And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
—Acts 2:46-47 ESV
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
—Acts 3:1 ESV
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
—Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man….
—Acts 17:24 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
—Romans 12:1 ESV
As one who writes about church issues, I can't ignore the recent furor erupting over the plans of some churches—mostly megachurches—to not have Christmas Day services this year.
Anyone who comes by here enough knows that I hold the feet of American churches to the fire for a number of reasons. My hope is that the Church in this country will live up to the high calling for which the Lord offered Himself. I love the Church, else I wouldn't be doing any of this.
But honestly, on this issue of canceling Sunday services on Christmas morning, I think too many folks are missing the bigger picture.
The tradition I grew up in called for us to go to Christmas Eve services at my parents' Lutheran church. That service started at 11 PM on the 24th and ended around 12:10AM on Christmas Day. Until Christmas 2000, that was the way my family did it, even after my brothers and I got married. However, I can't remember ever attending a Sunday service that fell on Christmas Day. We'd met together as the Church just nine hours before, right? Honestly, I don't recall if that church had a Christmas Day Sunday meeting.
As much as I crusade for a Church that resembles that of the Book of Acts, not a single person reading this right now carries on a church life that resembles what the early believers followed.
The temple was destroyed in 70 AD and there hasn't been one like it built since then. While the early believers may have gone there regularly for prayer, the temple no longer exists. (God doesn't dwell in temples made by human hands anyway.) Do any of us go up at the appointed prayer hours to pray at our church? Unlikely.
The believers met in their homes for fellowship on what may have been a daily basis. Even house churches don't meet that regularly. Are you enjoying the daily fellowship of believers?
Considering the worship and fellowship patterns of the early Church, are we truly following any of them perfectly? If we're getting hacked off by some churches canceling Sunday services because Christmas is on Sunday, why are we not incensed about our the failure to fellowship in each other's homes several days a week?
When you boil it all down, the biblical command is that we not fail to meet together.
My wife's side of the family is filled with one Evangelical pastor after another, but they don't go to Christmas Eve services at all, and I suspect we won't go to this Christmas Sunday service, either. But I can guarantee you this: We most definitely will be gathered together as believers singing hymns, reading the Word, encouraging one another, demonstrating love, honoring the Lord, and being the church in my in-laws' home. Doesn't that fulfill the mandate God set forward for the Church?
And those megachurches? I'm sure there are people who attend those churches that don't have what I have. Those folks may very well lose something by their church giving up on a Christmas Sunday meeting.
So let's have the right perspective here. It's not about a legalistic "show up on Sunday come hell or high water" attitude, but Christians meeting horizontally with each other and vertically with the Lord. Truthfully, most of us can do that no matter what the time or venue, especially on a day like Christmas. Does it have to be at a physical church location at a set time? For many of us, the clear answer is no.
However, I'm not going to let those "kill the meeting" churches off so easily. They may very well be depriving some people of the ability to meet together with fellow believers that week. Not all of us are as blessed with a steady supply of the saints. If anything, a church that cannot provide that kind of fellowship on any other given day of the week is missing far more than just a canceled Christmas Sunday meeting; the whole of their fellowship is lacking. And the real tragedy is that this is true for many of the churches that ARE meeting on Christmas Sunday. As we see in Acts, the believers met together almost every single day. If we who claim the upper hand here aren't careful, we may also fall under our own condemnation.
Just something to think about whether we're in a church building on the 25th or not.