Christmas Eve Services of Epic Proportions, Or Our One Big Chance

With my next two Christmas posts, I’m in essence simply rehashing points I’ve made before. So if you love brand new spanking material, then I just ruined your Christmas.

This is the time of the year churches spend months preparing for. Committees being meeting in the summer, anticipating the biggest day of church attendance the entire year: Christmas Eve.

Unparalleled scores of non-believers and non-religious people suddenly file into our buildings. The pressure to impress is huge. The theory is that this is our one time to wow ‘em, this is the one time we’ve got them in our doors, so we’d better make it count. Go big or go home.

I won’t pick on Pastor Ed Young’s church doing their Christmas services in 3D. Though this is extreme, it’s not too far removed from how far many churches go on Christmas Eve. It’s the night to pull out all the stops. You invite people to your church, hoping the pastor has crafted the most eloquent, beautiful and poignant sermon guaranteed to break hearts, bend knees and inspire alter calls. You invite people knowing the very best musicians will be on stage, and you hope their collective power and practice will create such beautiful music that it feels as though the Holy Spirit is hovering over the whole service.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, this only reinforces the idea that the church service is to entertain us, that church is something we watch happen in front of our eyes. We often leave services judging it based on quality of music, how good the sermon was, how the visuals were, if the coffee was burnt during roasting, when this is not how to judge church.

Our big church productions on Christmas Eve betray one of the biggest lessons we gleam from Christmas – that God is a humble God, who arrives on earth with barely any fanfare, in the simplest (and poorest) of ways. So we can crank the amps, put on a big light show, and hit all the emotional spots, but our God seems to prefer lower, dirtier ways.

Similarly, the most impactful Christmas Eve services I remember have always taken the less is more route. This is the power of the candlelit auditorium filled with the voices singing simple hymns to the accompaniment of no instruments.

This post is far too late of course, as churches are neck-deep in their preparations for their epic performance. Nonetheless, may we remember a God who did not appear in a huge heavenly production, but who went as low as he could go – and yet we’re still talking about him today.

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6 Responses to Christmas Eve Services of Epic Proportions, Or Our One Big Chance

  1. Hey Charlie! Gotta agree with you on this. (Man, that is beginning to sound like a broken record. Do you even know what that is?) I am so grateful that the church I pastor does not have a CE service at all! For the first Christmas in 6 years we have our own building but nobody even brought up the idea. I am cool with that!! I was at one church for 13 years and CE was 1/2 hour long. The last one was for 5 years and while it was more than just a few thoughts, I didn’t have to preach. Comment: I too fear that we are simply mimicking the gimmickry of the culture that pulls out all the stops for the shopping season. I like simple. I crave simple and hope that wherever I pastor, simple will be the word. Hope you have a joy-filled Christmas.

    • 1) I used to own a few records.

      2) Its almost a statement in itself for a church not to have a Christmas Eve service. Its like saying we refuse to participate in the gimmicks and the stress and elaborate productions churches love to do.

      3) Thank you, and have a beautiful Christmas yourself. I am grateful that you read here and are even bold even to comment. Thank you.

  2. David says:

    Last night (12/23) I went to the best Christmas presentation I have ever seen. A family in our community has a farm, and 32 years ago they were caring for a deaf foster child. To show her the Christmas story which she did not know, they went out to the barn and placed the baby of the family in the straw. The other members of the family acted out the parts amongst the barn animals.

    Last night’s production was simple, yet powerful. The father still narrates the story with passion. Members of the community participate and there were loads of angels and shepherds on hand.

    There we stood in the snow covered field with hundreds of others singing Oh Come Let Us Adore Him as loud as we could.

    It was not the production or the costumes that were great, but the passion and the Spirit that was present. It was the greatest display of God’s presence I have felt at a Christmas service in so many years I cannot remember.

    The very words, “Prince of Peace,” “King of Kings”, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and “Christ the Lord” rang in our spirits and caused us to weep. And never have I heard this verse at a Christmas pageant: John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

    You’d think that a spiritually tingly service like this would be enough, but then they invited all the guests in for hot cocoa and cookies – hundreds and hundreds of us! The family (not a church) did 4 shows!

    I met one of the sons (in a very crowded farm house); he looked right through me, as he wished me a Merry Christmas. “Thanks for coming and celebrating the birth of our Savior,” he said.

    Who are these people? I thought – and I am still thinking that.

    What we need is real Christianity, not a bunch of religion. You won’t find me poo-pooing Christmas – I could care less what everyone else is doing. I guarantee you, that if I am alive next year, you’ll find me in a little snow covered field in rural Massachusetts adoring my King and Savior amidst the smell of cows and sheep.

  3. Angela says:

    Yep, church follows the pattern that all the people of the world follow: a holiday basking in gifts and commercialism. Dare I plug my post about this?

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