by David Sisler

Less than eight miles from where I was born and raised (in Loch Lynn, Maryland) is an Episcopal Church known as “Our Father’s House.” Built in 1933 from chestnut logs, before the chestnut blight destroyed the forests, the log church became known as, well, “The Log Church.”

The land was donated by affluent vacationers from Baltimore and New York, and the construction was done by local farmers and railroad workers. The local folks and the out-of-towners worshiped there, baptized their babies, and buried their dead. It was “God’s outpost in the Allegheny Mountains.”

That was then, and this is now: the Rev. Chip Lee, pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church in nearby Deer Park, who also oversees the Log Church, wants to move the building to Marsh Mountain on Deep Creek Lake, and make it part of a sprawling development in Garrett County’s major industry – tourism.

The locals, and the survivors of the original congregants, are up in arms. They object to moving the building to where the rich and the wanna-be famous hang out. Let the “Oakland 400” go to their own church, they say. They don’t need ours, they say.

Well, you could sympathize with that, if you did not know that none of the locals attend services there any more. Our Father’s Mouse attends the House, but no humans. When a popular Rector was moved in 1990, the locals quit going, reports Caitlin Cleary for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Now that the new guy – whom they don’t support – wants to move the building – they are whooping and hollering.

Good Christian spirit! Good Christmas spirit!

That’s the way the world does things.

Bill Watterson’s comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, is repeating decade old issues in many newspapers. Today, Calvin says, or rather repeats from 1993, “Yep, Christmas is just around the corner. And what better way to celebrate a religious holiday than with a month of frenzied consumerism!”

Hobbes responds, “I’m surprised other religions haven’t picked up on that.”

“Getting loads of loot is a very spiritual experience for me,” Calvin replies.

That’s the way the world does things.

And in the spirit of the season, churches all over our nation will have a very spiritual experience by be closed in celebration of the birthday of our Savior.

Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Manya A. Brachear reports that “Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest churches in the Chicago area, will be closed Sunday, December 25 – because it’s Christmas.”

So instead of worshiping, they will be at home, focusing on the family. Or at least that’s the plan.

And multitudes, Willowans and non-Willowans, will be spending the midnight clear sleeping in. All ye faithful will not be coming. They are staying away from the manger. What child is this? Who cares?

“We don’t see it as not having church on Christmas,” the Rev. Gene Appel, senior pastor of Willow Creek, said.

Not having church is not seen as not having church. Okay.

Me and Forrest, we ain't the brightest bulbs in the pack, but no matter how you phrase it, no matter how you spin it, that is a prime example of evangelical Christianity having lost its way.

“The best way to honor the birth of Jesus is for families to have a more personal experience on that day,” Rev. Appel said.

What better place to have a personal experience than gathered with the other members of God’s Family? Didn’t the writer of Hebrews say something about not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, “as the manner of some is”?

David Wells, professor of historical and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston says, “That we would think that going to church is getting in the way of celebrating Christmas – that the family celebration shouldn’t be impeded by having to go to church – it seems to me that our priorities are upside down.”

The world will not to go to church on Christmas day. They don’t go to church 50 weeks out of the year, anyway.

I understand that Jesus was very probably not born on December 25. It was a pagan celebration which the Church confiscated as a way to dramatize the Gospel. Born this day or not, it is the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Can we not give God a couple of hours on this day, and go to his house?

Flashing electric lights, displayed by people who know Jesus, and by people who don’t know Jesus from Howard Johnson, proliferate throughout the land. But on Jesus’ birthday, his churches will be dark. What kind of witness is that?

That’s the way the world does things.

Next, we will close churches on Easter Sunday – just to spend more time with our families, having a spiritual experience hunting Easter eggs hidden by the Easter bunny in our back yards.

Nah! That won’t happen!

Where in the world would we go to show off our new clothes?


Copyright 2005 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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