“WHAT!? You’re not having services on Christmas Sunday? Pastor, are you out of your mind? What kind of church doesn’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday?”
Our church, along with church leaders everywhere, wrestled with the dilemma of what to do about services on December 25th.
Having been at my church for over 17 years, this is not my first “Christmas lands on a Sunday” quandary. In fact, it’s my third! Christmas also fell on a Sunday in 2011, and in 2005. Although expected attendance is a major concern, it certainly is not the only one or even the most important reason we decided not to have services on 12/25.
WHY WE ARE NOT HAVING SERVICES ON DECEMBER 25th
1. We’re not canceling Christmas services; we’re actually expanding them!
In 2011 and 2005, we had just 1 worship service celebrating the birth of Jesus. This year we will have 10 celebration services spread out over 4 days in 2 adult venues!
- 12/21 @ 7pm,
- 12/22 @ 7pm,
- 12/23 @ 7pm,
- 12/24 @ 3pm and 5pm.
2 . We are giving back to our volunteers.
We know from our data that only about 30% of our average weekend attendance will come to a December 25th service. Because of this most churches that normally run multiple services will end up running only one service that Sunday. Knowing that it takes volunteers to run the weekend programming, what that really means is that the core will be there to service the fortunate few.
We want to acknowledge the incredible sacrifice of our volunteers who serve so selflessly every single week by giving them a break to spend time with their family on this special day. That’s our Christmas present to them!
3. Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th.
I hope this will not completely shatter your faith, but no one actually knows the exact date that Jesus was born. For further discussion on this topic see https://gotquestions.org/December-25.html In fact, the earliest Christians never even celebrated the birth of Jesus. They celebrated His resurrection not His birth.
The real reason we don’t know the date is because it simply isn’t what was important about His coming.
The significance of Jesus’ birth is not the day He came, but the way He came.
Yes, some will get upset that we chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on several days other than the 25th, yet Paul addressed Christians who get caught up in making a big deal about certain days in his letter to the Romans:
“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance…some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable…So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Romans 14:1–10, NLT)
4. We are acknowledging our target.
Oak Ridge is very clear about our target. Our mission is to bring hope and healing to hearts and homes. That means, we work hard to understand the people we are reaching and then adjust our programs around their needs not our wants. Our average attendee, we call the Oaks family, comes from a broken home where the holidays bring more headaches than happiness. I’ve written about the average unchurched family in a previous blog post.
These families are dealing with the harsh realities and painful consequences of divorce and blended homes. Their lives are not the picture perfect nuclear family and Christmas for them often means kids being shuffled to 2, 3, or even 4 different households in a single day! Reducing their anxiety of trying to figure how to fit one more expected event into their overloaded calendar is an acknowledgement that we get it. That’s the whole reason we expanded the number of service options leading up to Christmas. Options allow these frazzled families to be able to celebrate their faith while also juggling the complexities of their family. Remember, our mission is to bring hope and healing, not stress and guilt.
5. We will offer an online Christmas message on December 25th.
For those families in our church who are able to huddle their loved ones together on Christmas morning for a brief time of spiritual reflection, we will be offering a special online message. My wife, Lisa will read the Christmas story (your kids will LOVE it) and I’ll share a very brief devotional entitled, TGIF – It’s Christmas!
Finally, for those families who are just itching to attend a full service in a church building on December 25th we encourage you to attend one of the many fantastic sister churches who are holding regular services that day. Remember, we are not in competition with other churches, we are in collaboration. Our competition is the world and there are plenty of lost people to go around.
So invite every person you know to one of our Christmas Candlelight services to celebrate the birth of Jesus and then enjoy Christmas with your family and we’ll see you on New Year’s day!