December 2, 2016
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I think the discussion started about a year and a half ago when a Pastor/friend asked about Christmas, 2016. He was wondering what the best approach to Christmas Day landing on a Sunday. I wanted to hear his thoughts first, before jumping in. He said, “What an opportunity for the Church to reach out to families by providing a “come as you are/as you can” couple of service times IN ADDITION to Christmas Eve Candlelight Services. I was delighted at his response. My response to his idea(s) was met with resounding enthusiasm. In my active Pastoral days we never missed the opportunity to be (at times) the only Church open when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday. The only time we cancelled in all those years was a blizzard that came in on a Saturday night, Christmas Eve, leaving us stranded and having to cancel Church on Sunday, Christmas Day. (I think it was Winamac, Indiana in about 1983 or so). Since Thanksgiving I have been hearing Church after Church cancelling their services on Christmas Day, 2016 and pushing for coming Saturday night, Christmas Eve, 2016. Lead Pastor, Tim Fisher of Crossroads Community Church, in Goshen, Indiana was discussing the subject with me over the last couple of months. (Crossroads Community Church is the one I am Pastor Emeritus and Tim Fisher is now Lead Pastor after transitioning out over 3 years ago because of lung issues). Pastor Tim is an enthusiastic advocate for coming BOTH Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I am proud of his Pastoral leadership and direction to “wear your family pajamas if you want and get a family picture in your pj’s around the Christmas tree in the foyer!” As provocative as it is I want to give my Pastoral Leader friends a couple (or three) reasons why to have Church when Christmas Day lands on Sunday:
- It is another opportunity! There are some people who only go to Church on Easter and sometimes Christmas. I know..I know…I know…(“We are having services on Christmas Eve and our Christmas Eve Services have become bigger than Easter”)–is the common answer to my challenge. YET–there are those who really don’t go to Church–EVER–who might come on a Christmas Day Morning if it were on a Sunday. I know the crowd may be down–may be WAY DOWN–but you still might win one more for the Lord by capturing Christmas Day when it lands on a Sunday.
- Don’t let your family be more important than God! Yes…I just went there, and for good reason. The culture we live in has driven us to worshiping family more than worshiping God. The decision Pastoral Leaders make to cancel Church if Christmas Day falls on Sunday is often driven by the Pastor’s own family pressure to do so. YIKES! (Did I really just print that?) Often we forget that Sunday Morning Worship is about US WORSHIPING THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, not–God accommodating me. When we cancel our regular Church Service times because of cultural dictates of family desires, we are getting things out of spiritual perspective. When we start to do so: What’s next?
- Show understanding, yet be visionary! DON’T BE JUDGEMENTAL OF PEOPLE who can’t/don’t come. Don’t be discouraged by a lower attendance. (Although, at times, I was the only Church open and actually gained new people through my resolve to have Church). Make it clear to people that you understand their situations. In many cases if people push their families to come when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, it could be the opposite of a Christian testimonial to their family. No one wants that kind negative feeling toward the Church. Be positive, give vision and direction, provide positive leadership, and PRESENT A SHORT (45 MINUTE) AND POWERFUL CHRISTMAS SERVICE ON SUNDAY, CHRISTMAS DAY, 2016!