Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Canceling church on Christmas makes no sense

Many churches see a surge in attendance around Christmas, but this year the holiday falls on a Sunday, leading some congregations to cancel their worship services.

Some pastors doubt parishioners will take time to attend a church service on Christmas Day. Others want to allow their staff and volunteers to spend time with their families.

The purpose of a Sunday service is for Christians to gather and worship Christ. It is ironic, then, that churches are scrapping services on CHRIST-mas. It seems as unthinkable as shelving an Easter service.

Churches have long voiced concerns about the growing trend to remove Christ from the celebration of Christmas. Retail stores have replaced “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.” Nativity scenes in public places draw controversy and court challenges. The commercialization of Christmas has led to excessive consumer spending, landing many in debt and overshadowing the religious aspects of the holiday. Some argue that Christians should not even observe the Christmas holiday because many of the season’s traditions have pagan origins. Further, historians do not believe Jesus was born on Dec. 25.

Be that as it may, Christmas is the day the Christian church has chosen to mark the birth of Christ. The day is significant because the faith hinges on the incarnation of Jesus. If the Messiah had not been born, he could not have died and there would be no promise of eternal life. The Bible says shepherds tending their flocks stopped their labor and made their way to the manger to see the babe. Wise men traveled a far distance to see the child. This was a momentous occasion. The promised Messiah had come. No distance was too great, no task too important.

Although many parishioners may not attend services on Christmas, canceling worship would perpetuate the idea that the spiritual meaning of Christmas is secondary. It makes no sense to defend the religious roots of the holiday if we are so entangled in the secular ones. There’s nothing wrong with exchanging gifts or spending time with family, but these activities should not draw Christians away from manger. If Jesus is the reason for the season, then taking time to remember his birth should never be an inconvenience, no matter what day it falls.

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