I once heard a presentation from a preacher that suggested that Christians should move their celebration of the Christmas holiday to July. After all, the celebration of Jesus' birth isn't directly tied to December 25 (Jesus was not born on Christmas day). His reasoning for this was mostly because it has become to easy to get lost in cultural aspects of the Christmas season and to miss a meaningful celebration of the birth of Christ. If Christmas were in July, we wouldn't be so wrapped up in gift giving (no pun intended), family gatherings, parties, cookies, and everything else that comes with the cultural celebration of Christmas. If Christmas were in July, he reasoned, we could focus entirely on the purpose of the holiday - celebrating the incarnation - and save the cultural celebration for December.
While I don't think I'd like to move the celebration of Christmas to July, I think this preacher was on to something: all too frequently we put other things in front of Jesus when we remember his birth each year. It's easy for us to focus on "cultural Christmas" rather than the true purpose of the holiday.
No church on Christmas day?
This reality is made apparent every six years or so when Christmas day falls on a Sunday. Many churches cancel their Sunday worship services so their members can focus their time and energies on family gatherings and all of the things that come with it, such as gifts, meals, parties, and so on. After all, it's difficult to open the presents, eat a Christmas meal, and spend enough time reminiscing with family and friends and go to church all on the same day. And so, in order for people to "celebrate" Christmas, many church's Sunday services are frequently canceled when they fall on Christmas day.
This trend is, in my estimation, a bad one, and one against which we should push back. Allow me to offer you three reasons why you should go to church this Christmas Sunday.
3 reasons to go to church on Christmas day
1. It's Sunday! The main reason you should to to church this Christmas Sunday is because that's the usual day we gather to worship. Sunday is the Lord's day, and we gather on that day to celebrate, remember, and worship him. This tradition has existed since the resurrection, 2000 years ago. Far be it from us to break it for the sake of having more time to open presents. Even if you're out of town visiting family, find a way to get to church and continue on the tradition of worshipping on the Lord's day, in the Lord's house, with the Lord's people.
2. Going to church on Christmas day is counter-cultural. As described above, our culture has mostly appropriated Christmas as a secular holiday. Taking time to put the cultural celebration of Christmas on the back burner and focus on its primary object (Jesus) is a way for you to buck the trend and speak into our materialistic culture and remind it that there is a reason for this season, and it's not gifts, family, or anything other than Jesus. Our culture wants us to focus on all of the physical aspects of Christmas. Instead, be counter-cultural and focus on Jesus by going to church.
3. Because Christmas is about Jesus, and that's it. Despite what our culture says or what you may think, Christmas is only about Jesus. Sure, we gather together with friends and family at this time of year, and we exchange gifts and eat Christmas dinners, but none of those things are what Christmas is all about. Those things are all good, and when understood correctly they point us to Jesus, but they are not the focus of this holiday. Christmas is only and all about Jesus. If we are tempted to put Jesus on pause so we have enough time for the cultural aspects of Christmas, we've simply missed the boat. Don't let the culture tempt you from taking your focus from where it should be.
So whether you're at home or you've gone over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house, get to church on Christmas day! I hope to see you there, this Sunday.