8 Reasons NOT to Cancel Church on Christmas

8 Reasons NOT to Cancel Church on Christmas December 13, 2016


So, should we have services on Christmas Day, or should we cancel?

Is it happening again already? It seems like we just had this conversation…

The first time I heard about a church canceling a Sunday, ANY Sunday, for a reason other than dire emergencies, was early December 2005. This girl I was dating at the time told me that her family’s church, a was canceling their services on Christmas Day.

Naturally, we broke up on Christmas Eve.

Thanks be to God, I eventually married a woman with plenty of good liturgical sense.

These days, I’m hearing about taking this annual snow day more and more, especially on these occasions when the 25th just happens to fall on a Sunday. You’ve heard the supporters, some of them even here on Patheos Evangelical, talk about how great it is that they’re not bound by this stuffy, rote, religious-not-relationship liturgical custom and are free to give back to their volunteers and their families by not putting them through the whole Jesus thing again on Christmas, which, again, falls on a Sunday.

So, hold the phone, we’re not going to let worship get in the way of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Allow me to share a few reasons for calling out this nonsense:

  1. It’s Sunday. The whole “church” thing happens on Sundays.
  2. It’s CHRISTMAS, for God’s sake. That whole thing about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us? Yeah, that’s what this whole Christmas is all about.
    For me personally, I think those are more than enough reason to take an hour or so off from celebrating the indulgent, gluttonous, sentimental, Hallmark reasons for the season and get your happy butts to church. But in case you aren’t quite convinced, read on.
  3. Canceling Christmas services turns Christmas into a civil observance instead of a sacred day. I do love many things about this time of year. The weather, hitting the mall late into the evening, holiday parties, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (“Where’s the Tylenol?”). But, as fun and exciting as these things can be, the discipline of the church year helps us realize that these things are merely periphery. Our lives are divided up into semesters, work schedules, electric bills, tax deadlines. Intentionally choosing a gospel-centered organization system helps us to maintain our first allegiance to Christ and his kingdom.Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Stop worry being the “Happy Holidays” police or petitioning to keep the nativity scene on City Hall lawn. We serve a higher throne that calls us to rise above that noise.
  4. Even if it’s a low-attendance Sunday (shouldn’t be, but often it is), people will come. They will bring their families and out-of-town guests. Is worship only worth it if we get lots of butts in the seats? I would hope we haven’t sunk that low, but apparently, some of us have.
  5. It unites us with the holy catholic church, past, present, and future. Christ wasn’t crucified during the Clinton administration, and we don’t do the Christian life in a vacuum. We are part of a long faith tradition, one that wouldn’t have canceled Christmas for anything in the world until, oh, the rise of the megachurch.
  6. It’s theologically negligent (also practically unnecessary…maybe stupid) to deny your people the Word and Sacrament. Of course, most of the megachurches and aspiring megachurches don’t believe in all the sacrament stuff, anyway, but still. If what you have to offer is so important that it constitutes the life blood of those who claim Christ’s holy name, why would you take a week off? Oh, right, family. And volunteers.
  7. The suggestion that cancelling church on ANY Sunday, particularly on Christmas, is a pro-family idea just doesn’t make sense. Is the church a drain on families in general? Really?!? On a Sunday when virtually everyone is off work for a day, and often longer? I would hope that our official position would be different; that corporate worship is vitally important, that the gifts God has to offer would grow, refresh, and strengthen us as individuals and as families. Certainly, don’t guilt anyone for not coming to your church, but don’t delude yourself into thinking giving families one more hour of toys and calories is going to strengthen them more than God’s gifts. And, oh yeah, again, Christmas is about Jesus, not family.
  8. If your volunteers are so over-taxed that you have to give them all a Sunday off, perhaps you need to scale back your ministries in other areas during the rest of the year. Christmas Sunday shouldn’t be the first thing to get the ax. Cancel all your other regular Sunday opportunities. Cancel Sunday School. Cancel breakfast. Cancel yoga. Cancel Bible study. Cancel life groups. But please don’t cancel worship.

So, church, for the love, keep Christ in Christmas.

Remember what Christmas is.

Remember who you are.

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