Church on Christmas Morning?!

It’s happening again. This year, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.

I looked it up and discovered that the cycle takes twenty-eight years in total to complete. Due to leap years, at the beginning of the cycle, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, then again in eleven years, then in six years, then in five years, and then in six years again.

This year we come to the end of that twenty-eight-year cycle. This means that it will be another eleven years before Christmas falls on a Sunday again, in the year 2033.

Eleven years is a long time. If the Lord tarries, in eleven years, some of us will no longer be around for Christmas, but will be with Christ, which is, as Scripture says, “far better” (Phil. 1:23).

In eleven years, some of our children will be teenagers, our teenagers will be adults, and some of us adults will be senior citizens. In fact, if I live another eleven years, I will be eligible for the 55-plus Silver Menu at Salisbury House. (This does not fill me with joyful anticipation.)

Whenever Christmas falls on a Sunday, someone inevitably asks, “Are we actually going to have church on Christmas morning?” And my answer is always, “Yes.” As far as I know, when Christmas falls on a Sunday, Rowandale has always planned to have church, even if a snowstorm or some other cataclysmic event prevented us from carrying that plan out.

I confess, the thought of coming to church on Christmas morning does not burden me or bore me or perplex me in the least. Instead, I’m excited about it. Why? Here are three reasons:

1) It’s an opportunity to prioritize Scripture over tradition

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas traditions. But nowhere in the Bible are we told to gather around a tree in our pajamas and exchange gifts. We are, however, exhorted to gather to encourage one another in the faith (Heb. 10:25). When our human traditions get too big for their britches, it’s good to shrink them down to proper size, and prioritize what really matters. (By the way, if your kids come to church in pajamas on Christmas, I’m okay with that.)

2) It’s an opportunity to remember God’s greatest gift

When kids ask, “Why are we going to church on Christmas morning?” Parents can answer, “It’s because of God’s gift.” Then, in the car on the way, they can further explain that it’s because God gave us his Son (John 3:16) that we give gifts to each other, and that going to church on Christmas morning helps us not to forget the greatest gift of all.

3) It’s an opportunity to show that worshipping the Lord Jesus is more important than celebrating the baby Jesus

It’s right to honour Jesus’s birth. As the Apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This is no ordinary birthday. This is God entering the world as a human being–one of the most staggeringly wonderful events in human history!

Nevertheless, Jesus never instructed us to remember his birth. He did tell us to remember his death (Luke 22:19). When we gather, we don’t do so to worship the baby Jesus. We gather to worship the grown up, crucified and risen, ascended, glorified, and soon to return Lord Jesus.

His cradle is important, but let’s not lose sight of his cross, his crown, and his kingdom that is to come. Gathering to worship on Christmas Day reminds us of these realities.

Am I sure my family and I will be at church on Christmas morning? Nope. Life is full of uncertainties. As the proverb says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Pr. 27:1).

But, as far as I’m concerned, if the Lord wills, we will be there, ready to sing and celebrate God’s greatest gift to us. I hope you will join us too, because, after all, it will be another eleven years before we have the chance to go to church on Christmas morning again.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker