FIRST-PERSON: What I Would Have Missed on Christmas – California Southern Baptist Convention

FIRST-PERSON: What I Would Have Missed on Christmas

Published Feb 14, 2023

Take a big breath. You made it through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. I’m not sure if it’s age or the times we live in, but it seems like every year, the holiday season gets a little longer and a little busier. This year, with Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, it felt extra busy for most churches, but considering it will be eleven years before Christmas Day falls on a Sunday again, I realize that is not the norm. Thinking about everything that has happened in my life in the past eleven years makes me hopeful and a bit nervous about what God will do in my life during that time.

How was your Christmas Sunday? I know many churches chose to not have corporate worship services on Christmas Day. Like everyone else, I have some opinions on it. However, I have some convictions about the autonomy of the local church and pray that Pastors called to local congregations make the best choice for their people in relation to the Kingdom of God. For us, there was never a question of whether we would have corporate worship on Sunday the 25th. Some might say we are being legalistic, but for us, it is our ecclesiology, not legalism, that drives that conviction.

We did have conversations about Christmas Eve, and our elders chose to have a service on Christmas Eve. I’ll share I was initially a no-vote. I questioned if having services on back-to-back days was necessary. Maybe it would be too much for those who volunteer in everything from greeters to tech to music to work both days? I was wrong. Once again in my ministry, I experienced “wisdom in a multitude of counsel” (Proverbs 11:14). Our Christmas Eve service was uniquely special, and our Christmas Day worship service was one of the best Sunday mornings we had in 2022, and not just because it was well attended.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve thought back to our Christmas Day service and asked what I would have missed if we had not gathered for worship that day. I would have missed:

  • The couple that came on Christmas Day to tell us they accepted Christ after the Christmas Eve service and wanted to be baptized. They wrote a card to one of the couples in our church saying, “thank you for giving us Christ this year. Being here is the best Christmas morning we have ever had.”
  • I would have missed the excitement when one of our widows, who asks me weekly to pray for her grandson’s salvation, told me that he was coming to church with her this year as her Christmas present. So, that morning standing in our foyer, we prayed he would respond to the Gospel.
  • I would have missed hearing my worship team discuss how excited they were to have such a unique opportunity to play together on Christmas Day. Many of them could not ever remember that happening.
  • I would have missed the young single woman we baptized a few weeks ago happily telling me this was the first time she had ever been in church on Christmas Day.
  • I would have missed meeting fellow Christians in our city who came to worship with us that day because their church did not have services.
  • I would have missed preaching the Gospel to the two families who visited us after seeing the social media ads we posted using a CSBC Evangelism grant.
  • But more than anything, I would also have missed the moment, looking out over the congregation, when I realized this was one of the eight potential occasions in my 50 years of life where I was spending Christmas Day worshipping with my church family. Yes, we gather around the Gospel every week, and we did nothing different on Christmas Day than the Sunday before or the Sunday after. Yet, on December 25th, a day even the secular world acknowledges exists because of the birth of Jesus Christ, I was gathered in a room of people who truly understood what it meant that Immanuel came into their lives. For us, it wasn’t just another Sunday. Nor was it just another Christmas Day.

Where will I be, and what will I be doing on Christmas Day 2033? Our Sovereign God is the only one who knows the answer to that question. Still, Lord willing, that morning, I’ll be gathered somewhere celebrating the Incarnation with those who have been changed by His coming.