This is the first time since 2011 that Christmas Day has been on a Sunday. That means that this is the first time that I have been on staff at a church in which this was the case. I do not recall what my home church did the last time this happened, but I am guessing that they held a service that morning, and I was probably there. Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, however, seems to be a very polarizing topic among Christians, especially on social media.
The thing is, some churches have chosen to cancel Christmas Day services and only do a Christmas Eve service. Some are only doing Christmas Day services. Others are doing both. I personally do not see the problem with any of these options, as long as each church is staying faithful in their context.
Here is the problem though. If you are in group that is cancelling Christmas Day services (which is what our church has decided to do this year), more than likely you are seeing some huge backlash, and not from those that would attend your church on Christmas Day. You are seeing it from other Christians that attend somewhere else.
I have seen numerous posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and different blogs completely condemning any church that has decided to cancel services on Christmas Day. My question is why?
Let me give you some examples of what I have seen starting with the most recent one that pushed me to the point I felt the need to write this. Scrolling through Facebook, I came across a status from someone that read, “Can someone tell me why you would not have church services on Christmas Day?” The person who wrote this goes to a rather large church (compared to where I serve) that has multiple staff and plenty of volunteers (although you can never have enough volunteers, believe me). So I get where they are coming from. They can spread the responsibilities of a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day service around to the point they are not putting everything on a handful of people.
But it is not just large churches with multiple staff and volunteers that I am seeing this from. Another post on Facebook from someone connected to a smaller congregation wrote,
“I have seen FB posts of churches cancelling Sunday’s Christmas Service. At the (name of the church), we understand that Christmas can be one of the loneliest times of the year. This is why we will proudly have worship service Sunday at 10am, and our Christmas Eve candlelight service is Saturday at 6pm. You don’t have to be alone this Christmas! So spend this Christmas with the Family of God near you.“
The comments on this were even worse, with one person stating that if this was happening at their church they would be demanding the leadership to change it, and if that did not happen, they would be looking for another church home.
Jon Acuff posted about this very topic yesterday on Twitter, and let me tell you, the lashing that he received was unbelievable. He simply tweeted, “Shoutout to churches cancelling services this Sunday. We pastor’s kids often leave faith because the church stole our Christmas every year.”
I have been reading some of the responses that he has received since posting this, and cannot believe the lack of grace that is being thrown his way. But Acuff has responded and tried to explain to most of the graceless posts toward him. He explains he understands Christmas does not occur on Sunday every year, but what he is getting at is there are so many services the week of Christmas (from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, normal Sunday, and then maybe even different Christmas parties/events that ministers are expected to be at) that ministry families often do not get to enjoy Christmas together.
But I do not want to just focus on ministers and their families here. This is about the church as a whole. My question on the whole issue is to ask, what is best for your local context. There is freedom in Christianity, and to blast another Christian or body of believers because they choose to cancel a service one day is an issue to me. In fact, it is showing a lack of love and unity toward one another that gives those outside of the Church in general another reason not to refuse Jesus. In fact, Jon Acuff tweeted this after all the backlash he received, “Dear Christians, whenever atheists say we’re unloving, this is why. We do this to each other…”, then posted this on his Instagram page.
My point is this: there are many different contexts, and many different reasons to have services Sunday or to cancel services on Sunday. By all means, if you are in a context to have services on Sunday, that is great. Have them. There is nothing wrong with that at all. But do not condemn a church that may not be in that kind of context. If having a service is more important to you then anything else, then it could be that your services have become an idol, and you are worshiping them instead of our Savior anyway.
Let me explain why we are not having a Christmas Day service where I serve. We are doing our first ever Christmas Even service. This is something I have been proposing for the last couple of years, and finally we have other people on board. The problem is that Christmas Eve is on a Saturday, and the same people that are leading in the Christmas Eve service would be the same ones that would have to turn around and lead the next morning if we were to hold a Sunday service. You see, we are a small congregation, in which a small handful of people are involved in everything. That is just the context we are in, and it would not be good stewardship of our time and talents to force back to back services less than 18 hours apart.
On top of that, when it was proposed to our leadership team to do a Christmas Eve service, it was made clear that it would be one or the other, because our faith family would not do both. So in our context it would be one or the other. We felt that we could reach out into the community better on Christmas Eve than Christmas morning. I also did not want to hurt the enthusiasm of some of our volunteers who really pushed to have a Christmas Eve service. Even though I had proposed it the last couple of years, it was some of our volunteers, without my prompting, that came to the leadership and asked to do Christmas Eve this year. That means they are owning it, and when someone owns something, it makes it that much more special.
I was ready and willing to do a Sunday Christmas Day service this year. That was my plan all along. But when I have volunteers that are willing to plan and organize a Christmas Eve service designed to really try and reach our community, I will get behind that 100% of the time. That led to the decision to cancel Sunday morning, because we just do not have the people resources to do both so closely together.
Here is the great thing about it though. There are other churches in our community that are having Christmas Day services. If it is that important to you, then I have no doubt that you can find a service to attend that day. You do not have to lash out at someone else. In fact, my wife and I are going to a ministry friend’s church an hour away from where we live to attend their Sunday service. If it is important, you will find a way. Otherwise, you are being critical for the sake of being critical