In the event you are not aware of this, Phoenix has only two seasons: hot and awesome. I often compare living in the Valley of the Sun to living on the West Coast at a fraction of the cost. Though our weather is beautiful right now, there is a hard truth that Christmas never feels like it’s supposed to feel. While the rest of the country is layering up for the cold outside, we’re still wearing shorts and sandals. It’s just a different feel than your traditional white Christmas.
When we consider the impact our geographic location has on “doing church” we focus immediately on the demographics. Marriage rates, divorce rates, income levels, education levels and so on. There are fewer conversations which explore how different areas of the country (or world for that matter) connect with and experience different seasons.
As I said, in Phoenix we have two seasons, hot and awesome. While that makes for a goofy one-liner, it highlights the fact that Phoenix doesn’t have a true winter. Christmas is one of those times that naturally lends itself to reflection, thankfulness, family time and many other virtues and fruits of the Spirit. It is imperative that we, as church leaders, overcome the limitations of our geography and leverage what makes our culture unique.
The Truth About Phoenix
On November 1 I opened Facebook to find several of my friends had already put up their Christmas trees. Usually this tradition is reserved for Thanksgiving weekend when all Americans join together to “deck that halls.” Not in Phoenix. The second those carved pumpkins are trashed, the tree goes up! This speaks to something very unique about my city.
Phoenicians psyche themselves up for Christmas before the rest of the country.
Pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint mochas are on menus much earlier here (though we will drink them iced). Rather than ignoring what’s trending in our everyday culture, we need to focus on why this is happening. We Phoenicians want holiday drinks and Christmas sales early to remind ourselves that while we’re still in shorts and t-shirts, the rest of the world is chopping firewood for the coming Christmas winter.
My Church’s Response
The desire to be reminded that Christmas is coming led us to to create a 40-day countdown strategy. During the 40 days leading up to December 25 we used our online platforms to share pictures of our student, Ian, getting ready for Christmas. Decorating sugar cookies, buying wrapping paper, hanging stockings, writing Santa along with 36 other activities. Each image had a stamp on it with our church name and our Christmas Eve Celebration times. We shared other related content, but our signature campaign was “Countdown To Christmas.”
It was rewarding to walk through our lobby each Sunday and hear our people talking about the daily Christmas pictures. It connected deeply with them because each day they checked Facebook there was a reminder from Ian that, “you better get ready ’cause Christmas is coming!”
The Truth About Your Location
Geography matters for many reasons beyond pure demographics. If you live in freezing cold temperatures all winter long, what helps residents get through the annoyance of shoveling snow to experiencing the beauty of the season? If your hometown is rainy for hours each day, are there any fun events that happen in the rain every year? Something that could help make that day’s rain a bit more sentimental?
This Christmas, make a commitment to use the uniqueness of your geography to help people to experience the reason for the season.Photo by stuinaz.