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‘Tragically Ironic’—Pastors Debate Whether or Not To Hold a Christmas Day Service This Year

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Whether or not a church should hold a Christmas service on Dec. 25 this year is proving to be quite the hot topic among pastors on Twitter, with some drawing comparisons between this decision and the situation churches were in during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“If crooked politicians command the church to close due to COVID-19, it’s considered unconstitutional tyranny and unbiblical (#ChurchIsEssential),” said Dr. Josh Buice, founder and president of G3 Ministries. “If Santa commands the church to close due to Christmas, the church is to cooperate in order to avoid legalism.” 

Christmas Service or No Christmas Service?

Because Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year, church leaders are faced with either holding services on a day many reserve for time with family or canceling services on what is arguably one of the most obvious days of the year to hold them. 

Some churches will opt for the latter, reasoning that there is no explicit, biblical command to meet that day, their staff is already fatigued from the busy Christmas season, and many of their members are traveling. Others will meet on Christmas Sunday out of desire to honor Hebrews 10:25, which exhorts believers not to stop “meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Data from Lifeway Research shows that 84% of Protestant pastors in the U.S. say their churches will be holding services on Christmas Day this year.

In an article titled, “Will Your Church Meet on Christmas Day?,” ChurchLeaders explores different options churches are taking and encourages charity toward those with different views. The Gospel Coalition took a similar approach, publishing one article from a church leader who is in favor of holding Christmas services and a separate article from a pastor explaining why his church will not do so. Both authors encouraged understanding toward those who disagree with them.

Some church leaders, however, are taking a firm stand that pastors opting not to hold Christmas Day services are at best foolish and at worst disobedient to God’s Word. “Canceling church to celebrate ‘Christ’mas — that should not make sense to any believer,”
tweeted Nathaniel Jolly, pastor of Homer Reformed Baptist Church in Homer, Alaska. 

G3’s executive vice president and editor-in-chief Scott Aniol said, “Just as churches who didn’t stay closed during COVID experienced growth, so I forsee [sic] people whose churches close on Christmas looking for a new church that doesn’t.” Author and theologian Owen Strachan agreed, commenting, “Soft doctrine congregations, close on Christmas. Sound doctrine churches will be there to scoop those folks right up.”

“Isn’t it tragically ironic that some churches will be closed next Sunday because Christmas falls on that day?” asked David Cassidy, lead pastor of Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Florida. “In some places the magi might show up for worship and find the doors locked. In an ironic twist of the tale they’d find that there is no room for them in the church.”

Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, said, “There is not one good biblical reason that can be given for cancelling church on Christmas Day!” He added, “A family’s Christian tradition is not a good biblical reason to cancel the corporate gathering. The most important family tradition for us is gathering with God’s people to worship.”