These are a few of the questions covered in the Christmas Carol Festival Guidebook.
Question 1: Why would we promote Christmas carols before Christmas? Isn’t this undermining the season of Advent and its emphasis on waiting? Advent is the time when Christmas carols are present in the culture. We can most effectively turn a spotlight on these centuries-old treasures at this time. We believe that God speaks through these songs and that we can affirm and nurture the seeds of faith during this holy season, in an essentially different way than during “Lessons and Carols” or during a Christmas concert.
It is only the active believer who understands the meaning of self-denial and waiting as a kind of spiritual preparation. Our goal is to help inactive Catholics and unchurched prepare for Christmas by experiencing the meaning of these prayerful hymns in a personal way. When this happens, marginalized believers enter into joyful and hopeful preparations for celebrating the Incarnation of Jesus at Masses on Christmas Day.
Question 6: Advent is already too busy, aren’t we wasting our time? It is true that we would be competing with activities like shopping, social celebrations and vacation time. But a growing number of people are doing most of their shopping online, and there is a steady drop in the number of people who go to holiday parties. We suggest that when decisions are made about offering a Carol Festival that you choose a specific age group or parish sub-groups and schedule the Carol Festival when they are most likely to be free. Another caution: Train active Catholics to reach out to and invite marginal, inactive and unchurched people FIRST, and then invite churchgoing friends and family…
Using Advent as a time of outreach to inactive Catholics helps a parish develop the evangelistic attitudes and the skills required for one-to-one faith sharing. We encourage them to cast out the nets of personal relationships, service and prayer, as they respond to the spiritual needs of loved ones and associates. The preservation phase focuses on growth teaching and small groups sharing, as tools for connecting the Gospel message with daily life.
Question 7: Why not just sing carols at home or at parties? Of course you can sing carols with family and friends! What would make your gathering the kind of Christmas Carol Festival that we propose is your goal. We are all on a mission from God! Our concern is not just having fun with songs, or mere attendance at Christmas Masses, but the faith that creates joyful participation in Christmas celebrations of all kinds. We are evangelists by virtue of our baptism. In accepting the mission of Jesus, we become more aware of God’s loving invitation to those around us and hopefully, more compassionate for the spiritual and emotional needs that are often amplified during a holiday season.
The goal of a Carol Festival in a home is to enjoy the spiritual dimensions of these traditional Christmas songs and experiencing their inner power. In doing so, we join many, many generations of our ancestors in worshipping God. A Carol Festival in the home would include the deliberate use of Jesus-centered Christmas carols as the majority of the songs, an opportunity for faith sharing, a Scripture reading and time for prayer with a crèche as a centerpiece. Carols might also piggyback an existing family ritual like putting up a tree or watching the Yule log on television…