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.)
I had a class on preaching once, many years ago, from a pastor and a professor. And here is what he argued was the key question the preacher must ask of every text of Scripture:
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