to find hope for ourselves, and we can do that best by reconnecting with God. “Recognizing that we cannot give what we do not have, we continually seek to be refreshed in God’s presence and filled again and again with his love, so that it is his own love we are giving away” ( Unleash the Gospel, Guidepost 1 ). This might be going to Mass, spending time in Eucharistic Adoration, reading a devotional, joining a small group, reflecting on Sacred Scripture, meeting with a spiritual director, spending some time in nature, or journaling by writing a letter to Jesus — thanking him for the gifts received throughout this year and sharing hopeful thoughts for the upcoming year.
This hope is not meant to be kept to ourselves, but shared! We cannot help but look to others when we are filled with hope. Sharing hope with others is a natural outreach of a parish. Here are a few ways to connect parishioners together.
- Inspired by the Christmas season, consider hosting an online Christmas singalong where parishioners sing Christmas carols together.
- Have a drive-thru Christmas cookie exchange in your parking lot or an opportunity to drop-off Christmas cookies for an organization the parish supports.
- Provide a “pen-pal station” for parishioners to stop, write a message of hope for a fellow parishioner, and leave it in a sealed envelope in a designated spot. They then can also take a note someone else left before they leave, or you can mail these notes to homebound parishioners.
- Take this opportunity to invite parishioners to connect with others on their own as well. Parishioners can be encouraged to call a friend who lifts their spirits.
- Invite them to get creative and interview their family members by phone or video chat asking a short list of questions, like what’s bringing them hope at this time, their favorite memory from the year, a fun memory from their childhood, or their favorite Christmas tradition.
- Consider interviewing fellow staff members with the same questions and share their answers in the bulletin.
This season provides a great opportunity for parishes to share joy with others. This might be done in your Christmas greeting.
- Make a brief video to email or post on your website and social media channels sharing what your parish staff is hopeful for right now.
- Take time to handwrite your Christmas cards to parishioners, being intentional about making them special and unique with a message of hope.
- Create a Christmas light drive-by. Parishioners can share their street names — without identifying their home — for other parishioners to drive-by to see their outdoor Christmas decorations. Create a list of the neighborhoods for parishioners to drive through and share it in a parish email.
- Invite a parishioner or staff member to share their drive on Facebook Live for homebound parishioners to participate as well.
- Consider encouraging parishioners to decorate their home with religious symbolism to draw attention to Jesus.
Hope is not meant to be shared superficially or without concern for what someone is experiencing. We need to pray with people and ask the Holy Spirit to help give them this hope. We can turn to the beatitudes and see opportunities to speak hope into people’s lives with our words and actions. Invite others to serve in different outreach opportunities to experience hope and not just hear about it. Accompanying people reminds us to meet people where they are and journey with them. This is “an essential part of unleashing the Gospel. When Jesus walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he did not immediately begin to instruct them. Instead he first listened to them and allowed them to share their hopes and disappointments, winning their trust. He met them where they were in their faith and helped them to go further” (Unleash the Gospel, Marker 6.2).
Christmas provides an opportunity to rejoice in God’s faithfulness. We can look with hope to God’s promises beyond any given day or circumstance. “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance” (Romans 8:24-25).
What do you hope for this Christmas season? How can you share that hope with others? Start a conversation in our online community .