Should we cancel church on Christmas Day?

Photo by Gary Spears on

There’s been some debate, some of it heated about whether or not churches should be gathering this Sunday.  Particularly in the United States, there are a lot of churches that seem to have decided to hold services because Sunday clashes with Christmas Day. The argument has been that churches are in effect prioritising the holiday over The Lord’s Day.

So let me get a couple of things out of the way. First of all, our church will not be gathering at its normal venue for a worship service on Sunday.  This is not because we are prioritising family Christmas celebrations over church.  It’s simply that we hire our venue and there are a number of Sundays during the year when we cannot get in to use it this includes the next two. A lot of churches will find themselves in a similar position.  Before you rush to make judgements about a church’s Biblical obedience to gather, remember that some may not find it possible.

Secondly, I’m from a tradition which might find it baffling not to have a service on the 25th of December if possible. You see, I’m used to a short family service being a central part of Christmas Day celebrations.  This is after all a specifically Christian celebration.  Back in my childhood, this would have been one of the major events and best attended services in the church calendar.

However, not all Christians and churches do it the same. There is a long tradition in some countries and denominations of putting the focus onto a gathering leading up to midnight on Christmas Eve.  Others have introduced family or “crib” services on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  My personal preference is for something on Christmas morning -and given time I could articulate reasons why but I don’t think it’s something to hold tight to and that’s not really the case I’m focusing on making here.

Rather, my primary point here is that I’m with those who would like to see the Lord’s Day gathering take priority over other Christmas traditions. In other words, meet first because it is Sunday. My reasoning comes in two parts.

First, Scripture enjoins us to prioritise and not give up on or forsake the regular gathering of God’s people (Hebrews 10:25).  It matters, it’s important. It’s central and vital to the life of the church.

Second, I take the view that Sunday matters.  I believe that Scripture shows a pattern of the early church choosing to meet on the first day of the week in remembrance of the resurrection.  This in effect saw a shift of the Mosaic Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.  So, I believe there is something healthy about continuing that pattern. 

Third, yes, we do want to make it clear that Church and Christmas, the Gospel and the festival are not in competition.  It should be natural to be celebrating His day with His people.

As I said at the beginning, not every church will be able to do this. Ours cannot and that’s okay.  However,  as far as possible I’d encourage churches to meet this Sunday.

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