Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skipping Church to Celebrate... Jesus' Birth?

I don't know about you, but I enjoy Christmastime. The whole season. It's kind of hard not to, especially when your family has observed Christmas your entire life. This year, many churches and church-goers will be faced with a choice — something which, not too many years ago, would have been moot to most Christians. How will churches deal with the fact that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year?

 I can't decide whether to laugh or cry.

But some churches aren't treating this lightly. This is serious business for them. After all, they have to consider how best to use their staff and volunteer resources, as Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church, said back in 2005 when faced with this "dilemma."
"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said. (quoted from USA Today)
Huh? Come again? These types of arguments are sad, but also sadly predictable. When churches decide that their celebration of Christmas can, and even ought, to preclude normally scheduled Sunday worship, it's clear that they have their priorities skewed. Not to mention the insinuation (in the above) quote, that the church's "target and mission" is reach the unchurched... What about ministering to the believers who attend?

It's not just a problem with churches though. The blame rests equally on the churchgoers who decide to forego Sunday worship in order to celebrate... Jesus' birth? I sense a glaring disconnect here.

Thinking about this prompted me to ask myself some questions:

1) What exactly am I celebrating here? Am I truly celebrating Christ and what He has done? Or has "the season" become an idol?

2) Do my actions line up? Am I more eager to give or to receive? What did Christ model for me?

3) How can I spread the light of the Gospel this time of year? Is it not a golden opportunity for us to share what Christ has done?

4) How often will I think about or give thanks for Christ's incarnation throughout the rest of the year? Is it possible that I've allowed the Christmas season to become the only time I consider Christ's birth?


The Macks said...

Benjamin, Victor Mack here; whereas I think perhaps it it true that we don't contemplate the incarnation of Christ all year, that is to say the actual time of His holy birth,one might submit that if not for God's providentially utilizing Christmas season we would not contemplated this part of Scripture as much as we do. To emphasize this reality this time each year is no trite thing at all. That is a response to question number 4. God is pleased by way of reminder to stimulate us each year to consider these things each year. This year I have been driven to consider this question: viz. " what child is this?" As Simeon made his comments about this little baby, what could his parents be thinking? What , this is the redeemer? What, this is the one through whom, by whom, and for whom all creation came into being? This is the One whom all things consist and all things are held together? And born as a male baby in a manger with no fan fare or highlights or inter net declarations. The ruler of the universe sitting in the arms of a woman of which will have her own heart pierced through.To me this is a most holy night indeed, and mysterious as well. As to the other 3 questions I agree . VWM

Benjamin Berkompas said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Victor.

I don't think we disagree; my fourth question is more of a caution than a rebuke (and many people may not struggle with it like I do).

I do believe that, just as we commemorate Christ's death regularly throughout the year in the Lord's Supper, so we ought also to remember His birth throughout the year. Surely the joy warranted by such a miracle as Christ's incarnation can't be condensed into a single holiday?! And yet, we do take this special time each year to remember and celebrate.

We should focus on contemplating the things you mentioned above: Christ, our exalted Lord, humbling himself and taking up human form, resting in the arms of Mary as a little baby, eventually to be despised and rejected by men – a mystery indeed.