Amid all the hubbub about the “war on Christmas,” a much more disturbing story has largely escaped the public attention, or at least, the public debate. And that is the decision of a number of flagship mega-churches around the country to dispense with worship on Christmas Sunday.
Apparently, many of their members prefer spending Christmas morning at home with the family, so these churches decided not to buck the trend. And who is an ordinary pastor like myself to question such a call? After all, these churches are flashy, big, and successful. Clearly, they know what they’re doing.
Or do they? Yes, having worship on Christmas morning may be poor marketing. The crowds will be down, the stats will take a hit. But since when was Christmas about “us” anyway? Christmas is about honoring the Prince of Peace. And that is something the family of God does best, gathered for worship before a manger and a cross, not isolated families gathered at home ’round a Christmas tree.
In a culture astir about stores and presidents resorting to “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” it is ironic that this year, of all years, some of the most influential churches in America are canceling services on Christmas Day. Is that not the ultimate capitulation to a culture more enchanted with Santa Claus than Jesus?
As to the much ballyhooed “war on Christmas,” there are no doubt many civic officials, marketers, educators and others who have grown skittish about Christmas symbolism and language. The threat or fear of a lawsuit has led many to “dumb down” Christmas to the sort of lowest-common-denominator holiday that means absolutely nothing to anyone.
On the other hand, talk radio rhetoric to the contrary, we do not live in a theocracy where religion and government are one, as in Iran. No, we live in a democratic republic for which I thank God every day.
That means some acknowledgment of the growing religious pluralism in America is both good government and good manners. Besides, in a nation where over 90 percent of the citizens observe Christmas, it’s hard to believe Christmas is on the endangered species list.
It seems the more people forsake the family of faith–the church–to settle for do-it-yourself, home-brewed spirituality, the more they want the government and the culture to do the church’s job.
For those genuinely concerned about an embattled Christmas, here’s a novel idea: Show up for church on Christmas Day.
That is probably the most significant statement one can make about where one’s true Christmas priorities lie.
Bob Setzer, Jr. is pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Ga.