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With Christmas falling on a Sunday, Protestant pastors cancel services


On a typical Sunday morning, John and Elisa Handley have to scramble to get their five kids dressed and ready for church.

JOHN HANDLEY: If we want to be there on time, we leave about 8:30. So that's a struggle in the mornings.

SUMMERS: But this coming Sunday is Christmas, so their routine will be pretty different.

J HANDLEY: In the morning, you know, we'll, you know, sleep in as much as possible with a bunch of small children, then, you know, open presents and watch Christmas movies and have a nice, relaxing day.


That's right - no church, not because the Handley family is ditching their congregation, North View Community Church outside Seattle, Wash. It won't be holding services this Sunday, a decision that would be unthinkable for many Christians.

RUTH GRAHAM: I mean, Christ-mass - it's right there in the name.

SUMMERS: Ruth Graham is a national correspondent for The New York Times, and she reported on this growing trend of Protestant churches opting out of services this Christmas Sunday.

GRAHAM: One of, you know, the biggest reactions to this story is just Catholics kind of having their mind blown by the idea of just saying, like, let's skip it.

SUMMERS: But she says these churches aren't skipping out on services the entire Christmas weekend.

GRAHAM: To be clear, they say, like, we are celebrating Christmas. We're just doing it on Christmas Eve primarily. You know, we have all kinds of events throughout December celebrating Christmas. We just don't want to be rigid about having to do it on Christmas morning specifically.

KELLY: Last year Sunday fell on the 26.

LAURA BOSTROM: So we had really low attendance just across the board.

KELLY: Reverend Laura Bostrom is the lead pastor at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Loveland, Colo. Bostrom thought if people did not show up the day after Christmas, they probably wouldn't come on Christmas Day this year. So she prerecorded a sermon for her congregation to watch at their convenience.


BOSTROM: Welcome to worship on this glorious Christmas Day. I'm so glad you've joined us. Today I'd like to...

I'm a pastor, but I'm also a mom. I have two kids. I have an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old.

SUMMERS: So Bostrom says she understands wanting a cozy Christmas with your loved ones.

BOSTROM: For me, it's not an issue of Santa versus Jesus. And I don't feel like us not showing up for in-person worship on Sunday somehow makes us less Christian because I also think God wants us to enjoy life, too.

SUMMERS: So this Christmas Sunday, Bostrom will be one of many church-goers who will be enjoying the day at home in her pajamas after hitting snooze.


Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.