God Bless the Chreasters

Welcome them. Invite them back. Pray for them.

Every year around this time, someone, somewhere, mentions the “Chreasters” — Christians who come to church only on Christmas and Easter. If expressed charitably, the reference could indicate sincere concern for those who are not availing themselves of worship the rest of the year. But if expressed as a complaint, it likely reflects an attitude of territoriality and judgment: who are these people who stay home all year long only to show up for the party?

The proper response from the weekly worshiper to the once-or-twice-a-year one, however, is not to roll the eyes, shake the head, and bemoan that someone took your parking place, your donut, or your regular spot in the pew. It is, rather, to look heavenward and thank the Holy Spirit for doing whatever He did to bring that reluctant worshiper to the Father’s house. It is to welcome that person, whose life you don’t know and can’t possibly judge, to the place where God’s Word is dispensed — the one thing needful for us all.

But for the Grace of God

I used to be a Chreaster. Thanks be to God, my parents brought me to the waters of Holy Baptism when I was an infant, but then something happened — I am not sure what — and we quit attending. So I have no recollection of Sunday school or Christmas pageants; of fidgeting in the pews, scribbling on the worship folder and eating Cheerios during the sermon; of singing in the children’s choir, going to Lenten suppers or playing with friends on the church lawn; of being greeted, week after week, by a pastor and church family who knew me by name.

I do, however, recall, each Easter, going to sunrise service with my mom. I don’t remember where we went — whether it was the same church each year or different churches from year to year — but she would wake me in the dark to see what was in my Easter basket. Then I would put on a new dress, bought especially for the occasion, and we would go to hear the Easter story. It was one of the best days of the year.

Today, I am a member of a confessional Lutheran church body. I came to this confession because I married a man who was already part of it, but for 35 years now, it has been my confession, too. I am thankful beyond measure for the circumstances that led me to a church that I believe teaches the Gospel in its truth and purity.

But even after decades of regularly receiving God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament in worship, I must admit that it’s still not always easy to be in church. Church people are just people, after all, which means that church people are sinners. That includes me. Too often, my thoughts on Sunday morning are on anything but God’s Word — instead, I am distracted by the problems of the past week, the challenges of the week ahead, the woman two pews over who obviously doesn’t like me, the hymn I didn’t care for, the man checking his phone during the sermon, or the youth who looks like he came to church straight from an all-night party.

The truth is, if left to my own sinful nature, I wouldn’t be in church at all. It is only by the grace of God that I am — and even then, the devil, the world, and my sinful nature are hard at work trying to draw my attention to anything but His Word. So when I see the Chreasters to my left and right, in front of me and behind, I must acknowledge that, in my heart of hearts, I, too, am still a Chreaster. For none of us, apart from the Lord’s calling, would ever step foot in church. None of us is able, by our own strength, to do anything in accord with God’s Law. Each of us needs a Savior to do it in our place, to pay the debt for our sin, and to plead with the Father on our behalf. The only difference between me and them is that, by being in church every week, I am continually convicted of the devastating truth of my wretchedness and provided with the sweet and healing balm of Christ’s forgiveness.

To my fellow weekly worshipers: When you see the Chreasters in your midst this weekend, welcome them. