4 ideas for translating Christmas in college ministry

I would love for you to add to this list.

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about translating Christmas for our college students, some ideas that might fit your purposes and your audience:

1. Get graphic. It’s likely most or all of your students haven’t heard the nitty-gritty details of the Christmas story. Scouring a good commentary or two will provide some fodder for telling the Old Story in its full glory. Making it vivid for our students could just open up new worlds of wonder, excitement, and gratitude. (Read the front end of yesterday’s Christianity Today interview with Mike Huckabee for some encouragement along these lines.)

2. On the Incarnation. If you’re up to it, you could teach the theology concerning the Incarnation, the putting-on-carne, putting-on-meat (or flesh, if you prefer), of God Himself. This is one of the theologies we forget is actually quite shocking (or even appalling), even while it’s one of the most important theologies of all.

3. Examine the songs. Not only has the Christmas story become cliché, so have many of the other elements of the Holiday Season – including the songs. Yet some of those songs are incredible – and deep! What if you examined a few, looking at their biblical basis, their theology, their histories, and their applications? I bet students would hearken back to your words when those songs came up in the next few weeks – and I bet they’ll start listening much closer to the other Christmas songs they hear, too. (I still think “Little Drummer Boy” is one of the best songs about Jesus-following I know, whether in season or out of season.)

4. Hear the story. Discuss the story. Maybe the “translation” that your students need can simply come through paying attention anew. A small group discussion of the elements of the Christmas story (from any or all of the Gospels) could provide everybody with new insights (including their leader!). And I bet it’s pretty magnificent to hear different students recount their favorite parts of the story and what the story has meant to them.

One of the coolest things about translating Christmas for our students before they go home is that your words will be reinforced for the next three weeks! How often do we have that chance? This is one simple way to disciple them now and while they’re home. Pretty neato.

In what other ways can we translate Christmas in college ministry?


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  1. Laura

    Perhaps another idea would be to spend some time discussing the tradition of Advent and the symbolism it holds. Many students who have grown up in church are familiar with Advent (wreaths, calendars, etc) but I’ve found that many of them do not know what Advent is about. It’s a great opportunity to remind students of the anticipation and yearning we should have for the presence of the Lord. Just a thought…

  2. PC

    I have been searching the possibility of promoting Advent Conspiracy (http://adventconspiracy.org) with my students this Christmas season. There is an essence to it of simplifying your spending habits for Christmas as we have come to attach love to the gifts we give or get while forgetting the actual Christmas story.

    I really like the getting graphic route as well as the examination of the songs. I think it is important to examine all the Christmas traditions we have come to create and see how much of them “really matter” in light of the Christmas story about Emmanuel coming near to us in flesh.

  3. We did a Lectio Divina at our large group meeting this week. The scripture focus was on the Christmas Story, Matt 1:18-25. If you’ve never done a Lectio, google it. It’s a lot of fun in a group setting. Anyways, the reflection time was fun, with people sharing about what they had learned during the time. It was a simple but effective way of relating the Christmas story during the business of finals.

  4. Pingback: you’re the best translator « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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