I recently read this post by Ed Stetzer along with other articles on the same subject several weeks back.
I must humbly say that I am both truly sad and disappointed about this 6%. Our lives are not our own, our time is not our own, our money is not our own, The Lord’s Day is obviously not our own and our holidays are not our own. Whose are they? They are all The Lord’s — “From Him and through Him and to Him” — and to be given back to Him and by extension to His people.
Imagine, if you will, a time when morning Easter Baskets become such a festive family tradition that they involve drawn out ceremonial unwrappings such that the church might consider having Easter Eve services as opposed to Sunday service because of the family traditions that might otherwise be trespassed upon. Hard to imagine. Having worked in a toy store many, many years ago I can assure you that such an elaborate Eastermas is completely within the realm of plausibility. I’m guessing a lot of churches would say, “Yeah, but Jesus rose on a Sunday so we’d keep it anyway for that reason. He wasn’t necessarily born on a Sunday. He wasn’t even really born on Dec. 25th so it’s okay to cancel corporate worship if we are at home celebrating his birth through family tradition.” ((eeeee)) Wrong. Christmas is just as much a celebration of Easter as Easter is because we celebrate a baby who was born to die, battle death and rise victoriously again in glory! Not to mention that every Sunday is an Easter celebration… it’s the reason the Sabbath moved to Sunday and became known as The Lord’s Day. So we should consider that canceling corporate worship on Christmas Sunday is exactly the same thing as canceling it any other Sunday, including Easter Sunday.
When we primarily see corporate worship as a blessing and one that should never, ever be taken for granted or passed over for family traditions, when we see it as something we GET to do rather than a burden, then we will truly understand what Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The spiritual rest for our souls and the joy of communion in Christ that embodies the Christian Sabbath should not, indeed cannot, be topped by any family tradition or dispersal of the church (ie. stay at home in your PJs and read the Christmas story and perhaps sing a song or two and pray before opening your gifts as is likely done in many Christian homes on Christmas days that do not fall on Sunday anyway). The spiritual rest signified each Sunday in corporate worship and highlighted in a focus on the incarnation at Christmas is unequivocally best pictured in the coming together of the saints for the celebration of worship. When the church gives way to family and cultural tradition, no matter how it is coated, it is a declaration that corporate worship is less a joyful celebration that we GET to participate in precisely because of the incarnation and more of a duty to be carried out.
C.S. Lewis said this,
“It is extraordinary how inconvenient to your family it becomes for you to get up early to go to Church. It doesn’t matter so much if you get up early for anything else, but if you get up early to go to Church it’s very selfish of you and you upset the house. If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament, and you can’t do it without going to Church.”
This “inconvenience” apparently seems double on a holiday replete with family traditions even though worship can surely take place at any time on a Sunday, thereby mitigating any “inconvenience” that corporate worship might produce. Our family this year made plans to celebrate family traditions the day before Christmas precisely so that we could enjoy corporate worship on the Lord’s Day and we fully intend to do just that because corporate worship is a blessing, a gift and a privilege that no family holiday tradition can trump. Perhaps the fact that we call worship celebrations “services” lends to the pervasive idea that this is a duty or a work that we do FOR the Lord rather than the reception of a gift FROM Him.
Sunday — including Christmas Sunday — is made for man, not man for Christmas Sunday.
This is my admonishment. I know I need daily admonishing in my own life day to day. As much as I hate it at the moment I am ultimately thankful for those times that someone holds up the mirror for me to see the reality of the situation.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns. – Col 3:16