A member of the synagogue asked their rabbi, “Why does a rabbi always answer a question with a question?” The rabbi replied, “Why shouldn’t a rabbi answer a question with a question?” This came to me recently as a number of people have asked if we were having church on Christmas Day. My answer – “Is it a Sunday?” – is not meant to be argumentative! It’s just that since the beginning of the Church we Christians have always met for worship on Sunday.
Jesus and his family worshiped in the synagogue on the seventh day of the week, the sabbath, which for us would be Saturday (though in the Jewish calendar it actually begins with sundown on Friday). That was the day on which God rested after the work of creation, and the day on which God’s people were given to rest as the fourth of the ten commandments.
The early Christians continued to worship in the synagogue and at the temple for a number of years. But they also began to gather on Sundays to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus an event which took place on the first day of the week. That’s been our pattern for almost two thousand years.
So this year, Christmas is on a Sunday. And we will gather for worship as we do each week – but not exactly as we do each week. We will have a single morning service at 10 a.m., and no Sunday evening service, out of recognition of the three lovely services we will have shared the night before. Worshiping together on Christmas Day is truly a special experience.
Our Christmas Eve celebration starts with the Children’s Service at 4 p.m. This is the single most well-attended service of the year. They do such a wonderful job, and the place is packed with warm and joyful hearts. At 8 p.m. our third service ensemble will lead us in a musical Christmas Eve, with folk, blues and bluegrass accompaniment to familiar carols. At 11 p.m. we will share communion, and finish the service by candlelight as the choir leads us out into the dark with the lovely sounds of “Silent Night.”
It’s a special and hopeful time for God’s people. I look forward to sharing it with all of you. This month there are opportunities to explore the meaning of the season through Bible study and creative writing, by decorating the sanctuary, making an Advent craft for your home, visiting the Festival of the Nativity in Wesley Hall, gathering to hear the choir and orchestra in their presentation of Handel’s Messiah. It is a rich, festive and joyful time.
After I say that we’re just having one service on Christmas Day, sometimes they ask whether we’re doing that on New Year’s Day too. So I answer with a question: “Are we doing three amazing services on New Year’s Eve?” I didn’t think so. We’ll be back in full swing so that we can start the new year on a bright and hopeful note!