Thanks to Brian for emailing me this article. If you haven’t read it, you’ve got to check it out: http://www.gainesville.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051207/WIRE/212070309&SearchID=73228861525415
I saw it in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday, and my aunt told me about it after seeing it in the Defiance paper. If you don’t have to read the entire article, basically it deals with the fact that many “mega” churches are closing their doors this Christmas season. Due to poor attendance the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, they have decided to just not have Christmas. In an email that Brian sent to me, he too picked up on the irony that just stuck me right in the face.
Perhaps it’s just me, but it sure seems like there is a whole lot more talk this year about “Christmas” versus “holiday” and taking the “Christ” out of Christmas and stuff like that [just to note a few examples I have been aware of: Washington has made a special point of referring to the national “Christmas” tree rather than the “hoilday” tree as it has been called for over forty years, an article in the Dispatch earlier this week noted that several major merchants (Target, Wal*Mart, J.C.Penney just to name a few) have made sure to market “holiday” shopping rather than Christmas doing their best to be inclusive]. You could no doubt add to them.
So here, in the midst of this Christmas pep rally, comes an article calling out the same conservative Christians for shutting the doors on Christmas morning. There are many things this brings to mind so let me just shoot from the hip (as if I do anything different other times):
1. It brings out the true nature of mega-churches. I don’t really see how a church that large can be the “church” as it is described in the New Testament. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think most leaders of those churches would agree with that fact. Their churches are all built around a small group ministry that keeps people involved and included. Sunday mornings kind of become a pep rally for the church. Perhaps, by cancelling Christmas morning services, they are illustrating the fact that their Sunday morning assemblies aren’t as important as their small group settings.
2. It highlights the individualism that is running rampant in the American church. The Church of the New Testament was rooted in community. There’s no I in church either . . . ha ha. America, however, is fundamentally individualistic. Teddy Roosevelt’s rugged indivudualism is still alive and well. Why would we want to forsake our Christmas morning routine for our church? There is perhaps a fine line there between devotion to the community and being legalistic.
3. It hightlights the commercialistic tendencies of American churches. What McChurch would you like to try out today? What do they have to offer me? That is a question I am afraid far too many Christians ask as they church shop. A commercially-built church, as many/most/all mega-churches are has to do what the rest of coorporate America does: shut it doors for the holidays. Perhaps closing for Easter, Memorial Day, and Labor Day are next? And what to do if July 4th is on a Sunday (see previous post 🙂
4. It is a product of the cultural sellout of Christianity to American culture. Where is the church different? Where are we set apart from our culture? I have mentioned this before: I love the subtitle of Ron Sider’s recent book The Scandal of the Evangelical Christianity: Why do Christians look like the rest of the world?
5. There is much for us to learn from the Old Testament Israelite festivals. As I have mentioned before, I come from a tradition (Churches of Christ) that are not partiers (after all, what kind of party doesn’t have dancing, drinking, or card playing?) The last thing we would do is party for God! But look at the Old Testament festivals! They abounded with job, partying, even drinking! That had a good old time . . . as a community! We are left to the comfort and coziness of our own homes, and lose the true meaning and message of fellowship.
All in all, I find this story disappointing and ironic. I am glad that we will be having our services Christmas morning. I look forward to awaking and celeabrating the birth of Christ with my church family as much as I look foward to celebrating Clark’s firstd Christmas.