So I read an article just a few moments ago outlining several reasons why church’s should still hold services the 25th of December this year. Christmas falls on a Sunday as it does every blue moon. (Not the astronomical event, the colloquial expression for “not that often”.)
The plea of the article struck me and got me thinking, “Am I capitulating on my principles by canceling service?” The line that really drew me in was, “Family is a gift, not a God.” It would continue, “I want my family to know that we rearrange our schedule for corporate worship; we don’t expect corporate worship to be rearranged for us.” That’s a seemingly valid argument. That seemed to turn the tide in my mind. So then I got to thinking about some points of my own—somewhat of a pros and cons list.
1. Christ never commanded the observance of His birth.
2. We shouldn’t forsake the gathering of ourselves together.
3. Sunday is “the Lord’s day” after all. (The article actually made that very argument.)
4. Here’s the big gun; Family is a gift not a god.
1. Paul spoke about feasts and festivals, that if someone wants to observe a feast or festival, let them. If not, don’t. But rather let each one do or not do to the glory of God. If we are celebrating the birth of the Lord with all the typical commercialized methods, then let us glorify God in that way. If you find all the tinsel and glitter, trees and wreaths to be a distraction from glorifying God, by all means, abstain.
2. Are we really “forsaking” the gathering or merely moving the timing of our meeting up about 18 hours for Christmas Eve service? Böhme says concerning the term “forsaking” in the Greek that to understand the expression properly we should see it as a “leaving to its fate the Christian church, sunk in poverty, peril, and distress, by the refusal of acts of assistance.” Bleek said it’s “the escape from the claims of the church to the cherishing and tending of its members, by the neglecting of the common religious assemblies. These commentators showcase that skipping a service is NOT what’s meant here. Rather, forsaking the assembly is a Heart issue of being a derelict member of the body. The early church would actually gather daily together for encouragement, teaching and worship. You came when you were available. Sunday’s were the big event for sure, but missing a Sunday was not considered “forsaking the church”.
3. Legalism would demand that we never change service times or days. If the Lord intends us to be sure to have the church doors open every single Sunday without fail, explain then how Jesus’ lessons on the Sabbath should be then interpreted for the Christian. Jesus made it very clear that the day there was an “actual law” written of concerning its observance, was made for man and not man for it. I’m no Sabbatarian but the idea of a weekly day for worship is very Jewish and Jesus already clarified that argument well.
4. I didn’t make the call to cancel services on Christmas because I wanted family more than Christ. This argument, although very abrupt and jarring, is chalked full of holes. Taking this argument to its logical end then you could say that a mother staying home with sick children is showing preference for her children over God. She’d rather take care of her children than worship Christ. But wouldn’t Paul say, and wouldn’t a Christian mother agree that anything we do can be and should be an act of worship? That mother saying I’m staying home with the kids to tend to their illness can have just as deep and rich a time of worship in her home than in the building where the church gathered that same day.
Choosing to spend Christmas morning with family in observance of a feast and festival is not idolizing family over Christ. It can be. But just because something can be used wrong doesn’t mean that it is used wrong. We as New Testament believers have freedom in Christ and are not bound by Old Testament laws concerning the feasts and festivals we are or are not permitted to enjoy. Rather, if one eats, let him eat to the Lord. If one abstains, let him abstain to the Lord. The hard reality is that the article I read built a straw man so as to tear it down. If a church feels convicted to have services on Christmas Sunday, do not sin against your consciences. But if my conscience is clear of the matter, then permit me to worship the Lord with that clear conscience. If, however, in any of this someone might stumble, far be it from me to hold fast to my position in the face of the one who would stumble over my liberty.
I made the call to “cancel” Sunday service on 12/25 after seeking to determine just that. I felt that freedom to cancel, but held off until I could get a feel from some members toward that idea. Having a good inclination, that’s when I made the call.
I will say this however, as a caveat, the argument that held the most water after close scrutiny was the argument of the visitor looking for a place to worship with other believers. To which, I would say that if by the providence of God a sheep of the Lord’s was looking for fellowship on 12/25, and our doors were shut, that would be a very sad thing. The likelihood of that, and wanting to meet at our church at the 9:30 am hour is extremely small in my estimation.
One last thing here. Although I’ve been using the term “cancel” service throughout this article, really all we’re doing is moving our Sunday worship service to Saturday night. Please, if you’re in town, come and worship with us 12/24, Saturday night at 5:30pm. It will be a quiet and reflective time of worshiping the Savior together.