In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that over the course of twenty-one years as the pastor of two different congregations, I have had a hand in cancelling Sunday worship celebrations.
In that period, the two churches, taken together, have perhaps scrubbed ten Sunday services because of blizzards.
Once, we had to cancel on a winter Sunday when we didn't have heat.
As I recall, once, the school in which we worshiped at the time was so insufferably hot on a Sunday morning that we canceled worship. (Although I did briefly consider forging ahead that day, considering the conditions prime for a sermon on hell!)
And I won't say that when I looked at the December calendar earlier this year, I didn't consider cancelling Sunday services on Christmas Day. It would have been easy for me to build a case for cancellation. For one thing, a large percentage of our congregation's members are not originally from around here and many go "back home" for Christmas with extended families. We're also a young church with lots of little ones, who would likely prefer not being dragged away from Santa's gifts on Christmas morning.
But for me, that logic ran into an incontrovertible counterargument: Sunday is the day we Christians set aside to remember an event even more important than the birth of Jesus. Every Sunday, we Christians say, is to be a "little Easter," a weekly opportunity to thank and honor God for the new life that can be ours when we surrender our lives, our pasts, our futures, and our sins to that same Jesus. On every Sunday, we remember what Jesus did on an Easter some two-thousand years ago. After voluntarily accepting our death sentence for sin on a cross, Jesus rose from the dead.
Of course, we don't have to hold weekly worship on Sundays. That's why our congregation recently began offering a second worship service on Saturdays at 5:30. But I would be loathe to give up worshiping on Sunday, no matter how few people may be likely to show up.
I mention all this because several megachurches across the country have decided that they'll not be worshiping on Christmas Day this year. The folks at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago say, for example, that they probably would only get about 1500 for worship that day, a paltry crowd not worth the effort of staff or the expenditure of money they'd have to pay them to open their doors.
I have immense respect for Willow Creek and its founding pastor, Bill Hybels. The congregation, under his leadership, does a fantastic job of inviting spiritually-disconnected people into a relationship with God.
But it doesn't seem to have dawned on them to do what we'll be doing at our infinitely smaller church on Sunday, December 25. We'll follow the advice of Paul to the first-century Colossian church. Paul wrote, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:16-17).
Maybe on one Sunday in the year, the megachurches could do without their meticulously-crafted worship celebrations, effective though I'm sure they are in reaching people for Christ. That way, they wouldn't have to spend a lot of money. Such a stripped-down approach seems especially appropriate on the day we'll also remember the birth of the Savior not in a high-tech maternity ward, but in a smelly barn, Whose earthly parents were from peasant stock. God likes simple.
Worship requires no pyrotechnics. No glitzy production. No elaborate AV stuff. Not even gold crosses, expensive vestments, or choirs. All it takes is a group of people who are, in Martin Luther's words, "called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified" by God's Holy Spirit, who receive the Good News of Jesus with gratitude, and who gather to praise God for all His grace and His glory.