The media frenzy over the decision of megachurches throughout the country to close their doors on Christmas Day doesn't seem to be dying down, and numerous articles are framing the action as unprecedented. But is that accurate? Although likely unaware of it, megachurches such as Willow Creek and Mars Hill may actually be more in line with church tradition by not conducting worship services on December 25th than those who choose to keep their doors open.
Few seem to remember that America's Puritan ancestors were stridently opposed to the celebration of Christmas. They saw no biblical support for the holiday, and believed the festival was a pagan ritual masquerading as Christian. Even as late as 1855, newspapers in New York reported that Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches would be closed on Christmas Day because "they do not accept the day as a Holy One."
The Puritan disdain for Christmas had such a hold on American culture that by the 1860s only 18 states officially recognized the holiday.
This brief history lesson should remind us that Christmas has not always been embraced by the church, and the decision by megachurches to not worship on December 25th may not be as unprecedented as some in the media would like us to believe. The more intriguing aspect of this story may be why megachurches are closing. So far I am unaware of any church that is closing on Christmas because of its strong Puritan convictions.
The headline on the cover of the Chicago Tribune said that Willow Creek was closing on Christmas "so members can focus on family." However, Willow spokeswoman Cally Parkinson said, "Church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources." ...