Years ago churches in Roanoke would have double, even triple their normal attendance on Easter Sunday as the unchurched and nominally churched came for their annual visit. The thing pastors have noticed in the last five to ten years is that non-christians (“unsaved” people) do not care one bit about Easter and now, do not even pretend to care about it. They do not believe in the resurrection Of Jesus Christ, so why, they reason, should they celebrate it? It’s just another day off from work. The community pressure familiar in small Southern towns and cities “to be a good Christian family” and go to church just is not there anymore; Even if it was, folks are increasingly indifferent to the faith. It is a shock when I meet people to find out they have never been to church. Others share that they have been to church a few times in their life but have not attended a worship service in years.
My mantra to our congregation and staff is that “Christmas Eve is the new Easter”. Non-believers will still come with friends or family to a Christmas Eve service because, on the surface, Christmas Eve is a less doctrinal, less overtly Christian holiday. It is a lot easier for an unsaved person to sing a few Christmas Carols and hear a story about a baby born in a manger then to deal with Easter . . . Jesus Christ being raised from the dead, defeating sin and death and calling us to live exclusively for Him.
Many folks that come on Christmas Eve are in the “Christmas Spirit”. Some are in the “Holiday Spirit” or “Yuletide Spirit” or just into the eggnog laced with spirits. But whatever the reason, the unchurched are still coming to visit our churches on Christmas Eve. For that, we should give God thanks, AND we should make the very most of the opportunity.
Church staffs like ours and many others in the valley have worked diligently to plan and improve our annual Christmas Eve services. Every detail has been thought through. We are advertising in the newspaper, on electronic billboards, on Facebook and Google. Some have sent out direct mail pieces inviting folks to come and join us in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus Christ loves the lost and we do too. There is a window of opportunity and we are throwing a party to honor Jesus. We want everyone to come.
Who will you invite to come with you this Christmas? Family? Friends? Neighbors? Single friend? Lonely person? The checkout person at Kroger? Your friend at the gym? A personal ask is hard to refuse.
Quigg Lawrence is the Senior Pastor at Church of the Holy Spirit in Roanoke. Visit them on the web at www.coths.org