Every now and then Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday. I know, I know. It’s shocking, really. The day that millions of Christians around the world set aside as “The Lord’s Day” might occasionally conflict with the same day that we celebrate annually and historically as His birth. In fact, the calendar shows that it will happen again in 2022, 2033, 2039, 2044 and 2050 — just in case you wanted to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for such an atrocity.
A couple of days ago on social media, I reposted a blog that I wrote last year about folks who only go to church during the Christmas season because they see it as “the American thing to do." Maybe you know people like this. Maybe you are that person.
Anyway, the next day, I received this message on Facebook:
Hi, Josh. I’m one of your fairly regular readers and I’m also a weekly church goer. I go to a church that I guess most people would consider big or a “megachurch.” We’re having a Christmas Eve service like usual but thankfully our pastor was smart enough to cancel all church activities and services for the following Sunday. I have to say that I agree with his decision. I just don’t think enough people would show up and honestly it’s probably not worth the staff effort to try to organize a full-blown worship service on Christmas Day. You’re right that church attendance is important, so my husband and I will be taking our kids to the Christmas Eve service, but I feel like Christmas morning should be set aside for traditional family time at home and I’m sure God would be fine with that too. I know our children just want to get up and open their gifts and enjoy the day with us and we want the same thing. Most families probably feel this way and I think that churches everywhere should be sympathetic to that. Just sayin.’ "— Erica
Hi, Erica. A few thoughts:
First: I think it’s great that you and your family attend church on a weekly basis. Fellowship with other believers and the pursuit of spiritual growth should certainly be normal behaviors in the life of every Christian. After all, the writer of Hebrews warns us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves.
Second: However, it’s not the church’s job to cater to the convenience of lifestyle activities and — let’s face it — drinking eggnog, tearing into presents, eating lots of food and even spending time with family are big parts of the whole Americanized Christmas morning lifestyle. The job of the local church (the people, not the building) is to reach the lost and to help us along on our journey of following Christ and in our efforts to become more like Him. Yes, the church should be sensitive to certain things and unforeseeable circumstances in the lives of its members (illness, death in the family.) But, those are obviously different than “I can’t make it to church today because I have to open presents with my family.”
As Christians, we spend a lot of time talking about “the real reason for the season” and ranting against the cultural secularization of Christmas, and yet many of us, whether we'll openly admit it or not, view a Christmas Day worship service as a terrible inconvenience. We make up all sorts of excuses and blather on endlessly about why we shouldn’t give Jesus an hour of our morning on His birthday (especially if we gave Him an hour the evening before at a Christmas Eve service) when we’d obviously be at church if it was any other normal Sunday.
In short, we’re hypocrites.
The most common excuse I’ve seen across social media so far is “family time.” I really need to dedicate Christmas Day to spending time with my family. You know, most church worship services usually only last about an hour, not to mention that “going to church” should be a family activity for Christians anyway. This excuse just doesn’t fly, Erica.
Third: Churches should still meet for worship on Sunday December 25, 2016. This is the main point that I want to drive home. If your church is shutting its doors on Christmas Day, you should find one that’s open (and believe it or not, a lot of them will be open.) You say that it’s not worth all the effort for church staff and volunteers to put together a service, but I tend to think that if Christians in the Middle East can find ways to worship, pray and spread the Gospel under daily threat of being beheaded by ISIS, then we can certainly have church on Christmas Day here in the U.S. If the early Apostles were willing to meet in tents and caves to fellowship and grow, then I think we can show up to a warm building with comfortable seats and give God our attention and adoration for 60 minutes.
There is a deep need for American churches to counter the self-centered, narcissistic cultural narrative that personal obligations, wants and desires take precedent over corporate worship and growth with fellow believers. Many Christians today have adopted a false and spiritually dangerous ideology that things like family gatherings, friendship activities and even sports are legitimate reasons for skipping church on any random Sunday. Sadly, they’re missing the bigger picture. And that’s why it’s critical for local churches — as part of the Global Church — to remain consistent in their teachings and message and to influence the culture in a way that continually guides people to Jesus.
The entire point of Christmas for us — literally the very reason we celebrate it in the first place — is because Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, left a perfect Heaven to be born in a dirty, smelly stable and spend 33 years walking around on a filthy, hot, dusty Earth, only to be rejected, tortured, beaten, crucified and executed by those He came to love and save.
He did that for us. For me. For you. It was personal to Him.
I would say that the very least we could do is give Him an hour of our Christmas morning at church.
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