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Friday, December 23, 2016

So This Is Christmas

In 2005 there was a Christian Christmas firestorm (and again in 2011). What brought about this maelstrom? Christmas had the audacity to fall on a Sunday. The dilemma, of course, was what to do? Many churches were backing off -- "Only one combined service today" -- or closing entirely "in honor of Christmas". "We need to be sensitive to our staff and volunteers so they can be with their families on Christmas." Seems odd, given the apparently large numbers of what I like to refer to as "Chreaster Christians", those folk that consider themselves Christians because they dutifully attend on Christmas and Easter. The truth is Christmas services are among the most attended Sundays of the year. Just not when it is actually Christmas Day. Others howled. "How can you close the doors (a lot or a little) on Jesus's birthday?!"

Welcome to 2016. It's doing it again.

Churches are offering different options this year. Maybe it's a heavy focus on Christmas Eve services. Maybe a pre-recorded online service at your leisure. And, of course, a good number are taking a quick, single-service approach. You know, so they don't mess up the real Christmas -- family and opening gifts.

In earlier times I might have been animated about this. Not so much now. Sanders did too well in the primaries. Hillary looked like a shoe-in. Trump was elected. First World nations are more secularized than ever. So are their churches. The new "Evangelicalism" bears no resemblance to ... you know ... Evangelicalism. Oh, and my Bible says that "in the last days" this is how things will go. It won't be pretty. When Jesus asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8), the answer was surely "Yes" with the clear caveat that it won't be a large number. It used to be that Christians called Sunday "the Lord's Day" and regarded it as the "Christian Sabbath" -- a mandatory day of rest and a day in which every Christian was sure to be in church. Well, we've thrown most of that out now. Show up if you want on any given Sunday. Or not. Whatever. Today's Christian sees church as a more personal experience, not "the communion of the saints".

So, when we see that churches would much rather defend the tradition of being with family opening gifts on Christmas than the tradition of worshiping Christ with His followers on the celebration of His birth, it should come as no surprise. I am not complaining. I'm merely suggesting that each of us ought to examine our own hearts in the matter. Is it more important to open gifts or to give the gift of worship (Rom 12:1) to the One whose birthday we're recognizing? Is it more important to be with family (Luke 14:26) or to be with the family of God on such a day? I'm not saying that gifts or family are bad things. I'm just asking you to consider what is your higher calling. Just a Christmas 2016 priority check. You're welcome.


Marshall Art said...

I have the unhappy misfortune of having to work on Sundays, beginning at 7PM. As such, I must sleep during the day in order to be rested and ready to leave by 6:30 at the latest (and really...I should be leaving no later than 6:15. But that's another issue entirely). I love church on Christmas, and on those years that it falls on my off days, I prefer church Christmas morning. This year, we will be attending on Christmas Eve, for which I am thankful that such a service exists. Next year will be a real problem for me, as both Dec. 24 & 25 fall on work days for me. Changing jobs at this point in my life is not a simple thing, though it is always on my mind. The schedule is always problematic for me with regard to church attendance. One of the many consequences of actions and choices of my earlier life with which I must now contend.

Stan said...

In response to an unnecessary and unpublished comment, I'm a bit disappointed. You're not usually that obtuse or tangential. I didn't say what you said. I said that Jesus said that faith would be hard to find in the last days. Too bad, too. One might think that at Christmas time you might have considered being more charitable than that.

Well, I'm still praying you find Christ in your Christmas.

Craig said...

As a church staff spouse and parent, I can see both sides. I certainly agree that there is value in having services on Sunday morning, but also am aware that it's hard on the families of staff and volunteers. I'd disagree that it's about presents as much as it is about being together. In our church's case we've got 6 Christmas Eve services and it seems like a lot to add 2 more Sunday morning services on top of that. We also heavily stress inviting to the Christmas Eve services. One final thought, I know in our case that this sort of decision is not taken lightly and is viewed in terms of best balancing the two sides.

FYI, we are doing Sunday morning.

Stan said...

I understand. It's a generality. And it's more of a question of heart than practice. What are we aiming for? I suppose, in my mind, at the bottom is the same question for church staff and volunteers. What are we aiming for?

But I don't wish to paint with a brush too broad. Some churches are doing Sunday. Some diminished. Some regular. For some it's not a big question. It's not all churches and not all staff and not all members in view here. Just a generality and more of a question of heart than action.

Craig said...

I agree, it's easy to focus on the action sometimes.