Late to this party, but I’ll bite.
Most people don’t realize the dual purpose of Christmas public worship. Christmas is for faithful. BUT it’s really for the non-faithful.
In the last decades thoughtful churches have noticed that non-church attenders are more willing to visit churches during the Christmas and Easter than other seasons. – It’s actually really cool – the church I was a part of in high school would welcome 10x their usual attendance. My previous church would go all out – shows, music, drama. And it works. Lots of non-Christians find Christmas to be a wonderful open door to future spiritual growth. Lots of faithful people INVITE their non-believing friends to visit.
But going all out for the show is exhausting. (Plus, sometimes it feels a bit bait and switch. People come back in January all like “What no snow machine this week?”) The under-reported fact is that if a church is doing worship for non-church-people using volunteers – it’s almost impossible to pull that production off on Christmas day. And – volunteers for churches (and non-profits in general) are NOT ok in 2022. It’s a burnout, overworked, spread-thin crowd. Frankly, it’s not just the right call – not over-working a massive group of volunteers for a Christmas day production that non-Church folks won’t come to is the only realistic option.
I do help lead a church. And frankly – I wish I had the energy for productions this year (they’re great). But, this year our team is exhausted from being faithful doing good (but different) things. There’s a chance if healthy, the Sutter family will enjoy another church’s big production this year. (googling “Christmas Eve Church & Show”). As for our church, instead of putting on a show to invite the non-faithful. We’re having a Christmas day service with hardly any volunteers, low production value. Don’t expect volunteers greeting in Santa costumes in the parking lot. I’ll show up, unlock the doors and turn on everything. We have an organist playing carols before seeing her grandkids. I’m almost insisting that our worship leader takes off and spends his babies first Christmas with family. We have a deacon running screens (I think I’m going to run sound/cameras from an ipad). I’m unsure if my family will be able to come along– we’re monitoring fevers as we speak. I’ll welcome any visitors with “usually production and kids programs are cooler”. But it’s Christmas, and it’s ok. We’ll be together as a church family with nothing fancy, simply honoring the Lord and marking his birth.
And (concerns about volunteers overworking aside) – I think both approaches are good in the life of Jesus’ church. And my prayer this week is that in production, or simplicity. Christmas or Christmas Eve – people already too busy will see the light of Christ bringing peace, joy, love and hope to the world and value him and God’s generosity and kindness in fresh ways.