Willowcreek Closes Doors on Christmas; Hybels Still to Preach

Two of the largest mega churches in the Chicago area will join hands this holiday season to hold what may possibly be the largest Christmas Day service in the nation.

The Rev. Bill Hybels of Willowcreek Church will preach alongside the Rev. James Meeks of the House of Hope Church in Chicago. Together, the two churches have more than 30,000 members.

According to NBC5 Chicago, the two pastors decided to hold the joint service after Willowcreek made headlines for deciding not to hold a Christmas Day service.

"Everybody laughed, thought it was a big joke," Meeks said to NBC5 Chicago. "But afterwards I said, 'You know, Bill,' … 'That's a great idea. That's a good opportunity for us to bridge some gaps.'"

Willowcreek, alongside a handful of other large megachurches, came under scrutiny in recent days after they announced plans to rest on Christmas Day, which this year falls on Sunday.

Cally Parkinson, spokesperson for Willowcreek, had explained to various media sources earlier that Christmas services are usually not well attended and that it had been 25 years since the church opened its doors on Christmas day.

Willowcreek will still be closed on Christmas, though it plans to have multiple services on Christmas Eve. Church members will be given a DVD with a message to share with family members on the special Sunday.

“They'd be much more likely to take the DVD we're producing, and pop it into the player sometime over the holidays, and hopefully hear a message that will be reinforced to bring them back in January," Parkinson had said. "You don't have to be in a church to experience God. You can experience God in the living room.”

For those Willowcreek members more accustomed to experiencing church at the chapel, the House of Hope will be open to them too.