An important announcement
This newsletter comes with an important announcement. The festival of Christmas, as we know it, is no more. From this year, Christmas will no longer be celebrated on 25th December! Instead we will mark the birth of Christ on a date to be announced in July.
The year 2010 will be remembered as the year the Christian church changed the date of Christmas. It was decided that if this alteration was announced in October then it would ensure enough time for you to change any festive plans.
Donít lift your phone to harangue me. Iím kidding. Moving the date of Christmas is not on the agenda, either locally or nationally. But think of the enormity of such a change. Can you imagine if a history book, written in the 22nd century, referred to how in the year 2010 Christmas was moved from December to July? It seems unthinkable doesnít it? How could such a radical transformation ever happen?
The inspiration and motivation leading to such an alteration to generations of tradition, with all the inconvenience and conflict that would ensue, would need to be enormously powerful. The reasons supporting such a change require to be so overwhelmingly persuasive that the resulting awkwardness and turmoil would be worth enduring.
Yet that is precisely the magnitude of the change which took place during the first century AD when Christians started gathering for worship on a Sunday instead of a Saturday. The distance of time has blinded us to the sheer magnitude of such a radical alteration to generations of religious and cultural habit.
What was the driving force for such a change? It was the resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, it is one of the understated evidences in support of the reality of the resurrection, that believers so readily moved against the weight of generations of religious and cultural habit. They moved the day of worship from the Sabbath (Saturday) to the Lordís Day (Sunday) with all the inconvenience that would inevitably arise. The first day of the week (Sunday) was the day of the resurrection and the day when the Lord manifested His risen presence among the disciples, and so this became the more natural day to meet for worship. The believers adopted a resurrection view of everything and that eventually seeped into the time they set aside to gather together for worship.
When we gather for worship, it should be with the same sense of celebration in a risen Saviour who will be present with us. We should anticipate being together with that same sense of expectancy, preparing ourselves to use the hymns to focus our thoughts and emotions on Christ and be ready to receive all He has to teach us in His Word.
It occurs to me that attitudes to Sunday are profoundly revealing. The Lordís Day is the day that reveals what is truly in our hearts, does it not? For some people it is a day which must be filled with something interesting because, apart from Jesus, it is a terrible day. My suspicion is that there is something deep in human beings, however atheistic they may be, that is forced to resist what Sunday was meant to be, as a day spent in the presence of the risen Christ in worship. I stumbled across an example of this when I heard a Johnny Cash song recently. I am not a huge Johnny Cash fan, but some of the verses of this song speak very honestly about the sense of discomfort and loss that is felt when Sunday is no longer marked by worship. Let me quote him:
Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.
I'd smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and songs I'd been picking.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playing with a can that he was kicking.
Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken.
And Lord, it took me back to something that I'd lost
Somewhere, somehow along the way.
On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short a' dying
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.
There is an honesty in those words, which recognises that without Christ, Sunday is a day when something is lost. It is a day that reveals a great deal about us. For unbelievers, Sunday is an empty day that brings a terrible reminder of the emptiness of our lives without the one who alone can bring fulfilment and satisfaction.
What does your Sunday reveal about you?