Debate Over Services on Christmas

12-14-05 - With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, some Christian churches are changing things up from combining services to cancelling them altogether, something that's stirring up the Christmas spirit for some.

The sounds of Christmas are already filling the sanctuary at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison. Tonight the children's choir provided the melody, reminding their members what the season's all about.

Dr. Chet Haney says, "We're going to be celebrating the Lord and enjoying the gratitude in our hearts that we feel for God's blessing"

The pastor is looking forward to Christmas, especially since it falls on a Sunday.

"It's so important on any Lord's Day to worship him, but especially on this day when we commemorate his birth, we wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to lift up praise to our Lord."

Like many local churches, Parkside is having one big service Christmas morning and leaving the rest of the day for families to spend together.

Victory Life in Sherman feels the same way, but instead of taking away a service, they're adding.

Terry Brown says, "We thought with it being Jesus' birthday, he's the reason for the season, we really couldn't see cancelling, so we thought we'd add a service."

Not only will they offer three services at their Durant location Christmas morning, but folks can come Christmas Eve as well.

But one local church is taking a different approach.

Lance Price, Joshua's Crossing Pastor, says, “We recognize Christmas morning is a time when families want to be together."

Joshua's Crossing in Sherman will not be having services Christmas Day. Instead they'll be funneling their efforts into a Christmas Eve celebration only.

"Research shows people are more open to going to church on Christmas Eve than any other time of the year, and since our target is getting those who usually don't come to church we wanted to put it in a time frame that doesn't compete with other things."

And they're not alone. Some of the nation's biggest congregations, known as “megachurches”, are doing the same. Churches in Oklahoma City, Dallas and Tulsa have thousands in attendance each week, but not this Christmas.

For the majority of churches it's not an option.

"It's hard to imagine a good reason not to have worship on the Lord's Day, especially on Christmas Day," says Dr. Haney.

Joshua's Crossing also says they have a unique situation in that they meet at an elementary school which would cause school staff to have to open the building on a holiday. They say the Saturday evening service simply works better all around.

Churches not having Christmas services do feel they'll have higher turnouts on Christmas Eve.