In the last few days, I’d been hearing something counterintuitive from D.C. area pastors: Some churches were canceling services this Sunday, in honor of Christmas.
Yes, that’s right. Because so many people — parishioners and church staff — want to spend the whole precious day off with their families, some churches were going to cancel services. Or they were bracing for low turnout, maybe putting their JV-string of clergy out there for the smaller crowd.
The data confirm it: Almost 10 percent of Protestant pastors told Lifeway Research they were canceling this year because the holiday falls on a Sunday. The poll, done last month, shows a variety of schedules churches have for holiday services.
A different study by Lifeway last year said 74 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat agree that “Christmas is primarily a day for religious celebration and observance,” while 67 percent agreed that “many of the things I enjoy during the Christmas season have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.”
There’s no question that Americans’ bond with institutional religion has been weakening in recent decades; in other words, there are tens of millions of Americans who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ but rarely if ever go to church. Including on Christmas.
But is that what we should see in canceled Christmas services?
Longtime religion reporter David Gibson has a thoughtful meditation on how Christians have marked the holiday in recent centuries, showing Christmas Day services haven’t always been the only norm, and how gift-giving and reindeer got into it.
Let us know if you have anything thought-provoking to say about churches canceling services Sunday.