Churches closed for Christmas?

Churches closed for Christmas? December 23, 2011

It would be unthinkable to Catholics, but some Protestant parishes are doing just that:

Because Christmas falls on Sunday this year, some churches are opting to close that day so that families can spend the morning toegther at home.

Life Research, based on Nashville, says its national survey of Protestant churches found that 91% would be hold at least one service Christmas morning, while some 9% will not worship on Sunday at all. Some plan Christmas Eve services instead.

“Having church on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday seems as if it would be as much of a given as having Thanksgiving on a Thursday, but this has been an issue of discussion and contention in recent years,” says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “Also, just because an overwhelming majority of pastors think that way doesn’t mean those in their congregations necessarily share their perspective.”

The survey found that Protestant pastors in the South are the least likely (62%) to host a Christmas Eve service compared to other regions. Pastors identifying themselves as Mainline (87%) are more likely to have a service on Christmas Eve compared to those identifying themselves as Evangelical (70%(, Life Research found.

The Houston Chroniclereports that many pastors in that Texas city are consolidating services or even canceling them for Sunday.

St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, the largest Episcopal congregation in the country, anticipates just 500 to 600 people at its one service Sunday, but expects 6,000 at its five Christmas Eve services.

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26 responses to “Churches closed for Christmas?”

  1. This is just beyond my understanding. I am a Catholic and between Dec 24th and 25th we will have 12 (a few at the same times in multiple locations) Masses over the weekend. This is not unusual for us but ALL are usually SRO. Why should there be a “time-out” for services just because Christmas falls on a Sunday?

  2. When I lived in the south there was lots of good-natured ribbing about Christmas between Catholics and Protestants. They put their trees up and decorated the Saturday after Thanksgiving and hauled the tree out to the curb by noon on Christmas day. We decorated on Christmas eve and left everything ablaze until the feast of the Lord’s Baptism. On Christmas eve we filled the church to please-don’t-call-the-fire-marshall, but Christmas day was not particularly crowded — although with faces nobody recognized. They did their last-minute shopping and went to bed on Christmas eve, and then turned out in force on Christmas day (and then went home and immediately dismantled their Christmas decorations…)

    When I was little (long ago when dinosaurs walked the earth) we weren’t allowed to open Christmas presents until after mass on Christmas day. At some point when we were old enough that turned into opening presents on Christmas eve and then going to Midnight Mass.

    (grumble grumble grumble…) when the heck did we decide that it was ok to have “midnight mass” at 9:30pm?!?!?

  3. Funny, the Christmas season actually begins on the 25th of December and goes till the Baptism of the Lord in January (the Sunday after January 6). So in effect Christmas decorations should stay on until then. But it seems that in effect in the popular mind Christmas starts after Thanks Giving and ends on December 25.

  4. My 7 year old just saw this picture, read the caption and asked me what this was all about. I briefly explained (very briefly lol!) and she said ‘They just need to go to a different church’ – sounds like a plan to me! Ours is open and all are welcome! 😀

  5. This is something our Pastor is very keen to point out regularly – our church decorations only just went up, and they will not come down until after the Baptism of Our Lord.

    I appreciate this – as a European, I’m used to celebrating certainly until the Epiphany – so the full month of Christmas from day after Thanksgiving til Dec 25 and not a moment beyond has always kind of bothered me…

  6. I may need to be corrected but I thought I read that before WWII most if not all protestant denominations didn’t hold any special services in recognition of Christmas. It was only when during WWII that many of their own denominations attended Catholic Mass and especially midnight Mass that they decided to hold their own services lest they go Catholic. Not sure how true that is.

  7. I’m a maintenance worker at a local catholic church. All of my co-workers have friday-monday off. I have to work from 7-12 on christmas morning. Just Father and I enjoying Christmas morning together

  8. Deacon K., in the spirit of Christmas this mainline Protestant will be understanding and tolerant of your decision to reference the misleading USA Today article. I understand that you, as a Deacon in the most diverse diocese on the planet must be ecumenical and tolerant simply as a necessity of discipleship. Your CBS background also strongly suggests a warmth and understanding of faith in all its permutations.

    Thus, I see this posting as your gift of “red meat” to the traditionalist and triumphalist wing of your readers. It will keep their poison pens off your back for a while. The article you reference, fails to point out that evangelical and fundamentalist churches (but not the mainline) don’t follow a church year or seasonal calendar. Therefore letting folks stay home with family is not so shocking for them. But those of us who do have liturgy and a church calendar (Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist etc.) will have at least one service on Christmas but several services on the Eve. Most of RC try to go on the Eve or Midnight so where’s the difference, really?

