Christmas, Congregants, Consistency and the Other 51 Sundays
Don’t worry— this is not another post about whether or not churches should cancel services on Christmas Day. Given that I’m writing this on December 28th, that horse has been thoroughly beaten to death by a large number of blog posts. That being said, I’ll show my cards briefly: I am convinced thoroughly that if at all possible (even with the simplest service of preaching, prayer, and singing), churches should meet every single Sunday, regardless of whether it falls on a cultural holiday or not. And perhaps you are convinced of this too. In fact, if you are convinced of this, then this post is for you, and my hope is that perhaps it may help you reflect on your own approach to corporate worship over this next year.
There’s no doubt that pastors/elders bear responsibility for making a church-wide decision to cancel the gathering of the saints for a cultural holiday. However, as a congregant, did you hold pastors/elders to a standard that you don’t hold yourself throughout the other 51 Sundays of the year?
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 2:1 that “in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”
As a congregant, have you “individually” canceled church by choosing not to go to services for personal reasons, such as being too tired, being too busy, making recreational plans that fall on a Sunday, sports events, family time, etc.? In other words, are you guilty of the very same thing that you perhaps have judged pastors or churches for doing?
Really, the question is this: are you as consistent in judging pastors who canceled church for Christmas as you are in judging yourself for individually canceling your church attendance for various personal reasons?
I suspect the answer for many would be “no.” Doctrinally, I suspect that part of the reason for this inconsistency is that many Christians have a weak or non-existent doctrine of the Lord’s Day or the Christian Sabbath. Biblical doctrine teaches that Sunday is a day that is set apart for the gathered worship of the Church according to the practices commanded and outlined in Scripture. In a way, if you as a congregant get indignant about churches canceling service on Christmas Sunday while you miss church for less significant reasons, then you might actually be elevating the man-made holiday of Christmas rather than the Lord’s Day.
It seems that to be totally consistent, you must either reject any idea of Sunday having particular significance for worship (which removes any real objection to canceling or rescheduling Sunday worship on Christmas), or you must hold to the understanding that Sunday is the day that Christians should meet to worship in the ways that Scripture instructs us to.
Ultimately, I suppose that my appeal has two aspects to it. First, develop a good and robust understanding of the Lord’s Day, of what, how, and when God would worship Him. Second, commit to that understanding as divinely commanded, because it is. God is clear that His people are to meet weekly and worship Him in particular ways, and nothing, not even Christmas or personal plans, should change that.
Daniel Ruben (MDiv, Midwestern Baptist) is a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Carson City, NV. He is husband to Shaelby and father of two.
Note: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors on this site.