6 reasons not to cancel church on Christmas

It’s another one of those years.

In case it hasn’t happened to you yet, Christmas is on Sunday this year and many churches are already considering cancelling.

The first time I heard of a church canceling a Sunday, ANY Sunday, for any reason other than a serious emergency was in early December 2005. This girl I was dating at the time told me that her family’s church, a gargantuan mega-church in suburban Atlanta (yes, that’s the one you’re probably already thinking of.) was canceling their Christmas Day services.

Naturally, we broke up on Christmas Eve.

If your church is considering canceling, please reconsider for the following reasons, and any others you can think of.

1. It’s Sunday.

First of all, it’s Sunday. This is the day when the church gathers for worship. It’s not just Christmas, it’s a bit like Easter.

2. Christmas is about Jesus, not the family.

It’s true. I said it. All this stuff about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us? Yeah, it really happened, and it changes everything. That’s what this whole Christmas thing is about.
For me personally, I think that’s more than enough reason to take about an hour off to celebrate the sentimental and momentous reasons of the season and bring your happy butts to church. But in case you aren’t quite convinced, read on.

3. Cancellation of Christmas services turns Christmas into a civil celebration instead of a holy day.

I love a lot about the time culturally known as the “Christmas season“. The weather, going to the mall at night, partying, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation (“Where’s the Tylenol?”). But, as fun and exciting as these things can be, the discipline of the liturgical year helps us to realize that these things are only peripheral. Our lives are divided into semesters, work schedules, electricity bills, tax deadlines. Intentionally choosing a gospel-centered organizational system helps us maintain our primary allegiance to Christ and His kingdom. Do you want to keep Christ at Christmas? Have a church.

4. Even if it’s an uncrowded Sunday, people will come.

I understand. Sunday worship on Christmas Day will be a low attendance activity. It shouldn’t be, but it is. But people will show up anyway. Some will come by themselves. Some will be bringing their families and out-of-town guests. Is worship only worth it if we have a lot of butts on the seats? No. People will have the chance to hear the Word preached and (hopefully) receive Communion. Tell them that God the Creator entered the world. Nothing else matters anymore.

5. The suggestion that church cancellation is a “pro-family” idea doesn’t make sense.

Is the church a drain on families in general? A Sunday when virtually everyone is off work for a day, and often longer? I hope our official position would be different; that gathered worship is vitally important and that the gifts God has to offer will enable us to grow, refresh and strengthen us as individuals and as families. Don’t blame anyone for not coming to your church, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that giving families an extra hour of toys and calories will empower them more than God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament.

6. If your volunteers are so overworked that you have to give them all a Sunday off, you may need to cut back on your ministries in other areas for the rest of the year.

Christmas Sunday shouldn’t be the first thing to get the axe. Do you remember the purpose of the church? The Word properly preached and the sacraments properly administered. Cancel all your other regular Sunday opportunities. Cancel Sunday school. Cancel breakfast. Cancel yoga. Cancel life groups. But please don’t cancel the service.

So, church, for love, keep Christ at Christmas. And keep the “mass” on Christmas, while you’re at it. Do not cancel the church.


Jerry B. Hatch