Services on Christmas Sunday?
About every seven years, it happens. When it does, there’s a question and difference of position as to the best way to respond. This century it happened in 2005, then again in 2016, and this year – 2022, and it won’t happen again until 2033. It’s when Christmas day falls on a Sunday. Should churches hold services on Christmas Day? It may be more my awareness, but it does seem to be more of an issue in recent decades than previous ones. Nevertheless, I wanted to send a note and give the “why” behind the “what” we’re doing at LCC on December 25th this year and, Lord willing, every Sunday until Christ returns. Here are four reasons why we will have corporate worship next Sunday. (hint, if you’re looking for the TLDR version, just skip to #4🙂 )
- It’s Consistent: There would be a bit of ironic hypocrisy to be in the crowd that complains about the “war on Christmas,” wave the banner “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and complain about the secularization of Christmas to cancel church so that they can open presents and celebrate CHRISTmas apart from the body of Christ.
- It’s Clarifying: I love the simplicity and clarity that the corporate worship gathering on Christmas day brings. It forces me to focus on the real meaning of the season.
- It’s Christmas! It’s the celebration of the incarnation, a significant theme of the new testament, and fulfillment of the old covenant prophecy. It’s announced with worshiping angels, responded to by songs of Zachariah & Mary, and remembered as a reference point in the redemptive story and literally how we mark time to this day. Why wouldn’t we want to worship that day?
- It’s Sunday! This is the main reason and doesn’t need any of the previous. It’s Sunday before it’s Christmas.
The calendar of Biblical Christianity is weekly, not annually. Annual holidays are not part of the doctrine or practice of New Testament Christianity, but corporate worship on Sunday is. This year December 25th is the Lord’s Day before it’s Christmas Day.
Qualifiers & Disclaimers: This isn’t meant to throw shade on any other local church that is not having live, in-person gatherings on Christmas day. There are some situations in which not holding a service would be a legitimate option. By way of a disclaimer, I’d also acknowledge that it’s a very good thing that families like to gather together, that many church volunteers and staff work really hard on Christmas Eve, and that staffing a service on Christmas Day is hard. Having a service or not having a service is not a mark of spirituality or the lack thereof. It’s also not an inference that anyone who doesn’t is a compromising liberal. It’s definitely not a passive-aggressive guilt trip on anyone who misses a service to travel to be with family who normally is faithful in their Local Church.
As Mathew Henry said, the Lord’s day is ” a day to be “received and embraced as a privilege and a benefit, not as a task and drudgery.”
If you can have family time and attend worship in the same day, that’s a win-win, but Jesus already told us the order of priority following him has over other relationships in comparison. While I’m not Sabbatarian I do have enough influence from scripture and our spiritual heritage to appreciate the Lord’s Day principle. Perhaps Herman Melville strikes an applicable and good balance in the chapter “Merry Christmas” in Moby Dick when Captain Bildad advises the men, “Don’t whale it too much a’ Lord’s days, men; but don’t miss a fair chance either, that’s rejecting Heaven’s good gifts.”
Links worth noting:
Mohler answers this question in Friday’s edition of the Briefing
Kevin Deyoung addressed this back in 2016 in a Plea to Pastors
Update: This Article in NYT came out after I posted this.