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?