Where do you want to be?
Every 6 years (because of leap year) Christmas falls on a Sunday and it just so happens that this year is it. Each time this happens, churches across the nation ask, “Should we have a church service on Christmas Day?” And it’s a fair question. If you have a church larger than 100 people, a lot of work goes into having the church open and that many people coming through. The question isn’t, should we meet together to worship Jesus, it’s does it make logistical sense to have a structured service on this particular day? I used to feel strongly that there was only one right answer to this question, however, I’m beginning to change my mind a little. Here are a few reasons why:
Recently I was exhorted by an older, very well-meaning person that I “better be in church on Sunday.” The idea (if poorly delivered) was to encourage me to have high priorities for God over those of a simple holiday. Little did he know that as a musician who plays at churches, I’m “required” to be at church, not just Christmas day, but Christmas Eve AND Christmas Eve Eve (the 23rd) as part of the services.
I’ll be perfectly honest, that old independent part of me rose up with a little indignation. I’ve never had rebellious tendencies, but I do possess a strong independent streak and I’ve long seen the benefits of self-governance. As an older child/teen my parents never had to give me a bedtime because I consistently put myself to bed when I needed to. The suggestion that I should have a set bedtime was offensive to me, not because I didn’t want to go to sleep, but because I didn’t need someone telling what I should be doing, I was capable of seeing the wisdom of it myself. (I’m not saying this was the right reaction, just saying it’s what happened.)
I kind of feel the same about church on Christmas… and maybe church in general. Several years ago someone said to me, “I don’t go to church as often as I want to.” To which I thought (and may have actually said, I don’t remember) “On the contrary, you go to church exactly as often as you want to.” With the notable exception of those who are physically incapable of getting to church or those who are required to work on Sundays, there’s nothing keeping someone from going to church if that’s where they want to be, nothing but themselves.
Which leads me to ask, “If that’s your perspective, why do you want to go at all?” What does going to church mean to you? What’s the benefit? Is a church service a good deed that you check off your list once a week… or month… or year? Does it make you feel good to do? Does it give you a sense of pleasing God? Do you come to be with people? Do you come to worship God? Do you come to receive from God? Do you come because you have to?
Right here, in the middle of this conversation, I want to be very clear: As a Christian, we are part of the Body of Christ and as part of the body we need to be together to function correctly. A severed arm is no good detached from the body. An eye is useless out of its socket. I’m NOT calling for an abandonment of gathering together as a Church body. I AM questioning some common, but dangerous motives.
My question is this, where do you want to be this Sunday?
Here’s the thing, going to church is great, and I encourage it. But going to church out of shame or guilt doesn’t gain you much. If you’re going to spend the whole service stressed about being there and worried that the food might not get done in time for your guests who are on their way, go home and cook! If waking up early on Christmas, getting dressed and out of the house annoys you, don’t do it! If you’re going to spend the rest of the day (or year), complaining about how inconvenient it was, don’t go!
Going to church doesn’t make God love you any more than he already does. Stay home doesn’t make him love you less. You’re not fooling God by going with a bad attitude, he knows your thoughts before you think them. Going to church is important, but there are times that it isn’t the right thing to do!
Sometimes you can best display the love of Christ by skipping church and spending time with your family or those closest to you… or maybe even some stranger who would otherwise be alone. You don’t need me or anyone but God telling you where to be tomorrow.
I love the verses in Jeremiah 31:33-34 which talk about the new covenant (the one that we are part of), it says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.”
There is no longer a list of do’s and don’ts to follow. We no longer follow a law written in stone, but the law that is written on our hearts. We no longer require a priest to translate God for us, the Spirit of God himself lives in us and teaches us the way to go.
So where do you want to be tomorrow? What is the Spirit of God saying to you right now? Is His voice lovingly calling you to meet with Him and your church family tomorrow morning? Is he encouraging you to take an hour or two out of what can be a very hectic and stressful time to focus on Him, worship Him and receive from Him? If so, I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Or, is His voice calling you to live His love outside of the 4 walls we call “church”. Is He encouraging you to be light and peace in a dark and chaotic world tomorrow? Is He calling you to create an atmosphere of love and joy for your family and friends to walk into, where they can feel the power of the Spirit of God in your home and be blessed? I don’t think you’ll regret this either.
Maybe I’ll see you at church, maybe I won’t. Either way, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, a day of peace, filled with the Spirit of God and the joy that He brings!