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Published: Saturday, 12/10/2005

No church on Dec. 25 because it's Christmas?

BY ROSE RUSSELL

IT'S distressing that so-called "mega" churches are canceling services on Christmas Day just because it's on Sunday this year.

Now that your jaw has dropped, some mega churches won't have services New Year's Day either because it too falls on a Sunday. That's some way to begin the new year.

This country is teetering on the rim of a toilet and churches are canceling Sunday worship services because they fall on Christmas Day? Some want to give their staffs time off with their families. Better yet: tell the staffs to bring their families to church to worship the One for Whom Christmas is named.

The nation is plagued with all sorts of social problems, including disfunctional family life. If ever there was a time church ought to be open it's Dec. 25. The church doesn't need to give people a reason to stay home, too. The quest for materialism takes care of that.

Please, click on "cancel" if you're crafting an e-mail arguing to forgo Sunday services because churches don't generally open when Christmas is another day of the week. Indeed, Christians can worship any time, anywhere. But underscoring the reason for Sunday worship is that the resurrection was the first day of the week, Jesus first appeared to the women and then His disciples the first day of the week, Thomas declared Christ as God the Sunday following the resurrection, and the disciples also united in worship on the first day of the week.

It's enough when churches cancel services because weather is inclement and authorities say stay home. But apparently it's too inconvenient or costly for mega churches to have services on Dec. 25 because it's the Lord's Day. Even people who are not Christians or who don't go to church regularly or at all were in a tizzy this week about the development.

Next, somebody will want to cancel services on the Sundays that precede holidays that we celebrate on Mondays.

Among the eight churches not planning services on Sunday, Dec. 25 are Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas. The web site of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. near Atlanta says stay home on New Year's Day, too. There will be no church there that day either.

This doesn't say much for Christianity in the Bible belt. Some mainline churches think of mega churches as commercial operations with a bit of Jesus thrown in as it is.

That's the impression one gets upon learning why Willow Creek will close Christmas Day. Spokeswoman Cally Parkinson said that "If our target and mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?"

After all, Willow Creek says when Christmas was on Sunday in 1994, only a few people came to pray. So because only a few went then is reason enough to cancel services now?

First, every single time such churches open their doors, are only unchurched people in attendance? And why wouldn't the "unchurched" just want to be in service on Sunday, Christmas Day? Second, church is also where people go to worship God, hear from Him, and be with other believers.

Some mega churches that don't plan to turn on the lights this Christmas Day will have numerous services in the days before. Great, but that still doesn't excuse canceling worship on Christmas Day 2005. Some that usually have multiple services will combine them into one.

Let's deliver these churches a bulletin to remind them that Sunday is a work day for Christian pastors, ministers, and church workers and volunteers. Take another day off. Go to church Sunday, tend to people's needs, and offer spiritual guidance.

What if people who have not been to church make their way to a mega church only to find it empty Sunday, Dec. 25?

Imagine them scratching their heads in confusion, saying, "Hmmm. I thought the tomb was empty on Sunday morning. Not the church."

Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.

E-mail rrussell@theblade.com



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