Dad and Mother will be turning over in their graves this weekend. They passed into Heaven in 1973 and 1999 respectively. Christmases in ’66 and ’94, the last ones to arrive on Sundays prior to their deaths, were cause for special celebration as Dad and Mother considered Sunday to be a “Sabbath” (although they knew the Jewish practice of the true Sabbath being from Friday at 6pm to Saturday at 6pm). However, since Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week, Christians shortly after began meeting on Sunday rather than the Sabbath, and this was cemented in minds after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. as we Gentiles became the predominant population of Christ-followers.
Throughout the 1900s this coincidence of Jesus’ birth and our weekly worship time was a delight to ministers who would see crowds gather in greater number than any other time of the year (except possibly Easter). But something changed as we headed into the new century. Maybe it was the reaction to covid, or the development of the “Mega-Church” and the explosion of church staffs and production qualities that rival Academy Awards shows. The modern “worship service” takes more people and more tech than the Death Star development in Star Wars, especially if it is broadcast over multiple campuses and the internet! Why not just pre-record it?
Add that this year we have a “bomb cyclone❗” hitting the middle of the nation on Christmas “Adam.” (That’s the day before Christmas Eve… get it, Adam came before Eve? 😄) It seems like the weather forecasters need to cooperate with the fear-mongers at every level of government and large institutions, so they chose the most horrific words to describe what we used to call “a winter storm.” Yeah, yeah, big whoop, like we never dealt with snow and wind before. 🙄
When Christmas and Sunday rendezvous, some churches now feel the need to cancel Sunday worship so that the true meaning of Christmas can be experienced in all its fantastic, fabulous luxuriousness. After all, we know Christmas is about family and Santa Claus and presents … and eggnog! At least that’s what the agnostics and atheists say, and by actions (which speak louder than words) so does the Church when it cancels Jesus’ worship “in honor of Jesus’ birth.” Like my brother asks, “Why would I want to host a party in MY house on MY birthday!?” 😏
Happy Birthday, Jesus. We’re going to the movies rather than Your house today after we open all our presents we gave each other and not You.
Why would churches cancel worship on Sunday when it collides with Christmas?
- Does the Bible say we should? No. I’ve read the entire library a few times, and neither the celebration of Christ’s birth nor Sunday worship is mentioned.
- Perhaps Christians around the world are complaining, “We can’t go to church Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day! That’s just too much worship.”
- Maybe they are thinking, “Well, commercial places are closed on Christmas! Why should we stay open?”
- Folks really need time to marvel at Santa’s empty cookie plate, open presents, go out to eat, and still have time to go to the movies and it’s hard to fit all that in with an extra worship service on Christmas Eve.
It seems the only folks who actually say, “Let’s cancel Sunday worship if Christmas falls on Sunday” are church employees, including some ministers. After all, they spend their workdays all week celebrating Jesus; they deserve a day off from such tiring spirituality, right? But as another blogger pointed out, the extra work is “not as hard as being beheaded by ISIS for your faith or being a Christian in Saudi Arabia or India, but it is really, reeeally hard.” 😢
During the 20th century, the 25th of December was on a Sunday 14 times (*see list below). This century has started off with 2005, 2011, 2016 and now this year, 2022. Actually, I cannot recall any churches cancelling Christmas Day services before this year, but several in our fair city and many in other places are. The next time Christmas and Sunday bump into each other will be 2033 (2028 is a leap year). The following years* will probably have me watching from Heaven, unless Jesus has returned.
However, a big business needs to evaluate cost-benefit analyses, and if less than half of a church’s parishioners show up for Christmas Sunday, is the effort worth it? Don’t I recall something about “where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them?” In any case, I suspect MANY people would show up for Christmas Day services at a church building:
- Nominally religious people who want to show off and need to be told the Gospel again.
- Christ-followers who love to meet with other believers who love to celebrate Jesus.
- Lonely people for whom the “family” orientation of the day exacerbates their loneliness; they need the body of Christ!
- Politicians: these folks need the Gospel more than our votes, but they’ll show up to garner them from the gullible.
- “Out-of-town” family members who are in town for the holiday visits.
- Atheists who are wondering, “What do those people do at a church meeting on a holiday?”
- People who love celebrations with beautiful Christmas music.
Perhaps we are buying into the secularization of Christmas and are idolizing our families over the One who said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
How do we claim, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” if we add, “unless His birthday falls on the day we usually gather to worship Him,” without looking silly, inconsistent and inconsequential? So celebrate Christmas this year with worship of the God Who Is and who loves us so much that He came to live as one of us, to experience our pain, sorrows and loss, and to die in our places. Yes, celebrate Christ’s birth … but Never On a Sunday.
*Christmas fell on a Sunday in these years:1904, 1910, 1921, 1927, 1932, 1938, 1949, 1955, 1960, 1966, 1977, 1983, 1988, 1994.
*In the 21st century, this will occur again in 2033, 2039, 2044, 2050, 2061, 2067, 2072, 2078, 2089, 2095.