Christmas, The Whole Story
While scrolling through song lists trying to assemble a playlist suitable for the couple of weeks prior to Christmas, I found a common theme amongst the beloved carols that fill our churches during this season. I started to notice that every song kind of felt like a "to be continued..." It seems like a majority of them have some mention of "savior" but no mentions of how or why. Yes, Advent is a season of waiting and expecting, but what we are now waiting for is not the arrival of a savior but a return.
I am by no means saying we should cease to sing these songs or dial back our celebration of the birth of Jesus, and I am aware that there are plenty of Christ magnifying songs that highlight His birth, but I'm wondering if this is a small window that peers into a large room of normalities that are causing Christians to miss the point.
In a 2010 Lifeway study on church attendance, they found that on average 18% of Americans attend a church service on a weekly basis, but on Christmas Eve 47% of Americans attend a service. This means that over half of our congregation on Christmas Eve is comprised of people that are not regularly hearing the gospel or singing songs of praise.
I think that this is one of the biggest flaws with the "birth only" approach to our church gathering throughout December. We have the privilege and obligation as the body of Christ to share the Gospel with these people that most likely have not had it thoroughly explained to them before. It seems foolish to spend a whole hour only explaining the first 10% of the life of Christ and then send them off, not to hear from them again until next year when we present the same exact songs and variations of the same message to them once again.
It is sad that this is all a reality for the Church. After all, our ultimate goal as a body is to train and equip the Saints.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. - Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV
The goal of the church is not to lure in unexpecting wanderers with attempted recreations of the culture, containing faint "spiritual” connotations... No the job and goal of the Church is to equip the people of God SO THAT when they step out into the world they are leaving an undeniable legacy of love and grace that ultimately points people back to its source. The moment we start doing "church" for any other reason but to glorify Christ and to build up his bride, is the moment we become a social club rather than the body.
All that may be true, but the fact still stands, we have this time of year when, whether we like it or not, our seats will be filled with people who are keeping up their tradition, just coming to please their spouse, or coming to watch a grandkid sing a song. Whoever it might be and for whatever reason they showed up, we have been charged to make sure we are laying out before them a Gospel that is complete, from the depravity of man to the perfect life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus.
For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. - Acts 20:27-30 ESV
This is a chilling warning. "From among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things,"
Although what we are talking about isn't necessarily twisted in the same sense as this text, the implications have the same outcome.
When we are lighthearted in our approach to the Gospel, especially as leaders, it leads to wide-open gates in the middle of the night, giving the wolves free reign over the flock that is now unattended and vastly unprepared for the battle.
The Gospel is our calling, every Sunday, don't miss your chance this Christmas to introduce people to their savior and not just to your tradition.