You may have seen or heard the slogan "put Christ back into Christmas" during the holiday season, a clarion call by religious groups and believers who wish to encourage a return to the faith-based meaning of the holiday, which is a celebration of Christ's birth. Frustrated by the commercialism of Christmas, the advertising, the shopping, the buying and the focus on material items in the hottest brands and labels, many believers hope to bring the focus back to Jesus Christ and his messages of peace, kindness and faith in God.
Another surprising swerve of the Christmas season is a focus on parties, decor, champagne, dessert buffets, the trappings of a celebrity-styled celebration -- almost like a celebrity wedding -- than a feast with more meaning than pricetag, more decoration than sentiment, gathering loved ones to share in the deeper reasons for the holiday. The splashy Christmas dinner details on magazine covers and on lifestyle websites is often an overshadowing of "the Christ in Christmas".
Neighborhood competitions for who has the best Christmas lights? That, too, can unnerve the faith-based among us, as we wonder how we got to cutthroat competitions and cash rewards when the holiday is about the birth of the baby Jesus.
All of the trappings of commercial Christmas can often lead to a different mindset after seeing so many Facebook postings of dogs dressed up like Santa Claus or kids' wish lists being offered on websites similar to wedding gift registries. They just want all of the greed, the showing-off, the competition and the sappy Christmas movies to go away. And they want to step into the quiet of a church to reconnect to their faith.
The Christmas season is a popular time for anyone seeking more peace and gratitude and a more faith-based existence. It helps many to realize they miss their former dedication to the church. They've been seeking "the solution" in unhealthy ways, like overeating and over-spending, and the futility of their efforts have come to a head during the quiet moments they can find in the holiday season. And they realize a connection to my faith and joining a faith-based community of good people is just what I need.
So they begin to explore just how they wish to refresh their faith. Will they seek out a good, faith-based church? If so, they'll often talk to friends who have spoken highly of their churches and leaders and ask if they can join them at the next mass. An introduction by those with experience in a church might be your personal choice for a more comfortable re-entry. That can be far less scary than just walking into your nearest church without any knowledge of the style or tone of the services.
They might ease into the idea of returning to church by checking out daily Bible verses on Facebook or buying daily devotional books that can give an inspiring nugget of daily insight. Starting off with tiny insights might help you from feeling overwhelmed by all the tenets of the church and your religion.
"I felt like I didn't know enough about my religion," says Carole Ellis. "Seven-year-olds in CCD class know the commandments and the saints, and I have forgotten all of that. I felt like I couldn't join a church not knowing anything about the basics of my faith."
Ellis considered joining a Bible study group to help her catch up, but she found it more comfortable to get a child's introduction to the Bible for her iPad.
"I gave myself an education so that I could feel more comfortable in a church environment," she said. "Now I know what everyone is reciting during Mass, and I don't feel like everyone can tell that I'm not in the know."
So what is it about the Christmas season that encourages seekers to refresh their faith? It may be that this is a season for giving -- and giving oneself a refreshed dimension into spiritual life is quite a present. It may be that the end of the year is a time of reflection. What did you accomplish this year? How satisfied are you with the life you're living? It may even be loneliness working for you. The holidays can sometimes be depressing, and that dark mood might just encourage you to take baby steps back toward your faith. Whatever it is that leads you back, the point is that you're there, ready to learn more and refresh your faith.