MANY people attend church at Christmas time for no other reason than ‘just because’.
Just because questions would be asked if they didn’t, just because the rest of the family will be present, just because they went last Christmas, and just because they recognise there’s expectations that they’ll be there again.
Attending church and singing a carol or two is the usual thing to do in December.
“It’s tradition”, they say, and yet, “only God knows why”.
Basically then, people feel obliged to make an annual Christmas appearance.
Obligation however is a terrible motivation, and that goes for everything, including church.
So, take it from me, if you’ve been looking for permission to skip church this Christmas, here it is: it’s not compulsory, and you don’t have to go.
Take this as your pass, coming from a minister of religion!
Pin your December absence on me.
Christmas can wind up becoming everything – except its true meaning.
Christmas can equate to busyness, overspending, and most certainly, pressure.
It can have us participating in things we’d prefer not to, but somehow feel obliged to.
Hence it is here in December that we find people gracing church pews, yet with minds elsewhere.
Essentially, they’re there, without really being there.
However, God appears to find any version of religion that’s half-hearted as meaningless as we do.
He is not impressed with us doing things just for the sake of ticking a box.
He can see directly into our hearts and if we’re genuinely not there, we may as well be, not there.
Apparently, the God of the Bible has zero appetite for empty rituals.
In ancient times God’s people missed this completely.
They were fulfilling religious duties, despite a lack of heart engagement.
They never realised it mattered, believing God would be dazzled by their very presence.
They imagined that keeping up appearances was good enough and would keep the Almighty happy, right?
God rebuked them for showing up without really meaning it and they receive a stern rebuke for their religious efforts.
That may seem a little harsh.
But actually, the scolding given by the prophet Isaiah should make perfect sense to (Aussie) folks who like to consider themselves fair dinkum: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” Isaiah 29.
Every Sunday at New Life we echo sentiments about God being more interested in authenticity than perfection.
God desires the real me to show up, for in the end, He is not fooled by any ‘Sunday best’ parade.
He sees into my innermost being and recognises that I am loaded with imperfections.
Yet in actuality, this is the very reason why church becomes so engaging.
Not because it’s December and I feel a necessity to make an appearance.
Rather, because every single day – Christmas or otherwise – is an opportunity to relate to a living and loving God.
More than anything though, it’s the first Christmas that unveils this truth.
Christmas is the shocking revelation; the King of heaven came to earth, to make a friend out of the likes of me.
That’s truly amazing; there’s nothing more exciting than that!
And personally, this is why I recommend everyone find a church somewhere this Christmas that’s sharing in that good news story.
New Life Baptist Church
Christmas service times
Christmas Eve 6:30pm