Home for the Holidays


During this Advent season our church family has studied and celebrated how through Christ’s birth we’ve received grace for our sin, hope for our suffering, and peace for our world. We know that in the coming days, many in our church family will be heading home to family members who either don’t know or don’t reflect this grace, hope, and peace that Christ offers. For many in our church family, heading “home for the holidays” brings with it tension and uneasiness as they navigate various family dynamics. We wanted to offer up some resources that we have found particularly helpful on the topic as you pray and prepare well to love your family and put Emmanuel on display.

We love you and are praying for you this Christmas season. 

“Preparing for Family Time at Christmas”

In this podcast, Dr. Gordon Bals discusses how to handle family time during the holidays. He gives some particularly helpful language to use as we differentiate between our “structural family” and our “functional family”. 

“Jesus Also Had Unbelieving Family Members”

In an article of encouragement, Jon Bloom reminds readers that if they have unbelieving family members, they are in good company; so did Jesus. Bloom believes this is meant to give us hope and he explains why. 

“Family Tensions and the Holidays” 

Russell Moore humorously provides four thoughts on what followers of Jesus should remember as we approach time with extended family—especially those of us with difficult extended family situations.

“Going Home for Christmas? Honor Mom and Dad”

Darren Carlson reminds readers that the biblical command to honor your parents is never rescinded, even when the child becomes an adult. Carlson gives four considerations for how this may play out for adults heading home for the holidays. 

“10 Ways to Bring the Gospel Home this Christmas”

For anyone headed home to unbelieving family, this article compiles a list of ten points from Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home, to help you think ahead and pray about how you might grow in being a proxy for the gospel in word and deed among your family.  

“Christmas Among Family: Four Suggestions:”

Pastor Chris Castaldo gives several suggestions for how to view our family gatherings as an opportunity to put the wisdom and grace of Christ on display while being committed to the people whom we love. 

“Home for the Holidays When Home Isn’t Safe”

Theology Professor Dan Doriani writes on forgiving dangerous family members and setting a course for future relationships. As someone who grew up in a violent home himself, Doriani states that his goal in writing the article was to connect aspects of the biblical teaching of forgiveness to some hard questions: Should I go home as an adult when home was dangerous and may still be? What should I expect if I do go home? 

Why We Take Time Off Over the Holidays

Kent Bateman, the author of this post, serves as one of our pastors and our communications director. For more information about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

During the holiday season, we do something that might seem strange to some people: we don't host Gatherings for two weeks (details here). This is something we've done pretty much since the beginning of our church, and since it's a little different, we thought we'd take some time to explain it in a blog post.

In the beginning, our church was mainly made up of young folks, many of whom scattered and traveled over the holidays. Because of this, taking two weeks off made a lot of sense. But as we grew as a church, the rhythm of taking off two weeks during Christmas became a really healthy rhythm for our staff and our church family. It gave all of our pastors and their families time to relax and enjoy the Christmas season, and helped people in our church not feel like they were missing out if they traveled over the holidays.

Church ≠ Sundays

In addition, we always like taking opportunities to symbolically remind people that the church is a family, not an event. Christmas and New Year's seems like a great opportunity to do just that. We also cancel Gatherings for Sundays like Super Bowl Sunday, in an effort to encourage people to go and be the church on a very easy day to be missionaries in our city.

While Sundays are important to what we do, they are not the whole of what we do. So although our churches will not gather corporately gather on December 28 and January 4, they continue to function as churches just the same.

What to Do the Next Two Sundays

Since there are no Gatherings the next two Sundays, here are a few ideas on what to do instead:

  1. Host your own informal worship gathering.Christmas is a great time to lead your family in remembering Jesus together. Join with your LifeGroup or another family to craft your own Christmas-themed worship gathering. Get the kids together in a living room and talk together about who Jesus is and what he's done for us, and then sing a few Christmas songs together. If you'd like some resources to study Christmas and/or the Advent season together, there are great ones available from Verge Network, The Village Church, and Desiring God.
  2. Be a missionary. Christmas is a great time to be hospitable. Almost everyone is in a partying mood, so invite some friends and/or coworkers for a Christmas party. Make it an event and play a game of White Elephant, or low key and just with some Christmas cookies in the oven and coffee on the pot. Our culture still generally slows down on Sundays, so Sundays end up being a great time to have people over without everyone feeling pressed for time.
  3. Serve our city. Christmas is usually the hardest time of year for nonprofits in Columbia to find help, so contact somewhere like Transitions or Babcock Center about opportunities to serve. Usually, there's plenty of opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus by meeting practical needs alongside great organizations in our city. (Serving together as a family or LifeGroup is also a great thing to do!)

Whatever You Do, Do it Because of Jesus

No matter what you choose to do over the next two Sundays, I'd encourage you to not just do it mindlessly. If you host an informal worship gathering, remind yourself that it's because Jesus' incarnation is news worth remembering and celebrating. If you host a party for friends or co-workers, remember that the reason we welcome strangers is because Jesus welcomed us first through his humble birth and death on the cross. If you serve our city, remember that we serve others because Jesus first served us.

Every opportunity is an opportunity to remember the Jesus. So my prayer for you and your family is that you take these next two Sundays to celebrate him just as much as we would if we were all at a Gathering together. We'll see you in the new year!

We'll resume Gatherings at our Downtown and Two Notch church on Sunday, January 11. For more information about our Gathering schedule over the holidays, read this post.

Our Holiday Gathering Schedule

With Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching, we wanted to update you on what our Gathering schedule will look like over the next couple months:

  • November 23: Baptism at the Music Farm. Both Downtown and Two Notch will join together for one city-wide Baptism Gathering at the Music Farm in the Vista. Get all the details here.
  • November 30-December 14: 9:00am, 11:15am and 5:00pm Gatherings for our Downtown church (no 7:00pm Gatherings), normal 3:30pm Gatherings for our Two Notch church. Details on each church's Gatherings here.
  • December 21: Downtown's Christmas Gathering at 10:00am & 5:00pm, Two Notch's Christmas Gathering at 10:30am together with CCF.
  • December 28 & January 4: No Gatherings. On the weeks surrounding Christmas & New Year's, we close down our offices and don't host Gatherings to allow our staff time off to spend with their families.
  • January 11: First Gatherings of the new year. Downtown at 9:00am, 11:15am and 5:00pm, Two Notch at 3:30pm. For the new year, Downtown will take a break from Luke and begin a series titled What's Killing Me, where we study things like envy, anger, and anxiety and how the gospel frees us from them. Two Notch will begin a series on worship titled Worthy. Be looking for more details on each series soon.
  • January 18: All Gatherings resume. Downtown at 9:00am, 11:15am, 5:00pm and 7:00pm, Two Notch at 3:30pm. All Gathering times can be found here.