There is some controversy circulating this year as to whether or not churches should gather together for worship Christmas Day, which happens to fall on a Sunday. Some churches are meeting, others are not. How should the church think about this issue? Lucky for you, in this podcast, I have the correct answer.
But, before we get into the controversy about the church gathering together for worship on Christmas Sunday this year, I want to explore some of the controversial miracles of Jesus as a sort of overarching backdrop for this topic.
Jesus’s Controversial Holiday Practice
Yes, you heard me right. Believe it or not, the healing miracles Jesus sometimes performed were controversial, got Him in trouble, and ultimately was a contributing factor in why He was ultimately arrested and killed.
Which sounds bizarre when you say such a thing out loud.
But if you study the gospels, you’ll find out that Jesus would sometimes heal someone on a sabbath day. This was seen as wildly controversial, because the Jewish sabbath day was a day of rest in which you were supposed to cease from all your labors. You were forbidden from doing anything that could remotely be construed as work. There was a limited number of steps you were allowed to take in a day, you couldn’t cook anything, and even moving a chair across a room could be considered a sin.
Violating the sabbath was a big deal, it was a capital offense, and could result in you being killed as punishment for failing to keep the sabbath day holy, as prescribed in the Ten Commandments given through Moses.
So when Jesus healed people on a sabbath day, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’s day got a bit upset at him. They told him healing others was considered work, and He should do his healing on the other 6 days of the week, because the sabbath was a day of rest, set aside for God, and not a day to do any work.
Jesus was astonished at the blindness the religious leaders of his day had regarding their understanding of the sabbath. He said they got it all backwards. Sabbath, Jesus taught, was created for man, not man for the sabbath.
That is, the religious tradition God gave the Israelites was for their own good. It was a day that was supposed to liberate them, not a day in which they should be shackled. It was a day God gave them for life, and there was nothing more life giving than performing miracles on a sabbath day.
But, as people hell bent on strict adherence to religious traditions and customs, the leaders of Jesus’s day didn’t see things that way. The sabbath was an end unto itself. Any benefits to the day were secondary considerations to them.
Christmas Is For Us
So, why do I share this story as we head into Christmas? Because I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that there’s been a bit of controversy online and in some churches about whether or not churches should gather together for worship this Sunday, because this Sunday happens to fall on Christmas Day.
Some churches will be open, some will not. Both have their reasons, good and bad, for not being open this Sunday. And I personally support the decision of all churches in this regard. Let them do as they see best for their own congregations.
There’s nothing in the Bible that requires Christians to celebrate Christmas, nor is there anything in the Bible that even requires us to “go to church,” every Sunday. All of these things are perfectly good practices. But they aren’t essential to Christianity or the life of the church. These aren’t traditions required of us anywhere in Scripture, and were traditions that arose long after the apostles had died.
Nevertheless, here we are, with a Christianity that celebrates Christmas as a holiday, and frequently meets on Sunday mornings.
So should we do both together this year? Some say yes, it’s our religious tradition to do so. The church is open every Sunday, and should be especially open on Christmas Day of all days. Others say no, because Christmas is ultimately a day for families to spend time together, and that such can also be unfair to the families of people who are on staff at a church, who already frequently sacrificing their families lives for the church.
Which answer is correct here? How should the church handle this situation? Which argument is best? Well, Biblically speaking, both responses are perfectly reasonable. Whether or not the church gathers for worship on this Christmas Sunday, such is a decision they are free to make on their own, without the need to apologize for it.
Christian Liberty For Holy-Day Observations
I believe we all have liberty in Christ to be flexible regarding these things. As Paul says in Romans 14, we aren’t supposed to pass judgment on each other over such things. Some people have faith they can eat all things, others not. Some people regard some days as holy, and others regard all days as the same. Paul says to each their own in regard to such things, just make sure whatever you do that you do your own thing as unto the Lord, and give thanks for whatever you do, without passing judgment on others over it.
These are matters of Christian liberty. Do whatever you feel is best, and be happy and thankful over it without casting judgement on others for what they do.
Yet, we get exactly the opposite. We have people taking sides, drawing lines in the sand, and taking shots at one another. And some have gone so far as to use whether or not you gather together for worship as an acid test as to whether you are really a Christian or really going to a church that is spiritually healthy. People are encouraging people to leave their churches over whether or not they gather together on Christmas Sunday.
If this is you, congratulations, you are of the same shackled religion of the Jewish leaders that told Jesus it was a sin for Him to heal on a sabbath day! You’ve failed to learn what it means when Jesus said that sabbath was created for man instead of man for the sabbath. Instead, you are interested in shackling someone to your crippled practices and backwards way of looking at the things of God. Your religion isn’t a life giving thing, instead it perpetuates death wherever it exists. It would rather men getting their healing on 6 other days if the week.
And what’s particularly gruesome about such, is at least the Jewish leaders had a reasonable Biblical argument. God commanded through Moses the strict observation of the sabbath day, under penalty of death. Whereas we are under no such command regarding sabbath observation, let alone how to handle Christmas Day celebrations that fall on Sunday.
Yet, as Jesus pointed out, the religious leaders of his day failed to understand what Moses taught. And so it is today. We simply don’t understand. We’d rather have conformity to our own man made traditions and sense of spirituality, instead of walking in the actual ways of Jesus, and the teachings of his apostles.
Conclusion About Christmas Sunday Observation
So, this Christmas Sunday, whether or not your church is gathering for worship, shutting everything down, or something in between, all I can say is, good for you. I hope you have a fantastic time just the same, and that God blesses your celebrations, however you choose to celebrate.
But whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord, don’t pass judgment on those who don’t adhere to the same practice, and let your religious traditions be a life giving thing that celebrates Jesus making men whole.