There’s been a great deal of hot air generated by the number of churches who have cancelled their Christmas services. Most who have followed this route are holding Christmas Eve services instead, as those who usually attend would not be willing to attend on Christmas Day. A Willow Creek spokeswoman made this clear:
“If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don’t go to church, how likely is it that they’ll be going to church on Christmas morning?” (source: CNN)
Frankly, whether Willow Creek has its services on a Saturday or a Sunday, does not matter one iota to me. The Biblical mandate to meet on the Lord’s Day is given to the Lord’s people, not to the unchurched or to seekers.
Willow Creek and other places like it are just being true to its vision. Despite it’s name, it’s not a church – it’s an outreach centre. An frankly, an outreach centre can have its meetings on any day that it chooses.
But it’s impossible to imagine that church leaders would want to prevent people who think that worshipping God together with His people is just about the best thing they can do on Christmas day?
Ben Witherington has been more bold than I, but I can’t disagree with him:
Christmas above all else should be a day when we come together as the body of Christ to worship and adore the Lord Jesus. Christmas should be the day above all days where we don’t stay home and open all those things we bought for ourselves INSTEAD of going to church. Christmas should be the day when we forget about ourselves for a few hours and go and honor the birthday of the great King, our Savior. What we are dealing with here are churches whose priorities are so askew that they somehow think it is more important for the church to serve the wants of the physical family than the other way around. This is a far cry from the pattern of the original disciples of Jesus who were seen leaving homes, relatives, jobs to come and follow Jesus. What kind of message does it send to our culture when churches close on one of its highest holy days?… Shame on you mega-churches— repent and believe the Gospel, starting with the birth stories of Jesus.
So it was a great encouragement to read this on Josh Harris’ blog yesterday:
“This year because Christmas morning falls on a Sunday I made the decision to replace our normal Sunday meeting with two Christmas Eve services. Since then I’ve come to believe that this was the wrong decision, informed by the wrong priorities… What I failed to see is that next Sunday morning is an opportunity for us as a church to reaffirm the priority of gathering to worship as the people of God on the Lord’s day. It’s chance to state to ourselves and our families and our community that the worthiness of our God, not the convenience of the calendar dictates our worship. All that to say, that we’ve decided to hold a Christmas morning meeting next Sunday… I apologize for my misjudgment and any inconvenience it causes you. And I thank you for your patience.”
And in my reckoning, that post makes Josh Harris braver than both Ben and I.