Every few years Christmas is on a Sunday and suddenly believers face a dilemma: Stay home hanging stockings and opening gifts, or upend those cherished domestic traditions and go to Sunday church services. That is, if their church is even open.

Nearly 10% of Protestant churches will be closed on Christmas Sunday this year, according to LifeWay Research, and most pastors who are opening up say they expect far fewer people than on other Sundays. Other reports suggest that churches across the board are scaling down their services in anticipation of fewer worshipers.

“We have to face the reality of families who don’t want to struggle to get kids dressed and come to church,” Brad Jernberg of Dallas’s Cliff Temple Baptist Church told the Associated Baptist Press. Similarly, Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va., is planning a short service featuring bluegrass riffs on Christmas music. “I’ll do a brief sermon, and then we’re going home,” said Pastor Mike Parnell.

Even in denominations organized around the liturgical calendar and sacramental worship, like the Catholic, Episcopal and Orthodox churches, kid-friendly Christmas Eve services (actually held in the late afternoon) are proliferating—the “Jingle Bell Mass,” one Catholic priest dubbed them—while “Midnight Mass” is often a term of art, ending rather than starting at the stroke of midnight.

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