Thursday, December 22, 2011
Cancelling Worship Because it's Christmas?
That's what it is.
Churches closing for the day on Christmas Sunday.
Okay, maybe more "oxy" than "moronic." Yet it's still counter-intuitive.
Sure, a lot of Christians today don't go to church when Christmas falls on Monday through Saturday. But maybe we should. When I was growing up and my family spent our Christmases in Brooklyn, we always went to Golgotha Finnish Congregational Church on 44th Street every Christmas night. There was something about spending at least a short amount of time at church on that holy day that seemed appropriate.
Even if, every year, the service was rather inappropriately capped off by the minister's wife, Mrs. Salo, donning a Santa outfit and masquerading as Joulupukki down the center aisle of the sanctuary, handing out plastic fishnet stockings filled with hard candy to all us kids.
But we won't get into the Santa thing right now. Her heart was in the right place! Besides, it was less questionable because Joulupukki (pronounced "YOL-eh-bu-kee) is just a kind-hearted Finnish mortal, not an omniscient American deity.
Meanwhile... fast forward back to today, and consider the practice of evangelical churches hardly ever opening for corporate worship services when Christmas Day happens during the week. Just because we don't go to church every Christmas Day now, you'd at least think believers in the day's Namesake would want to go to church and worship Him on what we call His birthday - on the same day we ordinarily go to church.
You'd "think" that would be the case, anyway, but in America, you'd likely be wrong. Local media here in north Texas are reporting that over 60 relatively prominent Protestant churches are cancelling corporate worship services this Sunday.
Not that you're a heretic for cancelling church on a Sunday. Or that 60 churches not meeting this Sunday is a huge percentage of the total number of churches here in this religion-saturated part of the country.
Or that it's blasphemous to deny the sanctity of December 25.
There's nothing intrinsically sacred about the date. It's almost a fact that Christ wasn't born on December 25. History didn't record the date of His birth, and experts tell us it was more likely sometime in the spring than at the beginning of winter. European tradition and the Roman Catholic Church selected December 25 more out of cultural contrivance than authentic historicity. So December 25 is incidental, not inerrant.
But shouldn't what this date represents for Christians be symbolic and worthy of respect? The incarnation of the one, holy, true God of the universe. God with us - Emmanuel. Christ, the Lord. The most utterly fantastic miracle ever to take place on our planet.
And we're too busy unwrapping presents under conifers to bother ourselves by going to church? Because, really: that's the only reason churches are cancelling Christmas.
Haven't we gotten the cart before the horse? I use that imagery even though I hesitate at comparing the incarnation of our Savior to a horse. But isn't that what churches are doing? They're not even bothering to acknowledge the "reason for the season," like the trite saying goes. It's too inconvenient. It's not practical to expect enough Christian families to stifle their materialistic urges and assemble together for corporate worship. We can't force people to attend by putting them on a guilt trip if they don't. Maybe if we have Christmas Eve services instead, our congregants who are upset about us not having church the next day will feel better.
Plus, with all those kids being deprived of their raids under the Christmas tree, knowing that every other kid in the world is being showered with toys at that very moment (as if even that were true), the service would be a cacophonous mess with parents shushing their squirming kids, and agitating themselves for the preacher to wind things up before Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally arrive for Christmas lunch.
Yeah, there's too many logistics to overcome for families to put aside everything else and congregate for worship. Too many sacrifices to be made. After all, Christ came to give us freedom, not shackle us to church schedules. He wants us to be happy and enjoy our holidays free of church responsibilities.
Well, with that attitude, why not chuck corporate Sunday worship services out the window completely? If we can't set aside the presents for one day every seven years (like the Jewish practice of forgiving debts every seven years - go figure) and attend church just because it's Sunday, and we're Christians, who serve Christ, Who tradition says was born on this day... then what is our faith worth?
Probably not much more than a plastic fishnet bag in the shape of a sock filled with hard candy.