Christmas and Christmas Eve were such big days for the church. For so many people, Christmas (and maybe Easter) is all they get for an encounter with God. Whether it be guilt, family tradition, or maybe even a wish to hear about the baby Jesus, something pulls people into church on that day.
I've been thinking about it a bit, and at first I was rather annoyed by it. These people aren't here in the bad times of the church with arguments about budgets and other things that take up the church's time. There's not here to support the church the rest of the year.
But then I realized how poor that kind of life is. Whether it be because church has hurt them in the past or they get tired of the failings of the people of the church or because they forget or ignore the church most of the year, this little service has to support and nourish them for a year. People who come but once or twice a year have to get along without the continual nourishment from God that comes from the Church.
So Christmas is still an offering the church makes to a hurting, lost world. We offer and invite people again and again to meet Jesus (whether in the stable, on the roads of the world, on the cross or as the resurrected Christ). Some may accept this invitation once every year, some may come more frequently, and some may not come at all. We have to continually witness to Christ, to show and share the love of Christ with the world, knowing that some can't or won't receive it right now. I know that I sometimes refuse to accept Christ's love, and I go to church every Sunday.
Accepting the invitation is hard, but God continually offers it to us. We'll never be late to the wedding banquet on God's holy mountain; God has put no deadline on the RSVP. God invites us to share in his love and his life every moment of our lives. We can accept, decline, accept again, hesitate, fully accept... you get the idea. God is the kindest of hosts; he won't refuse you if you accept, even if you rejected all the other invitations. In the same way, the Church can embrace that hospitality. Invite again and again the people of God.