Open for Christmas?

News Flash: Christmas is on December 25th! More specifically, however, Christmas is on a Sunday this year, which raised an interesting question for those of us in leadership at our church. Since we are having two services on Saturday night, Christmas Eve, should we have church on Christmas Day?

Now, before you shout your opinion, let me lay out a few thoughts from the perspective of someone who's life revolves around church activities and services.

Last year on Christmas Eve, the walls of our church nearly exploded. After 13 years of meeting in a high school, it was our first Christmas season in our new building. We naively planned for one Christmas Eve service at 7:00pm. Our auditorium seats 450 people--nearly 800 showed up.

We decided to host two services this year, and put a great emphasis on these services. We are advertising them well and doing everything we can to make them memorable for our congregation and our community. Two full services requires a great deal of work and an angelic host of volunteers. Between the musicians, nursery workers, ushers, sound crew, coffee bar staff, greeters, parking lot attendants, custodians, and yes, pastors, it's going to take over 100 people to run these two services.

Knowing the amount of work it would be, and knowing that many of our wonderful volunteers would be traveling, or hosting their families for celebrations Christmas morning, we wondered if it was wise, kind or necessary to hold another service only a few hours later. After all, we will have just celebrated the birth of Jesus and worshiped together. Many people give great amounts of time and energy to the church; wouldn't it be nice to simplify life a little and allow everyone to stay home Christmas morning? The staff and elders thought the answer was yes, so they decided to have no service on Christmas Day. Instead, we would encourage people to come on Christmas Eve, then worship at home with their families Christmas morning.

As the news broke, the response from the congregation was mixed. Some were relieved to know they didn't have to work in the nursery after being up all night wrapping gifts and assembling boxes of unmarked, miscellaneous parts into a deluxe foosball table that doubles as a blender. And it's hard to enjoy a church service while suppressing the fear that your Christmas ham is burning down the house. But others in our midst raised a principled concern. Isn't worshiping God the whole point of Christmas? How can we cancel church because it's Christmas? It was an interesting leadership dilemma. Here's a brief list of the pros and cons we considered or heard.

Pro No Service:

*Gives volunteers a break

*Provides opportunities to worship at home without guilt

*Is a nice gift to a busy and hardworking staff

*Are we going to ask someone to clean the church late Christmas Eve, after 800--1000 people have been here?

*The Sabbath starts at sundown anyway...

Pro Service:

*What if somebody shows up to find the doors locked?

*We should always have Sunday services, barring an emergency

*What if we become known as the "the church that wasn't open on Christmas Day?"

*It just doesn't sound right to cancel church because it's Christmas Day.

Paramount to our discussion was the conviction of our senior pastor, who, upon further consideration, began to feel that we should open our doors, even if it's for one shorter and lower-key worship service. So, after some discussion and prayer, we decided to host "Christmas Unplugged," one service at 11:00am in which we simply gather for some Christmas carols, a reading of the Christmas story, and a short message. There will be no nursery care, parking lot attendants, full band or any of those things. The morning will require very few volunteers, and the rest of the staff is not required to attend. Simple and beautiful, just like the first Christmas.

So what do YOU think? I'd love to hear your opinion.

Speaking of Christmas, perhaps this is a good time to ask:

What Would Jesus Do?

Would Jesus go to church on his birthday? In this case, it's not his choice. He's not even a day old. Having been up all night giving birth and hosting shepherds, it seems likely his mother will want to stay home.