Because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, churches across the U.S. were forced to decide whether they’d hold regular Sunday sermons or allow the congregation to celebrate at home.
Many pastors and churches did a little bit of both – from sermons in pajamas, to food drives, to holiday dinners, Christians celebrated in myriad ways on Sunday.
According to a LifeWay Research study, about 90 percent of Protestant churches planned to have a Christmas Day event this year.
“Having church on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday seems as if it would be as much of a given as having Thanksgiving on a Thursday, but this has been an issue of discussion and contention in recent years,” President Ed Stetzer said in a statement.
Many churches elected to hold services on Christmas Eve or in the days leading up to the holiday, while others decided the timing provided a unique opportunity for celebration.
At Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans, GA, church members were invited to spend Sunday morning in the church to hear about the Christmas story while in their pajamas.
In Wasau, WI, about 50 members of the First United Methodist Church went to doors of needy and elderly families in the community to sing carols and provide hot meals. The church has endeavored in such charity for 43 consecutive years, and members say the activity helps them unite the community during the holiday season.
"It's something for the four of us to do together, and helps us count our blessings," resident Amy Stack told the Wausau Daily Herald. "It's good to know we can help the community and help people who may not have a meal otherwise."
In Norwell, Mass, one church opened its doors to over one hundred people for a Christmas meal. Many attendees were people whose families had moved or passed away.
Rev. Stacey Lanier of the Church Hill United Methodist Church in Norwell said the decision to hold an event on Christmas was a no-brainer.
“We just don’t think people should have to be alone on Christmas Day,” Lanier told the Patriot Ledger. “Some people think it’s homeless people or poor people, but it’s not. It’s all kinds of people.”
“A lot of the people who are alone on Christmas don’t want to be recipients,” she added. “They want to serve.”
Still, some churches decided it would be best for parishioners to stay home on Christmas Sunday. Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, GA is but one of many congregations to suggest families can gain as much by being home with their families than at a church service.
“At the Creek, our families are one of the most important things to us,” a statement from the church read. “We encourage you to invest in those relationships more than ever this Christmas, as you celebrate the birth of Christ and the wonderful life He gives.”
Christmas falls on Sunday about once every seven years.