Why We Christmas Differently
Since our first Christmas together in 2011 we have not met over the Christmas holiday, some years we took three weeks off and some years we took two weeks off, depending on the calendar. Typically, our last gathering of the year has been our evening Christmas party and then we’ve seen each other again the first Sunday of the year.
I am not opposed to meeting through the Christmas holidays, it has just worked out that way because most of us usually were off doing other things like visiting family.
However there is one little hang-up I have that has prevented me from getting excited about scheduling any type of Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service commemorating the first Advent of our Savior, and let me explain that…
In my Catholic youth, Christmas was always a very spiritual time, a religious season, and a very reflective part of my faith. Catholicism puts a great deal of emphasis on Christmas as a holy day of obligatory church attendance. I adhered to that and made a great deal of effort to internalize the activity of the mass and its religious liturgy.
In my Protestant adult years Christmas has remained a very reflective part of my faith, but not religiously. As my perspective on faith changed with my conversion to a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, I have become resistant to things that remind me too much of my religious past.
So as a Protestant pastor I have not been one to advocate Christmas as a reason for church attendance. The idea of Protestant churches holding Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services commemorating the first Advent of our Savior has always struck me as being too, well, Catholic.
In my thinking the real celebration of Christ’s first Advent is commemorated every time a sinner turns to Jesus for redemption and the forgiveness of their sins. Besides, the Bible does place an obvious emphasis on commemorating His next Advent not His last Advent. (Luke 22:14-22; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
I am not opposed to Protestant churches that do hold Christmas services and I am not opposed to possibility of CrossHope Chapel holding a Christmas service.
I have always felt that having a Christmas Eve or Holiday Season candlelight service as a way to express memoriam for our deceased loved ones is very appropriate. We have done this in years past at our Christmas party, but it totally slipped my mind this year while I was nursing my knee injury. Maybe the solution for us is to get back on track with a candlelight memoriam at our 2019 Christmas Party.
I don’t want to generalize an accusation against all Protestant churches as being Catholic because of their Christmas services, I don’t actually believe that there is anything wrong theologically with holding a Christmas service.
I believe Protestant churches should recognize Christmas, decorate their sanctuary and buildings, say Merry Christmas as often as we can, but it just cuts me as odd when they make it a day of church attendance – like a Catholic mass.
Now I know that my pastor friends would stop me there and point out that I am criticizing an outreach opportunity to attract new members. Well, that may be their motive but good luck in trying to keep that circus wheel spinning. What we win people with is what we win people to, so have fun winning them back to your next program, and the next program after that, and the next program after that. If that’s the purpose of their church, then I say go with it because you’ve likely perfected the program hamster-wheel.
I suspect that the rush toward Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services commemorating the first Advent of our Savior has more to do about not loosing market share – meaning trying to reach the potentially unchurched in the community who are likely to attend another church if they can’t been wooed to their own church.
The pastors Facebook group I belong to has been arguing about this very topic. Apparently we are not the only church to take Sunday’s off at the end of the year.
Some pastors are arguing that their people need rest. Some pastors are arguing against it as encouraging people to “forsaking gathering together.” Some pastors are arguing they don’t want to miss any evangelism opportunities.
Finally in the conversation some pastors starting chiming in, Why are we criticizing one another about ministry practices? or What’s wrong with us pastors being led by God to do things differently?
If a Protestant church wants to act Catholic, what’s that to me?