With many large churches across the U.S. announcing they won’t be open on Christmas Day, some pastors are defending their decision to stay closed, even going so far as to blast those who question their motives.
“I was deeply saddened by the knee-jerk response of the Christian community as a whole to give the benefit of the doubt to the media and not a church or a brother in Christ,” Weece said in his Dec. 10 sermon. “I’m still troubled that more Christians in this community specifically did not stand up for us knowing what this church represents.”
Weece blamed Satan the devil for using the Christmas issue as a distraction, prompting Christians to bicker among themselves.
“People are not the enemy,” he said. “The devil is, and it is obvious that he has been at work in this situation.”
Weece said the services being offered on Christmas Eve were still technically the “first day of the week” if one went by the custom of starting days at sunset, which some believe was the case in Jesus’ day.
He went on to note: “Christmas began as a pagan holiday to the Roman gods, and if we were to really celebrate the historical birth of Jesus, it would either be in January or mid-April. I’m only pointing out the historical technicalities not out of intellectual arrogance, but again because of the illogical, ill-informed and even hypocritical arguments that were aimed at me personally this last week.”
Weece also said Jesus himself walked all over opinion and tradition: “Do not lose sight of the controversy that Jesus incited by turning traditions on their head. And always remember in the economy of Jesus, the one whose birthday so many are claiming to be so passionate about, Jesus placed value and emphasis on people over policy and procedure and protocol every single time.”
Meanwhile, the largest Christian church in South Florida has reversed itself on its closure Christmas Day, and now says it will be open for a single service next Sunday morning, Dec. 25.
Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale now promoting its Christmas Day service online after initially announcing a Dec. 25 closure
Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale originally decided to give its members and workforce a day off to spend with their families on Christmas, even though it falls on Sunday, its traditional day of worship. Instead, it had scheduled a slate of extra services for Saturday night, Christmas Eve.
Pastor Bob Coy
“I’ve been called a bad person and a shame to Christianity,” pastor Bob Coy told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It made me realize that many people misunderstood our motives.”
But after an onslaught of negative public reaction from both inside and outside his congregation, Coy had a change of heart.
“Say it isn’t so,” read one e-mail, according to Coy. “You’re shutting your doors on Jesus’ birthday. I’m appalled at the message you’re sending to the community.”
Coy also was advised by some church members who said they wouldn’t be able to attend services on Christmas Eve, and preferred to come on the actual holiday.
“Christmas is filled with unrealistic expectations,” he said. “I don’t want to fuel that. If people need Jesus on Christmas, I want to make Him available.”
The entire issue has exacerbated the national Christmas controversy at a time which many believe is supposed to harken back to the Gospel of Luke’s “peace on Earth.”
“There is no biblical mandate that we meet on Sunday, only that we meet,” writes Larry Baden in an online messageboard. “This is clearly a nonessential issue. Nobody’s orthodoxy stands or falls on having a Sunday service. Nobody’s salvation depends on having a Sunday service.”
Minister Jeff Chitwood contends: “I think the issue centers on canceling worship on a day that is supposed to be centered on Christ. Too many times the church accuses the world of taking Christ out of Christmas but now the church is the one changing things because a day centered on Christ conflicts with schedules. What kind of message does it send to those who we have condemned in the past? At our church we are rescheduling service times but not eliminating the opportunity to worship on a day centered on Christ.”
One poster said true worship is about much more than just singing or attending a church service.
“The way I greet my family when I go home from work is an act of worship. The way I talk to my co-workers. The dedication I give to my employer. The passion and inspiration I find in teaching or writing or editing or reading or mowing the lawn or ironing my shirts. …
“Let’s all just focus on God this Sunday. He’s a big Guy. I’m sure those who look for him will find him – even if they don’t set foot in a church building.”