A Plea To See Christ Reign, Even Over Christmas
Written by Pastor Cameron Lloyd on December 19, 2022.
Christmas is on a Sunday! Are you tired of hearing that yet? I remember about a year ago discussing the 2022 Christmas plans as a staff. “Should we have a Christmas Day service? Of course, we should. But how many services? One or two? Would people come? Why would people come?”
To ask these questions seemed odd, but they were legitimate. Families are torn the weekend of Christmas. Should they attend yet another worship service or spend one day a year upholding family traditions and making Christmas memories that would last a lifetime? It seems almost ridiculous to choose.
A Journey to Christmas Past
One of my earliest Christmas memories was of an old Advent calendar at my grandmother’s house. Although, I did not know it was an Advent calendar. To me, it was simply the Candy Calendar. It was wooden, worn, and had twenty-five little doors for each day of the advent season. The best part of the calendar was that behind each door was a single Hershey kiss. I remember visiting her house almost every Sunday in December, running to that calendar, and opening every door I had missed leading up to that day, accumulating a small handful of chocolate.
A few years later, I remember attending my first Christmas Day worship service. I was young and completely shocked that I had to give up time on my new electricity scooter. It has a royal blue body complete with fireball deciles. It was the coolest thing I could imagine receiving. Going to church was not. But I wonder how formative it was for me. I look back on that memory, knowing my parents were trying to tell me Christ, and worship of Him, is central to Christmas.
Fast forward a decade and a half. I’m sitting five rows back from the front stage at a Christmas eve service. I’m listening to the words of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, and they floor me. Two things hit me almost simultaneously. This first is how I could have made it to college and have never heard this hymn before. I grew up in the church, and yet this was probably my first Christmas Eve service. The second thing was an overwhelming sense of sadness. I reflected on my childhood Christmases, recalling all the presents, decorations, movies, and, yes, the candy calendar. To be sure, Christmas was always full of happiness, but those celebrations were void of the “great joy” the Angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Luke 2. The realization that my Christmas celebrations were Christ-less was overwhelming. I broke down and began to weep. I mean, like full shoulder-shaking sobs.
One of the final lines of the hymn lingered as a prayer on my lips, “By Thine own eternal Spirit. rule in all our hearts alone.” This was not true for me, but I wanted it to be. Eventually, I pulled myself together and embraced this newfound perspective on Christmas.
The Christmas Bait & Switch
A year after college, I recall asking my grandmother how long she had been putting Hershey kisses in her Advent Calendar. She told me it was right around when her children began to have children. In fact, before the candy, tiny Scripture cards were the “sweet treat” of choice that led up to Christmas day. Parents, it is easy to replace the sweetness of the good news of Christmas.
To me, that seems like social commentary. Our culture has done a bait-and-switch with a focus on Christmas. The eternal joy that comes from seeing and savoring our eternal God incarnate has been replaced with something sweet, yes, but disappointingly momentary.
Some say, “what’s the big deal? Christmas celebrations are not Biblical anyways. Why does it matter so much that we attend church on Christmas?” Those statements are valid. Christmas Day celebrations with the church are neither required nor biblical. Puritans opposed such celebrations because they believed anything extrabiblical was dangerous for the church.
Worshiping Christ Is Important
My motivation to encourage the church, especially families, to attend worship services on Christmas is not because I have a personal vendetta against trees, stockings, and a portly bearded man with gifts. Instead, I want people to see the reality of our Savior coming to His people as a cause for true celebration. True worship.
Don’t get me wrong, Christmas on a Sunday brings many inconveniences to our holiday traditions. But stop for a moment and realize that this Christmas might be one of the most important Christmas we have celebrated in recent years. It allows us to reflect on how Christ-centered our celebrations have been and reorient our traditions to truly worship Christ for his first coming as we anticipate his second coming.
Hear me; I do not want to make attending every gathering the church offers a dogmatic requirement for the people of God. I do not think people violate Hebrews 10:25, which encourages us not to forsake the gathering of God’s people. But we do have an opportunity to make Christ more central to our traditions. To our lives even. However, it is the habit of some to choose the world over Christ. Let it not be so this year. Christmas is on a Sunday, yes, but will it draw you into Christ more this year than ever before?