For instance, last Sunday was Easter. We had an awesome sunrise service with a beautiful/vivid daybreak. A few hours later, our sanctuary was full for the worship service. Many guests were present. Everyone had their pastels on and a smile on their faces. It was just a wonderful day all the way around.
It was also exhausting! Our church has scaled back quite a bit in recent years from what we used to try to cram into Easter weekend. (At various times, we have done choir cantata, egg hunt, door-to-door outreach, Sunday night service, etc.) Some things we have cut out completely, and other things we have moved a week or two earlier on the calendar. But there is still a lot of pressure (perhaps self-induced) to make sure the music, the sermon, and the worship experience in general are top notch for the special day.
But Easter is nothing compared to Christmas. Christmas is like Easter times four. It’s not just a single day or week, but an entire month of special events at church. By the time December is over, I feel like I’ve been through the wringer!
The point of this post is not to whine about how tiring ministry is. (I think there’s too much of that at times. Lots of professions are stressful around the holidays.) But the point I do want to make is that churches can be guilty of putting too much pressure on themselves around these special days.
The fact of the matter is that, aside from the ordinances, the Bible never directs any special observances or celebrations must be practiced by Christians in relation to Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, etc. This is not to say the Church can’t or shouldn’t celebrate these events with designated days. But it is to say we don’t have a biblical mandate.
The reality, of course, is that every Sunday worship service should be an acknowledgement and celebration of Christ’s resurrection. (Christians meet on Sunday primarily because Jesus was raised on Sunday.) Furthermore, for the Christian every day is Easter! Every day is Christmas! Every day should be lived in light of what Jesus has accomplished for us by His virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death and glorious resurrection.
So, what is the proper approach to holidays by churches? I think it’s this… Observe them. Acknowledge them. Celebrate them. But don’t stress about them. When these special days do come, and you’re tempted to “go big,” remember the old saying that “what you win them with is what you win them to.”
The better course of action is to let your guests see what you normally do in corporate worship. Pray, sing, preach, observe the ordinances. Remind your people that the Christian life is not about a few big days a year but, rather, “a long obedience in the same direction.” In the end, this is the healthier approach for congregation and leaders alike.