Christmas in July Sunday

Follow a star to Bethlehem, not just the beach.

Here at Ministry Matters, we kick off Advent and Christmas planning with a Christmas in July week in mid-to late-July to help leaders get a jumpstart on planning worship, sermons, outreach, and more for months down the road. You're lounging at the pool, but Operation Christmas Child and the nativity play are already on the brain. Your congregation is still thinking VBS and summer camp, with Christmas cards, gift lists, and Elf on the Shelf completely off their radars. The Incarnation is the last thing on their minds.


And that's why mid-summer is the perfect time to celebrate Christ's birth, without all the trappings of holiday hubbub that take over our whole society every December . . . and November . . . and sometimes even before the Halloween decor is put away. In July, you can interrupt people's regularly-scheduled summer programming and focus just on the coming Christ child.

I'll admit I had never heard of this concept until a reader contacted us during our first annual Christmas in July week in 2011 to tell me about her church's Christmas in July Sunday. As it turns out, a smattering of churches across the country and maybe the world hold Christmas in July weekends every year. Apparently, such traditions have been around since the 1940's, and are even more common in the southern hemisphere, where folks for whom December 25 is summertime celebrate "Christmas in July" to experience the more stereotypical snowy yuletide we enjoy up north.

Consider these ideas to plan your own Christmas in July Sunday this year:

Surprise People

Make Christmas in July Sunday a need-to-know operation, so that most people showing up to worship are caught off guard and perhaps a little (pleasantly) disoriented by the Advent wreath, bells, and manger scene they usually only see in the winter. Read the Christmas story from Luke's gospel, sing Christmas carols, and preach on the shock Emmanuel brought to the world. Use some of these beautiful liturgies for Christmas, or an evocative Christmas-themed worship video.

Tell the Story

Unlike the 4-6 weeks of Advent and Christmas worship, Christmas in July is one day in which to tell the whole story of Christ's coming. Consider doing a Service of Lessons and Carols, which intersperses Scripture readings and carols to tell the story from Isaiah's foretelling to Epiphany. If you are a Ministry Matters subscriber, you have access to this service from the New Handbook of the Christian Year. Or use these monologue scripts to tell the Christmas story from the perspective of four different characters.

Give a Long Lead Time

Advent is a great time for a special fundraiser, a "Christmas miracle offering," to make a big gift to a missional effort in honor of Jesus' birth, but sometimes a big gift takes more than four weeks to prepare. If you are planning to launch a new mission initiative at Christmas this year, use Christmas in July Sunday as a kickoff event. Give intermediate goals to reach or special projects that can be done throughout the fall, so that by Christmas, the result is bigger and involved more people than ever before. St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Mo., starts collecting toys and money for their Christmas giveaway in July and continues into December. For Calvary Lutheran Church in Apollo Beach, Fla. (where it's probably pretty summery in December too) the Christmas in July event is the fundraiser—a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, music, and decor, and ticket sales all go to a local women's and children's shelter.

Bless Your Community

Lakewood United Methodist Church in Arkansas made a weekend of it with their Christmas in July Festival last year, a two-day event with a concert, Santa, sno-cones, and a mission project in addition to Sunday's Christmas-focused worship. Such a fun fest incorporates pop-culture Christmas elements, but still provides an opportunity to explain the meaning of Christ's coming at a time with less noise and busyness. Give wintery activities a summer spin, like white water balloons for a summer "snowball fight," and serve cold chocolate milk with a candy cane. Box up school supplies to distribute in August and have a gift-wrapping contest with a missional twist. Throw Jesus a fun, outdoor birthday party where families can hear about the real meaning of Christmas as the birthday of a Lord worth following year-round.


NOTE: We are planning Ministry Matters' Christmas in July week right now, so if you have creative ideas or resources for Advent and Christmas, send me a note at, and your idea could be featured on Ministry Matters!

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