Here is the story from NBC5's website:
Members of one of the Chicago area's largest churches will have to find someplace else to go if they want to attend services on Christmas Day.
"The issues were resources," said Willow Creek Community Church spokeswoman Cally Parkinson. Parkinson said resources that would have gone toward a Christmas Day service in the auditorium would instead help the church offer a week of worship, culminating on Christmas Eve. There will also be a special spiritual DVD the congregation will be encouraged to watch at home on Christmas Day, NBC5's Jennifer Mitchell reported. "We really are putting the opportunity to have a service in the hands of everybody who walks in," Parkinson said. "Rather than creating one in a centralized way ourselves."
Parkinson said a few people have contacted the church to complain, but others said the idea works better for their families."I don't really think it's secularizing Christmas," said Jason Peterson, who attends Willow Creek. "I think that a lot of the concept of it is trying to bring Christmas back to the individual families. "Willow Creek has never held services on Christmas Day, except in 1994, when the holiday also fell on a Sunday. That year, only 1,500 people attended services. This year, the church expects at least 50,000 people to attend the eight services that will be offered between Dec. 20 and 24. "You can still be at church Christmas Eve and be with your family on Christmas Day, too," said Kathy Ruzinok, who also attends the church.
Willow Creek is non-denominational, Mitchell reported. It's mission is to reach people who are far from God, hoping alternatives to the norm may do that. "You don't have to experience God in church," Parkinson said. "You can experience God in your living room, and that's what we are giving people the chance to do."
And in a related story from NBC5:
Some of the United States' largest churches will be closed two weeks from Sunday.With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, they're planning Christmas eve services on Saturday but are canceling their usual Sunday worship schedule. Officials at those churches said the schedule change is meant to be family-friendly.
But critics said closing the doors of the church on the Lord's Day is unthinkable. Fuller Theological Seminary Professor Robert Johnston also objects to redefining Christmas as a family celebration rather than as Christians "celebrating the birth of the savior."
Among the megachurches to be closed on Christmas are the Chicago-area's Willow Creek Community Church; Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich.; North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga.; Fellowship Church near Dallas; and Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky.
Dr. Johnston gets it right. It is inconceivable to me that Christians would not want to gather on the Lord's Day as Scripture commands and to violate that command on Christmas of all days? We too have a full slate of Christmas Eve services, but we would not think of not having a Christmas Day service at our Church, as well. What better place for the family to gather than in God's house to celebrate the gift of His Son?
CNN has this further information:
Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day.
Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.
It is almost unheard of for a Christian church to cancel services on a Sunday, and opponents of the closures are accusing these congregations of bowing to secular culture.
"This is a consumer mentality at work: 'Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,' " said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Massachusetts.
"I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."