I’ll address the whole “not having Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services” after giving you a few links to some great readings for your own Christmas celebrations with family and friends. These are some great selections to share and reflect on as part of your Christmas celebrations… especially if those you celebrate with are not followers of Jesus. Why, you ask? Because this may be the one time of the year, maybe even more so than Easter, that people are willing to listen to the story. I feel like so many people squander the opportunity to share Christ themselves by depending on their local church service and pastor to pull it off. When some random pastor at some random church shares the story, it’s just some random story that is easily dismissed and forgotten… but when YOU share something that matters to YOU, now this story is tied to the meaningful relationship YOU have with THEM. People! You have to stop thinking of evangelism as “the five step plan to salvation.” The Gospel is simple, but it’s also big… it’s the whole story… and the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, initiates the whole point of the big story.
So, for those of you that would like readings straight from Scripture, I’d say pick one or both of these classics…
I’m suggesting the Message version for it’s “easy to read” style… also because it’s different enough that people who’ve heard the story before will pay better attention.
Also, here’s a cool little link to a story about the writing of the world’s most popular Christmas song, Silent Night. While there are different version of the story and no one is entirely sure which one is the right one (if any), this is definitely my favorite because it reminds me of the way God likes to work in our lives… miraculously, but with subtlety that builds into an impact we could not have previously imagined… much like the humble birth of Jesus Christ.
Finally, I’d like to speak to the “unusual” decision we made to not have a Christmas Eve service nor a Christmas Day service. Myself and other leaders in our church have run into conversations with other pastors and church leaders (not from Pathmakers) who seem to run the spectrum between condescension all the way to astonishment that we’re not doing either service. Not that I care all that much… frankly, none of our leaders have shown concern about this decision… but for those who’ll read this someday, here’s the main reason why…
As much as I could get into the larger philosophical or practical ministry aspects of the question, the main reason was this… our facility guy. He’s a great dude, he’s been extra helpful and supportive of our church, and he gets paid to open, close, and supervise the school building where and when we meet. He’s “not the religious type.” We’ve invited him but he still hasn’t chosen to hang out with us during our services. He has a family. He doesn’t get a lot of time off. And when we told him we weren’t going to have services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, he said “Thank you.”
You see, I had a conversation a while back that really impacted me… a church facility caretaker told me about a time that the church the caretaker was working at did Christmas Eve services followed by Christmas Day services. The senior pastor informed the caretaker that he expected everything to be cleaned up and ready to go for services on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. The caretaker spent most of the morning and afternoon on Christmas Eve preparing the facility (this was a busy building with events all week long so the caretaker couldn’t prepare sooner). Then the caretaker spent the evening cleaning up after folks during the services. Then the caretaker spent several hours that night cleaning up the facility (alone) to prepare for the following morning. The caretaker got home after both kids were in bed. The caretaker then got up early the next morning before the kids woke up to go fulfill the morning opening duties, spent all morning at church, did the normal clean up after the services… and FINALLY got home around 1:30pm to celebrate Christmas festivities with the family. And was back to work the next day. The senior pastor, on the other hand, who required his caretaker to do all that work spent most of his Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with his own family… and took the rest of the week off.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT CARETAKER (and, I fear, many others in churches and schools around the world) WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ANYONE AT PATHMAKERS! ANYONE!
(Luke 11:46… Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”)
Merry Christmas to all… and to ALL a good night…!