I really enjoyed John Grisham's book Skipping Christmas. It's a fun, light-hearted escape for a couple of hours that tells the story of Luther Crank and his attempts to skip Christmas one year. And it was made into a funny movie that came out last year called Christmas with The Krank's starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. The comedy in the movie dealt with Luther's futile battle to avoid Christmas.
This year the body of Christ has been given a wonderful gift in that the world's celebration of Christmas falls on a Sunday. For so many years we have been talking about the need to put Christ back in Christmas. This year the battle has reached a fever pitch with endless debates about "Xmas vs. Christmas, " and "Holiday Trees vs. Christmas Trees." And so, we have a wonderful gift this year, where Christmas falls on the Lord's Day. Christians across America have a terrific opportunity to not only worship our Lord together as a body on the day that ostensibly marks His birth, but also to make a statement in the eyes of a watching world. This is a statement that Christmas is a day of worship!
But alas, and alack, some of the largest and most influential
churches in our nation have decided to join Luther Crank in skipping
Christmas this year. Now to be sure they are not skipping Christmas in
the worldly sense. But they are skipping Christmas by cancelling their
Lord's Day worship services this Christmas. Ben Witherington seems to be the first one to break this story in the blogosphere. Here are some words of his that are on point:
Our culture does not need any encouragement to be more self-centered and narcissistic or to stay at home on Sunday. It is already that way. Christmas above all else should be a day when we come together as the body of Christ to worship and adore the Lord Jesus. Christmas should be the day above all days where we don't stay home and open all those things we bought for ourselves INSTEAD of going to church. Christmas should be the day when we forget about ourselves for a few hours and go and honor the birthday of the great King, our Savior.
What we are dealing with here are churches whose priorities are so askew that they somehow think it is more important for the church to serve the wants of the physical family than the other way around. This is a far cry from the pattern of the original disciples of Jesus who were seen leaving homes, relatives, jobs to come and follow Jesus. What kind of message does it send to our culture when churches close on one of its highest holy days? That it is o.k. to stay home and do one's own thing even on Jesus' birthday?
It is past time that these sorts of churches be called to account. It is time for them to realize that they have simply capitulated to the larger culture's agenda on issue after issue, in this case in supporting the worship of the idol called family in place of the worship of Jesus. The church does not exist to serve the world, but rather to save the world. The church does not exist to serve the physical family but rather to redeem it and make clear that if it is a Christian family it has a larger and more primary obligation to the family of faith and to its Lord. Christmas is one of two days in the year when we should especially make that clear to our culture and our country.
Shame on you mega-churches--- repent and believe the Gospel, starting with the birth stories of Jesus.
This gives me a good occasion to call your attention to an old favorite puritan sermon that I reference from time to time - Public Worship to Be Preferred Before Private, by David Clarkson. The corporate worship of the body of is to be preferred before private in general, and how much more on Christmas Day.
I'm not into instigating blog swarms, but this is one I could get behind. Tommy Hull at the Boars Head Tavern points out that over 1000 blogs have already weighed in on this at Google Blog Search and I am happy to add my name to that list.
For those who don't want to go to Google Blogsearch let me go ahead and list a few of the links to other blogs that are talking about this:
BrAd Boydston lists some of the churches which are boycotting the Lord's Day Worship this Christmas.
Think Christian points out that, in effect, these megachurches are treating Christmas as just another family holiday with no particular religious significance.
The Impish Antagonist points out the miixed messages this sends and why we need to worship together as a body this Christmas.
Greg Hazelrig took a poll that finds that 99% of respondents are astonished that a church would even think of not having corporate worship on Christmas Day.
Grattuitous Advice calls this a crime - Amen, preach it brother!
And there are many more. If you have an opinion on this, pro or con, I do encourage you to weigh in on your own blog and trackback here. And, if you don't have a blog of your own, feel free to comment your heart out here.