When Christmas Falls on a Sunday


Why worship on Christmas Day? Jessica Anschutz and Doug Powe share important reasons for worshipping on Christmas Day and offer ideas for innovative, hybrid (or virtual) Christmas Day worship. 

Why Worship on Christmas Day? 

This year Christmas falls on a Sunday. In the past, we’ve noticed that some congregations chose not to gather for worship when Christmas fell on a Sunday. We get it! You just finished Christmas Eve worship (or multiple services) and like everyone else you want to spend time with your family. Honestly, you are tired from Christmas Eve! But we believe worshipping on Christmas Sunday is important and here are some reasons why you should consider doing so. 

It’s Christmas! 

A worship service on Christmas Day gives voice to the meaning of Christmas beyond consumerism and the commercialization of Christmas. Christmas is not about stockings filled to overflowing and packages wrapped with bows under the Christmas tree but the true gift of the inbreaking of Jesus who brings peace, hope, love, and joy into our broken and hurting world. Gathering for worship on Christmas honors the sabbath and celebrates the birth of our savior. Without Christmas, without the birth of Jesus, the church wouldn’t be the church. Gathering for worship on Christmas either virtually or in person provides a spiritual foundation to go along with all the other traditions and customs of the day. 

Lonely on Christmas 

During the best of times, many people are lonely on Christmas day. Family lives far away or they have lost touch with family. When you add in a global pandemic where many have lost family members, Christmas may really feel lonely. While many in your congregation will have family and friends to celebrate with on Christmas day, this may not be true for everyone. Holding a service on Christmas provides an opportunity for individuals who may be alone to connect with the community of faith. 

To further address the need for connection, consider sharing a meal if you gather in person. It can be one of those famous church potlucks. The idea is to provide an opportunity for those who may be alone that day to spend time in Christian fellowship. No one likes to feel alone or forgotten, and the church can be at the forefront of helping others to have meaningful connections. 

Christmas Day Worship Considerations 

  • Sing lots of Christmas carols. 
  • Tell the story of the birth of Jesus. 
  • Invite people to dress comfortably in their (ugly) Christmas sweaters.
  • Encourage children to wear their Christmas pajamas. 
  • Serve a Christmas brunch/lunch/potluck for those otherwise alone on Christmas. 

Hybrid or Virtual Worship Ideas 

Worshipping on Christmas is an opportunity to try something new, to worship outside of the box, to experience Christ in new ways. A hybrid service provides the opportunity for those who are travelling over the holidays to join the celebration virtually. Instead of following your congregation’s typical order of service on Christmas, consider one or more of the following worship opportunities:

  • People love to sing Christmas carols and many missed singing together in recent years due to the pandemic. Gather around the piano for a festive Christmas carol sing, read the story of Jesus’ birth, and serve Christmas cookies and hot chocolate. 
  • Throw a birthday party for Jesus. Share the story of Jesus’ birth. Play games. Invite people to bring gifts or give online to support the food pantry, clothing closet or other community agency. Eat cake. Celebrate! 
  • Read a children’s Christmas book. Family is just as important for pastors as it is for others. An option that allows you to stay home and worship virtually is streaming yourself reading a children’s story. If you have children, it allows them an opportunity to worship and it provides a time for you to virtually connect with others in the congregation. Reading a story not only shares the meaning of Christmas with children but also with the adults. (Be sure to check copyright rules as some authors only permit a story to be shared online for a limited period of time.) 
  • Engage people of all ages in sharing the story of Jesus’ birth by participating in a spontaneous Nativity or Christmas play or skit. Use simple costumes (halos, animal ears, crowns, etc.) or symbols to identify the figures in the story.
  • Provide take-home Christmas Day worship packets in advance so those joining virtually on Christmas Day can fully participate. Include an invitation with details on how to virtually access the service, a worship bulletin, song sheets, hot chocolate packets, coloring sheets/activities, Christmas cookies, etc. 

May your Christmas worship be filled with joy, as the community of faith gathers to celebrate our Savior’s birth!

Related Resources


About Author

Dr. Jessica Anschutz

Jessica L. Anschutz is the Assistant Director of the Lewis Center and co-editor of Leading Ideas. She teaches in the Doctor of Ministry program at Wesley Theological Seminary and is an elder in the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Jessica participated in the Lewis Fellows program, the Lewis Center's leadership development program for young clergy. She is also the co-editor with Doug Powe of Healing Fractured Communities (Palmetto, 2024).

Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe, Jr.

F. Douglas Powe, Jr., is director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and holds the James C. Logan Chair in Evangelism (an E. Stanley Jones Professorship) at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. He is also co-editor with Jessica Anschutz of Healing Fractured Communities (Palmetto, 2024) and coauthor with Lovett H. Weems Jr. of Sustaining While Disrupting: The Challenge of Congregational Innovation (Fortress, 2022). His previous books include The Adept Church: Navigating Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Abingdon Press, 2020); Not Safe for Church: Ten Commandments for Reaching New Generations; New Wine, New Wineskins: How African American Congregations Can Reach New Generations; Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith; and Transforming Community: The Wesleyan Way to Missional Congregations.

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