Celebrating Christmas is always a joy for our family. Our children have followed in their parent’s footsteps by enjoying all of the festivities of Christmas. This week will be a full week of parties, family gatherings, gift exchanges, and worship services. As we make our plans for this weekend and next Sunday, all plans revolve around the gathering of our church family. Yes, I know, I’m a pastor, so that’s to be expected—right? Maybe, but I would hope it would be the same if I worked as a mechanic, a car salesman, a doctor, or a lawyer too. Many churches are canceling services on Christmas in order to celebrate Christ’s birth at home. Does it really matter? Does the church do anything that my family can’t do at home?
Your Family Christmas Party Will Not Have a Sermon (well, unless your crazy uncle speaks up again)
Each year our family gathers for a reading of Luke 2 followed by a prayer and singing. My wife and our daughters make cupcakes and we eat those with our breakfast as we celebrate the birth of King Jesus. All of this is a great tradition for our family, but it goes off each year without a sermon. Believe it or not, even preachers don’t preach sermons in their homes on Christmas day (at least this one doesn’t).
God has placed great emphasis upon the preaching of His Word among His people. The right preaching of the Word is the first and essential mark of a true church. God accomplishes His will, changes hearts, mobilizes missions, convicts His people of sin, awakens the spiritually dead, revives the cold-hearted, and much more through the faithful proclamation of His Word. This is God’s plan for His people—even at Christmastime. No matter how solid your family is and no matter how much theology you will discuss over fruitcake and coffee, it will not be an adequate substitute for the preaching of God’s Word. Don’t deprive yourself and your family.
Your Family Christmas Party Will Not Observe Baptisms
This week, as we gather for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we will also celebrate with a young Christian lady as she makes a public profession of her faith in Christ through the waters of baptism. What a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of Christ and the new birth of a young Christian. The ordinance of baptism is designed by God for practice among the gathered church—not our individual families. How strange would it be to arrive at Grandma’s house only to find a large inflatable swimming pool in her living room prepared for a baptismal service?
Far better than a football game or Christmas parade on television is gathering together as a church and witnessing someone follow the Lord in believer’s baptism. In his commentary on Matthew’s gospel, J. C. Ryle writes:
[We ought to] regard the sacrament of baptism with reverence. An ordinance of which the Lord Jesus Himself partook, is not to be lightly esteemed. An ordinance to which the great Head of the Church submitted, ought to be ever honorable in the eyes of professing Christians.
Your Family Christmas Party Will Not Observe the Lord’s Supper
Each year, our church gathers on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Christ by remembering what happened after His birth. We gather to observe the Lord’s Supper and recall the brutal, sacrificial death of Christ. As we remember the body and blood of Jesus, it’s important to consider the fact that before the incarnation, Christ had no body and blood. It was at the incarnation that holy God took upon Himself human flesh and was conceived in the womb of Mary.
No matter how good your grandmother cooks, she can’t prepare a meal that comes close in comparison to the Lord’s Supper. No matter how many memories you have around your table on Christmas and Christmas Eve, you can’t compare those to what the church gathers to remember around the Lord’s table. The Lord’s Supper is one of two special ordinances of the local church. The church gathers for these ordinances, and they’re not to be practiced in private family gatherings. So, place emphasis upon gathering to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with your church this Christmas—no matter if it’s observed on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.
Your Family Christmas Party Will Not Collect an Offering
This coming Sunday, we will gather as a church to celebrate Jesus’ birth. We will sing as a congregation of believers, pray corporately, and look to the Word as the Scriptures are expounded. However, before we depart and go back home for the remainder of our Christmas festivities, we will take up an offering. This coming Sunday will be one of the final opportunities for our church to engage in our foreign missions offering. We do this each year as a church, and as always, the time of the collection is a time of worship. It’s not all about missions either, through the offering this Sunday, we as a church will fund discipleship ministries that take place on a weekly basis on our campus.
Although money will be given in Christmas cards and gifts will be exchanged between family members, there is something special about the church gathering for worship through a designated time of offering. The offering is a time of sacrifice. A special time of presenting to Christ the treasures that we have been blessed with in order to honor and praise Him. Through those treasures, we as a church fund ministries of discipleship and missions. All of it is offered to our God from a heart of joyful worship. No money exchange with family members at a Christmas party can compare to the offering with the gathered church. Talk about awkward, imagine your crazy uncle interrupting everyone in order to get the family’s attention focused on the annual family offering.
Your family will not observe the ordinances of baptism or the Lord’s Supper, hear a sermon preached, or take up an offering this Christmas, but your church will most likely have all four. Teach your children to place emphasis upon the gathered church and the special worship that takes place with the gathered body of Christ that doesn’t happen at home.