– By John Crotts, Faith Bible Church
About every seven years Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.
Growing up, I think most church-going kids sought to persuade their parents that their family ought to take the Sunday off from church and engage in the usual Christmas revelry. The kids may even tolerate a few minutes of reading the Christmas story from Luke 2, but certainly not the amount of time away from toys that it would take to attend church.
What is wrong with this picture?
Deep in our hearts, we know that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and that church is a good place to be for that kind of thing. But, Christmas has also become a whole lot of other things – not all bad, for sure. We love the music, movies, foods, family times and, of course, the presents too. It is just so hard to keep the main thing the main thing.
The fact that God the Son took upon himself human flesh in addition to his full deity really is amazing. The fact that he allowed himself to be conceived in the virgin Mary’s womb is amazing. The fact that God orchestrated a census tax to happen to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the baby to be born with the animals to fulfill ancient prophesy is amazing.
The fact that the wise men came from Iran or Iraq following the star up to two years later to worship him and give him the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh is amazing. The fact that God gave Joseph a warning dream to escape Bethlehem to Egypt to keep Jesus alive is amazing.
All of the amazing parts of Christmas are only the first part of Jesus’ amazingly perfect life, filled with messages of truth and mighty miracles. Jesus’ righteous life qualified him to die, not for his own sins – of which there were none, but for the sins of others. He offers his righteousness as a gift to any who will repent from their sins and trust him.
That means you, by the way. His Christmas gift is still available!
On the third day, God amazingly raised Jesus from the dead.
Christmas is so amazing, that it is right to set time aside and make the day special. It is right to get together with family and friends for gift giving and special foods and music. It is right to have some time away from the normal activities to do things related to Christmas.
But, as you think about it, isn’t church the best place to be on this amazing occasion?
The gathering of God’s people is where we celebrate our amazing God week by week. We sing his praises. We pray to him together. We hear from him as his Word is read and proclaimed. We celebrate together for added encouragement to us and those around us. We encourage one another to carry on for the Lord.
In addition to those blessings, the church has godly men who are set apart as spiritual leaders to watch over our souls. The church has baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is the place for our best Christian service among the church family and as the church family to our community. The church gatherings are like a little colony of heaven on earth.
When you think of it like that, where would you rather be than church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? The church is great all year, but oh how sweet it is to gather on such an amazing occasion as the celebration of the coming of the Christ child.
Certainly, we aren’t legalists about having to have all of the regular meetings. For example, our church isn’t having Sunday school or an evening meeting on Christmas Day. But, at 10:30, we will be gathered and singing for joy about the birth of Jesus, anticipating God revealing himself to us even more as we hear God’s Word together.
What if the kids really want to play with their toys in their pajamas rather than go to church? As parents we are given the responsibility to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). This responsibility includes teaching our children about the Lord, which includes the true meaning of Christmas. Reading Luke 2 with your family is a wonderful thing to do at Christmastime.
Another part of our responsibility as Christian parents is giving our kids an example to follow. Maybe the most memorable thing your children will remember this Christmas is your willingness to overcome their objections and bring them to church. Every parent knows there are many times that we have to do what is best for our kids instead of giving in to their desires.
Your kids are also watching your example. It is one thing to say that Christmas is really about baby Jesus, but if you are happy enough to skip church on Christmas, they will get a mixed message. When your example differs from your words, which one proves most sticky?
What if I have unbelieving family members in town? I think you should bring them to church.
First, Christmas is a time of year that many unchurched people visit churches. But, second, if you are trying to send the message that Jesus Christ is the most important part of your life – even more than family, bringing them to church communicates that powerfully. If they absolutely don’t want to come along, that is okay. Certainly, take the responsibility to be gracious and not make any snooty comments.
Just do the right thing yourself. Your absence for a couple of hours won’t spoil your time together, and will possibly be used of God to silently spur your family members to consider their priorities.
Christmas is amazing. I hope you have a Merry Christmas this year. And I hope you enjoy celebrating Christmas side-by-side with your church family. The church is the very best place to be at Christmas.