Skipping church at Christmas?

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.


  1. This was a good post. It is correct that Willow Creek is an Outreach Center. I believe we need more of them. Sometimes I wish more people got saved under our ministry and I think we should do all we can to reach sinners. I appreciate this about Willow Creek. It is true that Josh is brave. I appreciate his stance. Our Sovereign Grace church out in the West is meeting on Saturday night. I don’t believe this is compromise. However, the early church met together daily. It also seemed that they congregated on the first day of the week, Sunday. But as the scripture says one man esteems one day over the next etc. to his own master he stands or falls. In general I do think it’s alot of hot air. In a sense I wish we could get back to house churches and one denomination and greater boldness and dependence on God for witnessing. I think in a sense this is the thrid way position. Thousands of people meeting in a huge building one day a week is not necessarily optimal. I appreciate your balanced position.

  2. Where is the biblical mandate to worship on the Lord’s Day, and how did that become Sunday? I’m hearing it from a lot of people lately, but don’t know where it comes from.

  3. That’s a good question. So good in fact, that I’m going to write a post about it real soon. But not quite yet.

  4. Bogdan Unteanu says

    Actually the real Jewish sabbath is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Jesus kept that Sabbath and never changed it nor told his followers to do so after his resurection. But He also said not to be legalistic about it, saying that it is not sin to do good on the sabbath. that does not mean working overtime by the way.
    Were all sinners and cannot really uphold the Sabbath, but we as christains need to strive to set aside that day for God. Some people say any day can be Sabbath or should be. Well yes but God clearly from the beginning set aside the seventh day and blessed it.
    even to Israel in the wilderness He gave manna everyday except the day He chose, being the Sabbath. Clearly there is a day God Chose and blessed, which Jesus nor his desciples changed, and that day is Saturday (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday). God also told us not to FORGET the Sabbath in the fourth commandment, which many of us have. Interesting choice of words. It doesn’t say keep the Sabbath it says don’t forget the Sabbath. Food for thought, huh?
    I think Gods Holy Day and fasting have been one of the most forgotten powerful blessing by most christains today.

  5. Bogdan Unteanu says

    About Christmas it was never a commandment or anything like the Sabbath.
    But it is the celebration of our Lords birth.
    Its a fact that Jesus was not born in December or anywhere close to that, but as long as the world celebrates Jesuses birth it really doesn’t matter when.

  6. Manstain says

    Dude, Bogdan, aren’t you a registered sex offender in the state of Washington?? Or are the days of the giving underage girls weed in exchange for nude photos of them over. Yeah, keep dreaming about that itty bitty titty.


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