  9. Well, for us Catholics, we have effectively made Christmas to be December 24, since some churches have only one Mass on Christmas day……what a shame….

  10. I grew up in the south pre-Vatican II. The churches that were most common in my town were the Baptist and Church of Christ. They did not celebrate Christmas at church, although they might mention it the Sunday before. I remember mentioning going to Mass on Christmas to a Church of Christ friend, and she told me they didn’t celebrate it since it wasn’t in the Bible.

    The more liturgical churches (Methodists, Episcopal and Lutheran) did have special Christmas services and over the years, many of the local Baptist churches have had very elaborate Christmas services with living nativity scenes and lots of choirs. My parish has two Christmas eve Masses, a midnight Mass and three Masses on Christmas Day.

  11. Here here ! At my Lutheran parish here in Springfield IL we have two Christ Mass eve services of Holy Communion and a Christ Mass morning Celebration of the Incarnation and All ALL ARE WELCOME !

  12. Well for the first time in my life I have to go to the midnight service at an Anglican church as our Catholic Cathedral will not be having one !

  13. Uh – this may be because some Catholic PARISHES have only one priest and several mission chirches and because Father just hasn’t got that bilocation thing down right.

  14. We have most of our Masses today, beginning in the afternoon!, and only one tomorrow. It seems like people want to get Mass out of the way early so it doesn’t interfere with their Christmas celebrations. I think we really have it backwards.

  15. We have the usual full schedule.

    Vigil Mass at 5 pm, then Midnight Mass — actually at midnight! — then Masses on Christmas Day at 8:30, 10, 11:30 and 1.

    (I’ll be serving at the vigil and at midnight, then staggering home around 2, sleeping, and catching a plane for Maryland on Christmas morning … )

  16. There are SOME difference in our town of 20k — three Catholic parishes — for this weekend.
    — Addition of Midnight Mass at all three parishes.
    –Moving the Spanish Mass from Sunday at 1:00pm to 7:00pm on Saturday Christmas Eve.
    That means five masses at one Parish; four at another and three at a third. All will be SRO except the three “Midnight” ones — and they will be at 85% capacity.
    The only way this can work is that one priest — a son-of-the-parish (who works as a seminary dean) — returns to help out. AND he is so loved by the folks that no one is supposed to know which mass he will be presiding at (that way that mass isn’t super-jammed).

    A few non-Catholic Churches are cancelling Sunday Services so I do expect some visitors from neighboring churches.

  17. I’ll be at both the Mass at Midnight and the Mass on Christmas Day. But before we start dissing those who go to the vigil Masses or the Mass at Midnight as people who just want to get it over with, we might want to read the early church fathers, some of whom felt quite strongly about the utility of vigils in the life of the People of God.

  18. How about an interim report.

    Our parish’s “Midnight Mass” was at 11:00pm.

    Our facility seats 500 comfortably in pews. There were an extra 150 folding chairs also set up but we really did not need them. The pastor estimated a crowd of 450 — which sounds about right since there some “pew-seats” still open. The celebrant was the “son-of-the-parish” I mentioned above; I was the Deacon of the Gospel; and he preached.

    Hard to say how many “visitors” we had in attendance — and there were a lot — but there were also college students and military folk home for the holidays.

    A perfectly normal “Christmas Midnight Mass” in small-town Midwest America. Praise the Lord!

  19. Just got back from our Midnight Mass. Carols at 11:30, Mass at midnight.

    At least 50 altar servers. Torchbearers. Candles. Incense. Red cassocks. Choir. Trumpeter.

    “Once in Royal David’s City” was the processional. “Hallelujah” Chorus at the end, followed by “Joy to the World” for the recessional.

    Three priests, one deacon. Pastor preached.

    Estimated crowd: 1200 people in a church that seats 900. Many, many unfamiliar faces.

    All in all, a glorious, beautiful night. Praise the Lord, indeed!

    Dcn. G.

  20. We had a beautiful (pre) midnight Mass with a wonderful choir. O Holy Night following Communion was especially uplifting. Even though I was cranky about the Mass schedule I have to commend our wonderful pastor who does all 4 Christmas Masses (same at Easter) himself with at least 600 – 700 people, SRO, at each one and then greets everyone afterwards. He is amazing!
    I think most people were either well aware of the new translation and used the missals or didn’t voice responses since I heard nary a stray word, even at the Creed. “And with your spirit” was loud and joyful each time.
    Merry Christmas to all!

  21. We had the smallest turnout that I can remember at the 10 PM vigil Mass. I do not know the reason. Perhaps because of Christmas being on the weekend? Perhaps a national trend at fewer attending? Perhaps because of some local issues?

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