As I prep to go into our two Christmas Eve services tomorrow, I am hoping and praying for a lot of people to attend. This is one of the best opportunities of the year to present the love of Christ to people. All year we have been reaching out to our community and “making the love of God obvious”. Thousands of people in our neighborhood know we care about them. I am hoping that we will have the honor of leading more people to Christ during Christmas. Last year, we had a total of 683 people at the Christmas Eve service. I am sure that a good one half of them were not regular attenders of Maranatha. One of the dynamics of a service like that, where “regulars” are outnumbered by “guests”, is that it is easy to feel like a guest yourself. In every service, there is a vibe that dictates the feel and flow of things. I have been in services where, although I was leading the services, I felt like I was along for the ride. Not a good feeling for a pastor! I am reminded that we are all “guests” in His house. He really needs to dictate the atmosphere. When we allow that to happen, important things – the stuff of eternity- will happen.
I am praying that the people who come to the services who do not have a relationship with Christ will be open to the idea. It is my plan, as it is every time we have one of these events – to present a clear and concise Gospel, to let everyone know what this season is all about. I will do my best to tell them of the love of God. My question is: Who, if anyone, will respond favorably?
Honestly, many people who come to these services tomorrow night will have been drinking. They are on their way to or from dinner or their office party and it is common for people to come to Christmas Eve service half lit up. Let me state a couple of things right away: 1) It is better for them to attend drunk than to not attend at all. 2) At most services, I speak to someone who has been drinking, and I am OK with that. 3) If you only want sober people at your church, you will not reach the people in your community (and you may lose some current attenders). For the record, we have rarely had anyone disturb or get out of control. We have measures in place, just in case.
But this leads me to wonder about the spiritual decisions that may be made tomorrow night. If people are under the influence, are they capable of an appropriate response to God? I realize that the Holy Spirit can work in any heart, regardless of the mental state. But if alcohol causes some to be more emotional, (and it does), and if alcohol impairs our judgment (and it does), what can we expect?
I come to this conclusion:
I am not responsible for the outcome. I am simply to speak the truth of God’s Word in love and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. If I am in any way judgmental of the people who attend or if I come across as though I am spiritually superior, I can forget the possibility of any positive response. Christmas Eve is simply a wonderful time to love people as they are. Isn’t that why Jesus came?
Just a few more observations about intoxicated people at Christmas Eve services:
• Our non-alcoholic communion wine will probably taste flat to some.
• We will probably need a restroom break in the middle of the services.
• Open flames and alcohol are not a great combination! We may need to do a sobriety test before giving them a lighted candle. Otherwise, “lit up” may take on more than one meaning!
Merry Christmas, everyone!