Cancel Church...It's Christmas

I received the following email from a dear brother regarding Christmas church services and some current trends. It gave me something to think about, and so I included my response below his email...enjoy:


I read with interest this brief article from a secular news agency.

Closed for Christmas
It seems even places of worship aren't immune to secularizing Christmas. Some of the country's largest churches are shutting their doors on
Christmas Day so that staff and volunteers can spend time with their families. So-called megachurches near Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit, where thousands of people worship each week, are closing for Christmas, despite the fact that the holiday falls on a Sunday. What's more, pastors at the churches report that the decision hasn't generated much controversy. One Kentucky pastor says Christmas is no longer sacred to many Americans, adding, "It's viewed more as a holiday than a holy day."

When I finished that article, I had to let out a bit of a sigh. This is no more than the grown-up version of what we kids were tempted with in years past. Do you remember when you were little and Christmas fell on Sunday? I certainly do. Like any immature and selfish kid, I wanted to forget Church, just this once. I clearly remember the pull at my heart, and the words that came out of my mouth. "Can't we just stay home and open the presents?" Of course, in those less sophisticated days, the wiser heads of my parents prevailed. "No, of course we can't just stay home! Eat your breakfast, get your coats on... we're going to Church, because today is CHRISTMAS!" So, properly chastised, we went to church. We prayed, we read and heard the Word, and we celebrated Holy Communion in harmony with millions of Saints around the world.

More importantly, we knew that we had participated in the feast of, need I say it, Christ Mass? In our recent sacred moments of singing, praying, and partaking of the elements, something vital to our souls was reaffirmed. Was it big and showy? As best I can recall, it was not. Was the choir and singing really all that musical and fantastic. No...not at all. Was the light show scintillating? Were there live animals, a laughing Santa, videos and all the exhausting accoutrements of so-called "Modern" worship? Again, no. Our simple time was, like Holy Communion itself, a mystery of magnificent proportions made mysterious only by Christ's condescending presence. The frugal, simple, and truly joyful moment in that little recycled Methodist building in a small town in Ohio was founded on something other than theater, smoke and mirrors. It was the Gospel of Christ once more affirmed, as it has been through centuries of practice around the world on this Holy Day.

Guess what? When we got home, the gifts and the tree and the food and the turkey in the oven were still there. Somehow, at least to my little heart, the tinsel and shiny toys back home under the tree were paradoxically more appreciated and less important.

In stark contrast, we now stand in the promised land of the early 21st century. Our material desires are, more than ever, at our beck and call. Unfortunately, with the institutionalization of materialism as god, the church has strayed. With a nation populated by selfish immature boys and girls trapped in adult bodies, there are no longer any parents left to compel us to do the right thing this Christmas 2005. We are the parents, but without hearts bent toward God's miracle gift, (the only gift truly worth receiving this December 25th) we're left with our trinkets and baubles. Our childish hearts have gotten
our way. We're staying home from church this Christmas 2005. With those extra couple hours now recovered for our own personal use, we'll undoubtedly celebrate an entirely different holiday. Our glazed eyes will ache, too long mesmerized by the glow of our new plasma TV. Our tired orbs will squint at the tiny glowing display of a million video iPods as we collectively gasp in delight and wonder at our counterfeit national miracle. This isn't Kansas, Dorothy.

So, close the churches! After all, we're all free adults here, aren't we? We Americans can celebrate our own private communions at home! Yes, let's turn on the TV and sing of chestnuts roasting. Yes, bow to the majestic cartoon character floats, and watch in awe as young men process the football back and forth with mindless determination. Why we can even bow to some nameless god of maudlin sentiment as we confess vague affections for family and friends. Of course, let us not neglect to gather together in our conspicuous consumption of food and drink! Then, in a final profane moment, we'll gather around the green and sparkling altar of our tinsel god. There, with trembling hands and hearts full of anticipation, we'll handle the unholy communion elements we have
preferred on this, our most selfish holiday.

With thankfulness for your stand for the Gospel, I remain...

your devoted friend, _____________

My reply:

Thanks for the email _______. I had decided that it would be ok for my family to skip our Christmas morning service this year so we could be at my sister's home in time for our family celebration. After all, I thought - WE read the Christmas story before opening our gifts and WE have been teaching our children about the true meaning of Christmas for most of the month and WE don't even lie to our children about Santa Claus...so surely, WE can miss one day of church...SURELY God won't mind. But it's a bit more than that, as your thoughts have well reflected.
Whereas you and I would be careful not to say too quickly, "It is a SIN if you don't go to church on Christmas Day", and whereas we would be careful not to esteem this "Christmas" day over and above any other Lord's day (Romans 14:5-13; Galatians 4:9-10); there are fewer times as sweet as this when we can worship as a family the God-incarnate Christ. And I also wonder what message we're sending to our children, to whom we've been preaching Christ's arrival all month, when we choose to forego the corporate worship of the One we have been trying to worship as a family. I'll be in church on December 25th.

Speaking of Christmas traditions...is it even appropriate for Christians to celebrate Christmas? Many see it as a great opportunity to celebrate the Savior's birth, others see it as promoting ancient pagan traditions. I've found several articles from both living and dead Christian leaders on the subject, so I'll direct you to them and let you decide!

Grace Gems - several articles from C.H. Spurgeon, Arthur Pink, and others
Grace To You - John MacArthur's thoughts
Steve Camp's Blog Entry & readers' comments

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