The year 2016 offers a unique opportunity in that Christmas falls on a Sunday. Years ago, a non-denominational megachurch publicly decided to cancel its worship services when Christmas fell on a Sunday, citing families' needs to spend time together that day and the church's inability to get enough volunteers together to make services work.
This move, perhaps unintentionally, showed a great misunderstanding of Christmas. You see, it not only takes Christ out of Christmas, it takes that "mas" out of Christmas. What do I mean?
The very word Christmas is an Old English compound word for "Christ's Mass," the Christian annual worship festival commemorating the birth of Christ. In other words, Christmas is primarily a "mass" (not exclusively in Anglican or Catholic sense) worship service to celebrate and commemorate Christ's birth during the season of Advent. Having a worship service, therefore, gets at the very heart of Christmas.
Christians frequently (and rightly) decry the commercialization of Christmas. From department stores to holiday movies, you could go almost the entire Christmas season without thinking about Jesus.
In the famous "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special, Charlie Brown says, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" And Linus, by quoting the Gospel of Luke, explains the Christmas story. It's a beautiful scene that quotes a beautiful passage of Scripture.
Wouldn't it be a shame, though, if people could only hear this biblical passage recited on TV watching Charlie Brown? What if, instead, every community and town would have a Christmas-Day church service in which people can hear this Gospel passage recited by children in the local church congregation, amid the singing of carols, hymns, and a Gospel-centered sermon?
If your church is paring back for Christmas, I would encourage the opposite. Use Christmas falling on a Sunday as a chance to ramp up what you offer. Do this for the glory of Christ and as a means to reach out to the lost.
According to Thom Rainer of LifeWay Christian Resources, Christmas is the single most likely time a year when un-churched people will come to church. Churches can harness Christmas falling on a Sunday as a great opportunity to reach out to neighbors, inviting them to church.
There will be plenty of time for people to open Christmas presents, eat sugar cookies, drink egg nog and watch Christmas movies. Invite people—church members and non-church members alike—to spend the first fruits of the Christmas day hours, gathered with God's people, worshipping the Savior of the World.
In this special way, we truly can keep Christ and keep the "mas" in Christmas!