By the rotation of the calendar, Christmas Day falls on Sunday this year – an occurrence that because of Leap Year, won’t happen again until 2033.
Will you be attending services at your local church?
Debate has been heating up online the last few days and weeks about whether or not churches will be holding services at all, and who will be attending – or not.
Over the years, Christmas Eve has evolved into a major event on the church calendar. Larger churches have been known to pull out all the stops, with a service schedule resembling a bus or train schedule. Congregations have been known to rent heaters for the sidewalk, set up hot chocolate and coffee stands and even put out platters of colorful cookies. Extra musicians are hired, books and ornaments are given away. It’s a big Yuletide deal.
Obviously, the effort is designed to woo and witness to worshipers who don’t usually attend other weeks of the year.
The consequences of this all-out strategy are a tired-out staff come Christmas Eve at midnight – or beyond. The idea of returning the very next morning is a daunting one for pastors, church staffs and volunteers, who aren’t even sure its congregants will be willing to get out of their pajamas and pry themselves away from the tree and gifts.
A post COVID world is also playing into the calculus, no doubt. Some Christians have grown accustom to worshipping at home on the couch. And then there are churches who regularly hold a Saturday night service anyway. Wouldn’t Christmas Eve “count” for Sunday?
All of these factors and considerations are real, but they may also miss the larger point. In fact, if we’re debating whether we have to go or not, perhaps we’re asking the wrong question.
Back in high school, I worked at our local church as an evening receptionist. I fielded all kinds of questions and requests. I remember one person pressing me on how late could they could arrive on Sunday, or how early could they leave, and still meet their weekly church attendance. I asked the pastor, and he said to tell them such questions are between them and the Lord.
Worshipping the Lord on His day isn’t a question of convenience. It’s a matter of high privilege. My family and I will be attending a Christmas Eve service on Saturday, and we’ll then be back on Sunday morning. Yes, Christmas morning will look and feel a little different, but we’re looking forward to the change. Any shakeup that involves more Bible reading and teaching, additional fellowship, and the singing of Christmas carols is a good thing.
Whether or not you’ll be attending services on Saturday or Sunday or both days, how grateful we should be for the local church, and for the many pastors, staff and volunteers who make it all possible each and every day, and not just at Christmas.