“Its been a while. Going to the Christmas Eve service seems like the right thing to do. For the kids. For me. For God.”
“Its been a while since I’ve been to church, and I’m not sure how I feel about going back. I’m not sure if I’ll feel good or guilty. Not sure if I’ll be back again until Easter (and I assume I’ll hear some guilt trip messages about that as well).”
Is that you?
Or maybe this is is you: “Those folks only show up on Christmas and Easter! Meanwhile, we’re here every week keeping things running…and they take our seats on the best feast days! Ten percent of us do ninety percent of the work!”
True story? Which one is closest to your experience?
Maybe one of those is familiar, maybe not. But its definitely a lot of people. Lots of Christians don’t attend worship regularly. Most of them profess faith, and serve in the community. Many will return for Christmas Eve. Many other Christians do attend regularly. These folks are around all the time, and do most the visible church work.
Unfortunately, there is some resentment between these two groups of people. And oftentimes, its that resentment that prevents people from re-connecting with the church.
The regulars resent the irregulars, and vice versa. Pharisees or sinners. Either way, not good.
If you are someone who has dropped off in your church participation, please go back on Christmas Eve. Forgive us Pharisee “churchy people” for the times when we are less than hospitable, and a bit judgy. Come back to the church because you are a priest of the kingdom, so your prayers and presence are needed. You are a part of the Body of Christ. You are called to visibly witness and to serve, and to pray for the community around you publicly. Come back despite the fact that we are sinners too. Come back because you are a Christian, not because all of us regulars are always nice or always hospitable (we aren’t always, so can’t promise that).
If you are a regular, then welcome people. Don’t just welcome their presence or their pocketbook or their manpower. Welcome them as brothers and sisters in Christ. “Kill the fatted calf!” (that’s a biblical reference that other church regulars will get). Celebrate the birth of Christ with all whom the Holy Spirit gathers. Allow people space to just be present and to pray and worship. Listen to them, and try with me to be less defensive. We can learn a lot from those who aren’t as “insider” as we are.
We are One Body, with One Faith and One Baptism. We need each other.
So this year, if you are returning to church on Christmas Eve, those of us who were also there on the third Sunday of Lent welcome you. You are us and we are you. One Body.
If you are a regular, then rejoice. This is the night we’ve been waiting for together all Advent. This is the Holy Night. You are well prepared.
If you are visiting, but aren’t a believer in Jesus, we welcome you too!
This is a night of gathering, and of kneeling at the manger where the Mother of God placed Jesus, our Savior who was born in poverty to save us, as one of us.
O Come, Let us Adore him!