When Christmas Falls on Sunday Conundrum

No Worship

Every so many years, Christmas falls on a Sunday. Most people think: How convenient since Christmas and Easter are the two defining events within Christianity and most Christian services are on Sunday. Right?!?

Not this year. Apparently not in years past either. Last year, many churches cancelled their Sunday services which were on December 26. I guess they figured that between Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day services, no one would come on the 26th. This year, Christmas is on Sunday and there are churches that will not be holding services.

I can just imagine the discussions in those church staff meetings! Since Christmas and Easter are the highest attended services, most churches go all out, often spending most of their worship budget on special music, musicians, special decor, to attract and impress. A lot is also at stake when you also consider that the increased giving during those services also helps many churches meet their annual budgets. It’s stressful. There are unspoken expectations between church staff and parishioners. And the competition with other churches is fierce. Needless to say, those meetings aren’t always the church staff’s finest hour.

So I’ve been thinking about the Christmas on a Sunday conundrum. I was in the ministry for LOTS of years, so there were several times when Christmas fell on Sunday. We usually held three to five services on Christmas Eve. The crowds did not attend Christmas day services in any of the churches I served. So when Christmas was on Sunday, and we had just had back-to-back-over-the-top services the evening before, we usually had a very casual, poorly attended service which was also really fun to do.

After all, that’s what ministers do. It’s part of the job. It’s like a surgeon saying he won’t operate or the trash collector not driving the garbage truck.

If the church were strictly a business, I can understand running the financial numbers, calculating the return on investment, doing market research, and an impact study if church was cancelled for a Sunday. But the church isn’t strictly a business. It’s a community. In which case, it’s business as usual. Most churches meet Sundays.

The real question isn’t about whether or not to have services on Sunday when Christmas falls on a Sunday. The real question is: what is the purpose of the church service?

3 Replies to “When Christmas Falls on Sunday Conundrum”

  1. Interesting that  many churches close on SUNDAYS when Christmas falls on Saturday or Sunday.  That’s like closing the hospital on holidays.  Just like people are physically ill whether it’s a holiday or not, people may be spiritually ill on holidays, and closing the doors to a church can be like closing the hospital doors to the sick.  Holidays are often a hard time for many people.  Some find it stressful to be with family on the holidays. I like the way you likened the church to a “community” and signing on for the ministry is a”” job within that community.   When doctors take on their role as healers, they do it with the expectation that there will be times that they are working while others are off celebrating with family and friends.  People expect them to be available when they are ill – holiday or not.  When people sign up for the ministry it is important that they  understand the commitment they have undertaken to be there for the spiritual health of individuals on the usual day of worship which in Christian religions is Sunday.  The churches open doors and warm, loving environment may be all someone has for the holidays………..I saw that at your church in San Jose there were individuals that came in to get warm and get a hot cup of coffee, or a hat or mittens off the Christmas tree on Sundays around the holidays.  However, they were there most Sundays whether it was cold outside and Christmas time, because it was a place of belonging for them.  The church was their community.

  2. Unfortunately, due to the leap year day in 2016, Christmas will skip from a Friday in 2015 to a SUNDAY in 2016!!
    Many churches and congregations will not like this, however in the leap year 2028, Christmas will skip from Saturday (in 2027) to Monday (in 2028) which will keep many ministers happy and stop argumentative discussions in those staff meetings.

    Upcoming years with Christmas falling on Sunday (to alert ministers):




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