Well, it’s happened again for the second time in my pastoral vocation. Christmas is falling on a Sunday, and the discussions on the merits of still gathering as God’s people that morning are occurring across all media platforms — blogs, magazines, podcasts, and more.
We spent a great deal of time talking about this as a ministry and pastoral staff. We discussed service times, length, sermon content, songs, prayers, and even decorations. But never once did I question that we would gather, just how. In case you were wondering, since Christmas Eve and Christmas fall on a Saturday and Sunday, we decided that each of those services would be only about 45 minutes, with about 25 of that being dedicated to the preaching of God’s Word.
So, why are we still gathering?
Allow me to cheat (since he beat me to the punch) and point to a great piece written by Kevin DeYoung answering the question, in a form of a plea to pastors to still gather on Christmas. He supplies five reasons why, of which these are my favorites:
It’s Christmas for crying out loud! It’s the day we celebrate the incarnation, the birth of the Messiah, the entrance into our world of the second Person of Trinity. Don’t we want to sing? Don’t we want to celebrate? Don’t we want to preach and praise and pray?
It’s Sunday for crying out louder! I don’t have a problem with Advent and Christmas. In fact, I love this time of year. I’m not a huge church calendar guy, but I’m not bothered by focusing on the incarnation once every twelve months, especially when the world around us may, by God’s kindness, be tuned in to some of the same spiritual realities at the same time. But I’m enough of a Puritan to think that December 25 is Sunday before it’s Christmas. It’s the Lord’s Day. It’s a resurrection morning. It’s the day on which Christians have gathered for 2,000 years to sing the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible, and see the Bible in the sacraments. It’s the day of the week given for rest and worship. Why would we cancel church on Sunday just because that Sunday is extra-special?
In case you were wondering, here are his other three reasons:
- Most people will come back.
- Visitors will be looking for a place to worship.
- Family is a gift, not a god.
And if you are a brother pastor reading this, and had already cancelled the gathering on Christmas, or you are a church member at such a church where that has happened, here is DeYoung’s final plea:
Maybe you’ve already printed the Advent schedule. Maybe the plans are already set. But it’s not too late to change your mind. Will your church’s ministry crumble without church one Sunday? I doubt it. But might it say something good and healthy about your convictions and priorities if you gather for corporate worship on December 25 just like you do every other Sunday? Something to think about.
(You can find DeYoung's full article here.)
You’ve probably never considered the book of Deuteronomy as one long funeral sermon, given by a man who knew he would die, to a people aware of his impending death. That’s exactly what we reflected on this last Sunday.
This last week we made our way through the book of Numbers. We learned how this book, filled with some pretty famous Sunday School type of stories, is also shot-through with the sad themes of unbelief and rebellion. It is shocking how a people who experienced so many displays of God’s faithfulness could still be ungrateful and unsatisfied with his provision and timing. Which ironically makes it so relevant for our study, for we all struggle with being satisfied with the circumstances of our lives.
It is the backdrop of Leviticus — with its thousands of priests and millions of sacrifices — that causes the beauty of the work of Jesus — the one priest, and the once for all sacrifice — to shine all the more brilliantly.
There are a number of major themes that weave their way through the whole story of the Bible: covenant, kingdom, and temple, just to name a few. This last Sunday we looked at the theme of God’s presence in each of the sections of the story that we have covered thus far (Genesis 1-11, Genesis 12-50, and Exodus 1-18), and then how this idea of God’s presence comes into a bit of a sharper focus in Exodus 19-40.
I think it is probably safe to say that there are two great peaks in the mountain range of God’s rescue and restoration of the earth. What the cross-resurrection event is to the New Testament, the exodus is to the Old Testament. In each case, the great redemptive salvation act (exodus/cross) produces the covenant community of God’s people (Israel/church) who are called to serve God and his universal mission.
Genesis 12-50: I Will Bless You
It is hard to look at any one text in the Bible and say that it is more important than any other text of the Bible. Since the whole Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit as God’s Words, it is all equally valid and useful for growth in the grace and knowledge of our King, Jesus (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:18). At the same time, there are those passages that are particularly vital and important to knowing what God is up to in his rescue and restoration plan for the world.
The Whole Story: Genesis One Through Eleven
This last Sunday, January 7th, we kicked off our new sermon series, The Whole Story. As Genesis is the first book of the Bible, we began there, by covering chapters one through eleven...