WORDS FROM W.W. December 10, 2016
It seems to be a topic of leadership team conversations at a number of churches across the country. What happens if Christmas Day lands on a Sunday? Does a church still have its Sunday morning worship service…or not?
In a 2005 survey about ten percent of churches said they would not have worship on Christmas Day. My guess is that you could probably triple that percent for 2016. Most of those who are having services readily admit that attenders will have more pew room to spread out in, as numbers will be substantially down. Many churches who are having services are scaling down for it… shortening the time frame, eliminating children’s groups and/or childcare, minimizing the number of people responsible for various elements of the service.
Almost every church that is more liturgical in style is continuing as usual. The make-up of most of the churches that are not meeting on Christmas Day are composed of congregations comprised with a high number of young adults; or churches that would be characterized as non-denominational evangelical.
In an increasing number of congregations the heavy emphasis on Christmas Eve services is the main reason for not meeting on Christmas Day. Mega-churches close to where we live are having five services during that day, with the first one beginning at 11 A.M and the last one at 7 P.M. It’s a marathon event for the church staff, thus no services on Sunday.
On Sunday many of their attenders will frequent a different establishment. Starbucks! It’s open on Christmas Day! Or they will be in front of the TV watching NFL games. They’re still playing!
Such a worship quandary doesn’t appear on the church council very often. The last time it happened was 2011. The next time after this year will be 2022, and then 2033! Besides the heavy Christmas Eve emphasis the main reason for canceling Sunday services is the word “family.” Family seems to trump Jesus! I’m not saying “humbug” to an emphasis on family, but it seems almost like going to the hospital before the birth of a new baby, waiting with expectancy, and then leaving before the new arrival comes! After all, Christmas Day is in celebration of Jesus’ coming; Christmas Eve is about Mary going into labor.
Perhaps Christmas Day worship should be an even higher priority this year as we go through a time of national disunity, and a time when peace seems to be fleeting. The birth of Jesus is the trumpeting of new hope, and God’s saving grace.
This will be my first Christmas as a retired pastor, a has-been! The first time in the past 38 Christmas Eves when I have not been involved in a Christmas Eve Candlelight service, and the first time I will be given the choice of being of the congregation as opposed to leading the congregation. I can sleep in on Christmas morning…or until my bladder wakes up! I can sit by the fireplace and drink egg nog and wait for the grandkids to come over. I can turn the TV on and watch a worship service that is well produced…or I can show up with some of the saints and sing of new life, new hope, and “God is with us!”