Church on Christmas

It has been newsworthy the past couple of weeks that many churches have cancelled church this Sunday in honor of Christmas. The attention has focused on mega-churches that have decided to call off worship on Sunday. These are evangelical churches that have thousands of people in worship. Generally they have sanctuaries that resemble large concert halls with a worship service that features professional musicians and high-tech presentations on large video screens and state-of-the-art sound systems. I was confused as to why they were canceling church on Christmas Sunday so I did a little research and found that the motivation stems from a concern from their staff. At least this is how Jon Weece, of Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, one of the megachurch pastors at the center of the controversy, has put it. He responded in his sermon this past week that they are canceling church so that staff and volunteers can be home with their families. Noting that it takes up to 90 staff and 700 volunteers to hold worship each Sunday he said, “You chose to value families. People over policy. I’ve watched too many ministers in my life sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry, and ego and pride …” (I wonder what the Catholic church with their big cathedrals would say about this?)

Weece also noted that the date for Christmas is arbitrary. In his sermon he said, “Christmas began as a pagan holiday to the Roman gods, and if we were to really celebrate the historical birth of Jesus, it would either be in early January or mid-April.” I’m afraid this defense does beg the question as to why evangelical Christians are so upset about keeping Christ in Christmas if it is only a date that was set to coincide with a pagan holiday. But, this is off today’s point.

The point is that this reveals one of the realities of size. The larger the church, the more corporate it becomes. We all have to operate as a business, to some degree. There are bills to pay and policies to follow. The larger the institution, the more demanding the bills and the policies. I do commend the mega-churches for their concern for their staff. It is important for people to be able to spend the holidays with their families.

This is another reason that I cherish a church such as ours. It only takes a couple of us to open the doors on Sunday morning. A few months ago I paused for a moment to consider the need for church on Christmas morning. It took but an instant to resolve the question. We hold worship each Sunday so as to connect with God and with each other. It doesn’t have to be a big show. We open our doors so that those people who have a need to connect in this place will not be denied their opportunity. So we will follow our tradition of church each Sunday, regardless of the holiday.

I understand that for most of our members their Sunday worship this week will happen at home with family members gathered around a Christmas tree. That is just fine. I hope they experience the miracle of Christmas peace in the exchange of their gifts. Some of us will be here in our familiar sanctuary, worshipping with our church family. Wherever we may be, I hope we all pause for a moment to pray for each other.

We, at CCH, have a lot going on this weekend. Saturday night there will be two services to celebrate Christmas Eve. The Christmas pageant is at 7:30 PM. This pageant, written and directed by Peter Lakes, tells the story of the birth of Jesus through a drama enacted by members of our Pilgrim Fellowship. The younger children of the church join in as angels and shepherds. All the children will be invited to sing with the children’s choir during the pageant. If you have a little shepherd or angel at home take some time to rehearse “The First Noel†and “Away In A Manger†with them. At 11:30 PM there is a candlelight communion service in the sanctuary.

We will take a break for our staff at the church by closing the church office until January 3, 2006. If you have a pastoral need please call my home phone, 261-5344. I won’t be writing an update next week, so also a reminder that we will also have church on New Year’s Day.

I wish you a very merry Christmas.

See you in church,

mark

CALENDAR ANNOUNCEMENTS
Monday, December 26 Prayer & Meditation Circle at 7:30 PM
Monday, January 2 HIHI Lunch Making in FH. 7:00 – 8:30 PM
Tuesday, January 3 Church Council Meeting at 8:00 PM
Thursday, January 5 Choir Rehearsal at 7:30 PM
Monday, January 9 Prayer & Meditation Circle at 7:30 PM
Board of Trustees Meeting at 8:00 PM
Diaconate Meeting at 8:00 PM
Tuesday, January 10 Women’s Discussion Group, 7:00 PM at Nancy Bartow’s home, 623 7th Avenue, East Northport. Please call Nancy at 757-5263, if you plan to attend.
Friday, January 13 Bandfest at 7:00 PM

The Church office will be closed from December 26 – January 2. Call Pastor Mark at 261-5344 for pastoral needs.

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