Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, creating quite a conundrum for churches across America.
Should houses of worship still hold regular morning services when the vast majority of the country is planning to travel — or partake in traditional celebrations such as morning gift-giving at their homes?
While some churches have decided to cancel or move service times around this year, one pastor has unveiled a passionate plea to his fellow preachers, encouraging them to still hold their typical Sunday gatherings.
“Dear brother pastor, I hope it’s not too late to make you reconsider your decision to cancel church on Christmas. I know that December is crazy busy—for you and for everyone else,” Pastor Kevin DeYoung of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, wrote for the Gospel Coalition. I know you probably have Christmas Eve services, maybe even one that bumps up against midnight. I know that families like to gather Christmas morning to open presents.”
A plea to pastors: Don't cancel church on Christmas. https://t.co/11136TUhn0
— Kevin DeYoung (@RevKevDeYoung) December 1, 2016
While DeYoung said he knows many parishioners will be traveling, that it will be hard to get volunteers for the worship team and children’s church — and that canceling services one morning of the year isn’t the end of the world, he encouraged his fellow faith leaders not to give into that temptation.
“Don’t do it. Don’t cancel all your services on Christmas. Scale back on the nursery perhaps. Take the week off from Sunday school. Make things closer to an hour than to an hour and a half. Skip the life groups or even the second service for a day,” DeYoung continued. “But don’t close the church up on Christmas.”
The pastor then proceeded to offer up a list of reasons why he feels it’s a bad idea to close church doors on Christmas. First, he said he believes it’s worth gathering as many people on Christmas as possible. Even if half the congregation showed up, DeYoung said it would be worth it.
He also raised another interesting point: People visiting town who don’t typically attend church might be looking for a place to go, adding that this could, perhaps, bring someone into a sanctuary to hear a sermon who might only attend church one or two times a year.
And then he delivered the most compelling and a convicting point about the Christmas traditions and festivities many Americans have come to revere.
“I love, love, love waking up on Christmas, doing the Advent wreath with the kids, having a big brunch, and opening presents with the family. Yes, it will be hectic to get everyone out of the house for church (thank you to my wife!). Yes, it will mean a delay in all the normal festivities,” he continued. “But maybe the normal festivities should not be deemed more important than the Festival itself.”
In the end, DeYoung said Christmas day is the perfect time to sing about and celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Even if pastors and churches have already informed their congregations that Christmas services aren’t happening, he said it isn’t too late to reverse course — and encouraged his fellow preachers to think about the positive message it would send.
Read DeYoung’s perspective for yourself here.
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