The New York Times recently reported on several congregations who are canceling service on Christmas Day. Many Facebook posts and commenters have posted their opinions on churches who elect to do this, so I thought I would weigh in.
First, let me say that we are having Christmas Day service at North Broad at 10:30. In my mind, the chief reason for meeting that Sunday is because the congregation is made up of some of my closest friends, people I consider family. While I have scheduled gatherings with family and friends outside of church, worshipping God with my North Broad community is super important to me!
So, what do I think about churches that elect to worship on Saturday evening instead? Well…
If there was a command from God that we absolutely must worship on Sunday, then I would have a problem with it.
If there was a command from God which limited taking communion to Sunday and mandated a weekly observance of communion, then I would have a problem with it.
But since no such commands exist, I feel that it is up to the individual churches what they do.
What About Keeping Christ in Christmas?
For the Christian, Christ is part of every aspect of our lives. If every family within a congregation hosted a house church with a Christmas devotional and meal, that might do more to spread the good news of Jesus than meeting in a building with all of the distractions of the day on our mind!
There are plenty of ways to keep Christ in Christmas without worshipping together on Sunday morning. If the only way to keep Christ in our world is through worship for one hour on one day of the week, then we might have a slight misunderstanding of what to means to be a follower of Jesus.
Church, properly understood, refers to the believers which make up the body of Christ, not the one hour service on Sunday morning (though it can refer to an assembly). In that sense, it is impossible to cancel the church because we are the church!
Of course, people have tried to cancel church throughout the centuries through persecution, silencing, and sabotage, but, as Jesus said, the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
I believe that pastors, elders, and deacons could lead their congregations to be the church even if the doors to the building remained closed on Christmas Day. Again, it goes back to the personal preference and unique need of the congregation and leadership team.
My Personal Conviction
While I understand that dangerous storms, winter conditions, and tragedies occur which keep us from always being able to worship on Sunday, I wish we never had to cancel services. When I miss Bible class on Wednesday or worship on Sunday, I feel disconnected, empty, and somewhat blue.
I love meeting with my church family because they are just that – family. And because of that, I would be willing to teach a Bible class or worship even if just one or two people show up. For me, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about what we are doing.
Now, I don’t believe meeting each week is mandated. I don’t find Hebrews 10:25, for example, to be talking about the Sunday assembly. And I don’t think that a story from Acts 20 binds a weekly service on people.
Instead, I believe that each person has a right to regard one day over another or to regard every day the same as Paul said in Romans 14:5. In the context of that passage, he was talking about religious holy days.
So, while I regard Sunday as a special day of the week, I don’t bind that on anyone else, and I hope that you won’t either.
Each congregation should be autonomous, which means that it is up to them in their unique situation how they will answer these questions. Let’s leave the judgment to God and encourage and support each other despite our differences.
If your church meets on Christmas Eve instead, Merry Christmas.
If your church meets on Christmas Day, Merry Christmas.
If your church encourages families to have services at home, Merry Christmas.
But if you use your personal preference as an opportunity to judge others, then perhaps it is you who have failed to keep Christ in Christmas. “Hold the conviction that you have as your own before God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves because of what they approve” (Romans 14:22).