Summary: This year, Christmas will fall on Sunday. This year people will be faced with a decision of whether Sunday worship will be a matter of "convenience" or "cost." What can we learn form the ministry of John the Baptist that will help us to make the right dec
Several years back a life-style management consultant surveyed about 1000 people about how they prepared for Christmas. What he found was this:
· The average person spent up to an hour and 10 minutes a day during the last week of December bickering over holiday related plans such as what parties to attend, what to wear … and whether to leave early.
· People spent less than 17 minutes planning holiday purchases and 6 hours shopping for them with an average of 3 trips to the same store.
· Nearly 7 1/2 hours were spent baking and preparing the holiday meals while less than a 1/2 day is devoted to relaxation and enjoyment.
· And perhaps most tragic of all, on Christmas morning, the average parent spent just 9 minutes playing with the children.
(A study conducted by Michael Fortino, reported in the Dayton Sunday News, 12/20/92 (AP)
How do you prepare for Christmas?
Lots of stores have been preparing for Christmas ever since Halloween.
And many businesses are preparing for Christmas by planning parties and deciding how long they’re going to shut down for the holiday.
Families prepare by decorating their homes with trees and lights and festive garland. Some folks even go so far as to light up the night with Christmas lights in yards and roofs.
Just last week several wonderful people decorated church to reflect the joy of the season. And our church – and many others – are preparing for Christmas with:
· Special services
· Bell choir presentations.
· Caroling to shut-ins
· Collections for the needy
But this year some Christians and Churches are facing a difficult dilemma, because this year Christmas falls on… Sunday.
There’s a ministers’ blogsite I frequent on the Internet, and one of the preachers there asked this question: “Christmas will fall on a Sunday this year. Will your church do anything different on that Sunday to accommodate the families in your fellowship?”
· One preacher responded: “I had hoped that our leaders might even have considered having simply the Christmas Eve service in the format of a morning worship, and not having a Sunday morning service. But that wasn’t received positively, so we’ll do both.”
· Another stated: “We are not having any services on Sunday the 25th - we are shifting to Friday, the 23rd - and having a Christmas Worship Extrava-palooza. We are having skits, dancing people, an iBand, traditional hymns, special music, and the Silent Monks - along with a Christmas message.”
As you might imagine, those answers troubled me and I said as much on that blog site. (pause) There are some on that site that aren’t very happy with me anymore.
Now, there may have been many reasons why these preachers were considering these changes to Sunday Worship:
· They were worried that people wouldn’t show up.
· They realized their members have other priorities.
· They believed it was inconvenient for some in their church to worship on Christmas morning.
· Or maybe they themselves had other plans and they didn’t want to go to church themselves that Sunday (and they were preachers)..
In the resulting back and forth of comments those who defended this casual approach to worshiping God gave several excuses… and even sited Scriptures to justify the idea that you didn’t have to have church on Sunday to worship God. But ultimately the reasons behind their decision were less about theology than about convenience.
Now, I could possibly see their arguments IF they didn’t regularly meet every other Sunday. Or if they called off church so their members could spend time with their families on important holidays like Easter, the 4th of July or Memorial Day weekend. But I doubt any of them do anything like that. It’s only Christmas that gets this special kind of treatment.
Why? Because “convenience’ was the key to what their decision.
ILLUS: One person observed that the message of Christmas was not one of convenience but “Cost”
* It cost Mary and Joseph the comforts of home to take a long journey to Bethlehem while she was “very” pregnant with her new child.
* It cost the shepherds their comfort by the campfire and the ease of their shepherd’s life answering the call to the manger and then the conviction to tell others the good news.
* It cost the wise men a long journey and expensive gifts and changed lives.
* It cost the early Apostles and the early church persecution and sometimes death.
* It cost missionaries of Christ untold suffering and loss to spread the Good News.
* It cost Christian martyrs of all ages their lives for the sake of Christ.
MORE THAN ALL THIS
* It cost God the Father His own Son—He sent His Son to the earth to save men.