By Bob Stevenson
This Sunday, Village Baptist Church will celebrate the third week of Advent. One of our families will light the third candle out of four, and our corporate anticipation will deepen. We will strain forward a bit more for that day when we rejoice that the long-expected One has come. And the expectation is especially sweet this year because Christmas falls on a Sunday.
But Sunday Christmases bring dilemmas: Will there be church on Sunday? Will we go to church on Sunday? These are fair questions, as Christmas is a special day, steeped in family traditions, and we’re not all that accustomed to spending time at church on Christmas Day.
But, for good reasons, Village will be gathering together, and you should join your fellow saints. Here are four reasons why:
1. Christmas Day Is the Climax of a Long Season of Expectation
We don’t celebrate Advent because it’s just “what you do” this time of year; we celebrate it because we find it important to remember and rejoice. Rhythms are good for a church. Next to the Lord’s Supper, celebrations of our Lord’s coming (Christmas), cross work and resurrection (Good Friday and Easter), and the giving of His Spirit (Pentecost) are some of the most important rhythms we have. They keep us regularly rooted in awe and adoration of our God.
Advent is especially interesting in that it is mainly about longing. We are reminded that Jesus is the long-expected Savior. And we get, each year, to experience the satisfaction of that longing in its culmination: Christmas morning.
So what would it mean, having joined together to affirm this mutual longing for four weeks, to skip out on the day it all points to? It’s a bit like eagerly following the Cubs through their winning season, only to find something more interesting to do during Game 7 of the World Series.
So of course we gather on Christmas morning! It is the culmination of a season of expectation.
2. Rhythms and Objects of Worship
We have chosen, along with bajillions of Christians throughout the world, to gather corporately every Sunday to proclaim and adore God through Christ. It is a worthy rhythm. It is a needed rhythm. Because we are both a forgetful people, and our God is better than we could dream. It is a precious thing to be able to join with one voice in fervently and authentically worshiping the God Who called His people out of darkness.
That said, it is useful for us to question our motives for breaking this rhythm. Why are we choosing to not make time for this gift? What moves us to skip out? What more important matter have we stumbled upon?
Now. I recognize that, as a pastor, this is a risky thing to suggest. How many pastors have badgered their congregations in order to boost attendance? Manipulation and guilt are terrible reasons to gather for worship.
But it’s not what I’m doing. The point I’m trying to make is simple: you should trek to church not because it’s the “thing to do” but because your brothers and sisters are there worshiping the God you love.
Don’t pull the legalism lever on this point. This isn’t about law. It’s about love. The plain and simple truth is that we make time for the things we love.
So the question then becomes: what are we saying about what we love if we choose to stay home this Christmas?
This isn’t about law. It’s about love. The plain and simple truth is that we make time for the things we love.
3. Our Children Are Watching
Another important reason grows out of the last one, specifically for parents. Your children will be (already are) infatuated with the gifts coming on Christmas morning. And, let’s be honest, there’s nothing more sweet than watching our children burst with delight in the face of our generosity. And this is good, because it teaches them that they serve a God Who gives generously.
But when we choose to stay home to focus on wrapped gifts over gathering with God’s people to celebrate His greatest Gift, what’s the subtext? Our children watch us. If we would teach them to treasure Jesus, then let’s do just that by carving out time on Christmas morning to behold the Son with joy.
4. Christmas Is Best Celebrated with Those You Love
“Well, well,” you may say, “I can love Jesus at home.” You’re absolutely right. But what about your family? Many of God’s people will no doubt choose to stay home on Christmas out of a desire to spend time with those they love. But that’s not the family I have in mind.
Christian, your loved ones ought not be limited to your blood-relatives. If you are a Christian, you have blood-bought brothers and sisters who share in the name of the Triune God (Matt. 28:19) with you. You are adopted into a family that has love as its essential outward mark (John 13:35).
Why wouldn’t you take hold of this opportunity to rejoice in the coming of Love Himself with those who have tasted His love?
So we will be gathering together this Christmas morning, and I hope you will too. And I expect it will be sweet. Not because the service, music, or liturgy will be amazing, but because the Savior Who has come, is.