Many churches have decided to close on Christmas, as the Christian holiday falls on a Sunday this year. This prompted the New York Times to write an article titled, “O Come All Ye Faithful, Except When Christmas Falls on a Sunday.” The title stings as it should. JD Greear is the most prominent pastor cited in the article for closing his church and what he tells the NY Times is quite unbiblical and disturbing.
“Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and it ought to be a day you spend with the family of Christ,” said J.D. Greear, the church’s pastor, who was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2018 to 2021. “But I don’t want to be the Pharisees of this generation, where I turn it into some kind of rule that there’s never an exception for.” He pointed to the Bible’s account of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath, in defiance of local customs about proper behavior on that day.
JD Greear is right, in so far, that providential exceptions exist. These providential exceptions would like a hurricane, blizzard, or war. It’s worth noting that government lockdowns in 2020 were not a providential exception. So when JD Greear closed his church down in 2020, he was being willfully disobedient to the regulative principle of not forsaking the assembly of the saints. However, JD Greear’s past Branch Covidianism which included one of his franchise locations having a passport system to attend would be “echoed” in his church’s current decision to close down on Christmas.
Canceling church is not a free pass to ignore the day’s spiritual significance, as Mr. Greear sees it. His family will have a small worship service at home using materials provided by the church, and will take a walk in their neighborhood. They will also open presents, which will include a family tradition of an envelope addressed to Jesus, with a donation to a charity or the church inside.Mr. Greear said the decision to close had an echo in his church’s approach to the pandemic, when the Summit closed its church facilities for most of 2020. “You could almost look at Covid, at lockdown, as a year of an exception,” he said.
JD Greear appears to have outsourced church to reading materials on Christmas. But in any case while providential hinderances may occur for congregants on Christmas, the church should still gather for worship.
Kevin DeYoung is quoted in the article stating the obvious.
“We’ve all heard sermons on ‘Jesus is the reason for the season,’” said Kevin DeYoung, the pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, N.C., which belongs to the Presbyterian Church in America. When churches cancel their services, he hears that message as something more like: “Hey, it’s Christmas, and Jesus may not be the reason for the season.”