Have you thought of inviting someone to our Church this Christmas? Dr. Thom Rainer who conducted a national research “The Unchurched Next Door” says: “Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” But the problem is that “only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eight percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.” Thankfully, that is not fully true about our parish! I have heard a number of stories of our parishioners joining us because of the invitation of another parishioner. Two weeks ago, I mentioned in my homily about a parishioner who expressed her joy and gratitude that she joined our parish following the suggestion of her friend, and she felt that was the right decision she made. Another parishioner told me that after getting discouraged with ‘parish-shopping,’ a neighbor suggested that he try St. Matthias and his family felt very much at home here and continues to feel so.
Many are looking for some good news, some hope, because they are hurting in so many ways: families experience conflicts, devastating test results, and a host of other problems that make people scared at the thought of a bleak future. Yet on the first Christmas, those who were frightened and in desperate need of good news and great joy were addressed directly by the angel: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born…” (Luke 2:10-11) Isn’t that a good enough reason for us to invite someone to church this Christmas?
Christmas is a time of giving gifts – to families, to charities, to church. But giving an invitation to church could be the best gift you can give to someone who really needs God’s presence in their lives. In my previous parish, I had a banner fixed at the entrance: “Every Member A Minister.” Seeing it every time the parishioners came to Church, it helped them realize that each of them is a minister of Jesus and so taking ownership of the message of Jesus means to become a disciple who will bring others to Jesus. You are acting as a disciple of Jesus when you invite someone to come to our church. You are introducing to our Savior those who need his healing and comfort especially if they are hurting.
The Mission Statement of our parish has this line: “As a diverse people, journeying together in faith, we are growing in awareness of the pain and joy of our brothers and sisters ….” Our Church is that place for the kind of support and fellowship where they can meet the God who loves them, understands their greatest fears, sees their deepest longings, and who sent His Son to save us. From the testimonies of those joining us, we can be certain that, true to our mission statement, we are a very inclusive and welcoming community. So, see you at Christmas with your invited guests, family and friends.
As we celebrate Christmas in a few days, my prayer is that your Christmas will be filled with the wonder of “Emmanuel” (Matthew.1:23: God-with-us). May his light shine upon you; may his peace and joy fill your hearts and your homes.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal