As a pastor, I've heard many opinions about holding services on Christmas. They differ widely. If you haven't noticed, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. Various authors, pastors, and speakers are weighing in. Many different ideas are being put forward on both sides of this arguments. Unfortunately, some of these arguments are written from a position of superiority, criticizing other churches for their decision (on both sides of this argument), or simply personal preference. How should we think about this problem? Before getting into that, here are some things to think about as you evaluate the various opinions.
1. The 'We should celebrate as a family' argument. I've heard that because it's Christmas, it should be a church celebration. Interesting that we don't usually hear this argument when Christmas falls on a Tuesday. In that case, church services remain on Sunday and Christmas is celebrated on Tuesday, or any other day other than Sunday. In addition, how come we don't read about churches gathering on Thanksgiving night, so church families can celebrate as a family?
2. The 'Church services are an important part of Christian worship and shouldn't be canceled' argument. This argument should also apply to vacations and camping weekends, too. If someone is going to say we shouldn't cancel a worship service because Christmas falls on a Sunday, he or she should also say, we shouldn't miss a single worship service because our vacation falls on a Sunday. But then, the conversation should probably move to something about how the perfect church attendance award does not earn you a spot in heaven.
3. The 'Staff and volunteers need to be able to celebrate with their family' argument. This one pleads for the volunteers and staff who come in early and stay late to put the service on. Others have a day off (like almost everybody) so why not this group? It is often made by those who have family, especially little kids. It's also made by pastors who don't have enough available volunteers to help put on a service with those with families not attending. If this is the case, those who do want services on Christmas should offer to help so the burden is lighter on those who typically serve.
4. The 'School or community center isn't open' argument. This would have been my problem last year. We used to rent space in a county community center. Holding services would have meant a couple county employees would have had to work. That is, if the center would have rented us space on Christmas day. Let's not be too hard on mobile churches that have to deal with this issue.
5. The 'It's an outreach' argument. Okay, what? If we're wondering if our church members are going to attend on Christmas, what are the chances unchurched, non-believers are going to attend on Christmas day? It may be a good outreach in your area; I don't know. Give it a try and see how it goes.
6. The 'Families should know how to do worship in their home' argument. This argument should cause us to wonder if the families in our churches have been taught to do this, and if they do at any other times. This is probably a good conversation 52 weeks a year, not just when there's a difficult scheduling day. In any case, technology does help much more now than ever before.
7. The 'I just want my church do be more holy or set apart than the community' argument. I wonder what the motivation is behind some of these arguments? Especially if people argue for their church to hold services and then they don't show up. I also wonder if it's about being 'set apart' like the Pharisees repeatedly argue with Jesus in Mark 2. And what should we think when we read, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the son of Man is lord even over the Sabbath" when the Sabbath happens to fall on Christmas?
8. The 'Christmas shouldn't be about gifts' argument. This one is basically argues that we shouldn't be about stuff, and instead be about worshiping God. That's really true, but we should extend this argument into the rest of the year too. If this truly is the argument, people should tithe more because stuff is less important than ministry. People should work less so they have time to worship more. Working on Sunday? Well maybe stuff is too important to you? If this is indeed the argument. Maybe we shouldn't give gifts at baptisms and forget about pastor appreciation gifts. Let's just worship more. And if we're not about anything corporate, we probably shouldn't be about any thing else that has a corporate inclination or anything associated with money either. Let's apply this argument to every other other holidays or the Super Bowl, or presidential debates, or March Madness, or any other thing that we celebrate corporately and spend money on. Or we could relax a hair and celebrate the one who gave the best gift of all by by generously giving gifts to others.
With all of this in mind, as well as the many other arguments on this topic, you can probably see that this is as much like worship style or Bible translation. It's going to be different for every church and arguments on both sides are not necessarily unbiblical. It seems like a matter of preference. And it's possible that whether you have a service on Christmas or not, the sky is probably not going to fall. Therefore, I suggest in the spirit of Christmas, we simply allow this to be a matter for each church to determine for themselves, just as families around the nation are making decisions about how they will celebrate Christmas. Whether you attend a service or not, I pray you have a wonderful, Christ-centered Christmas.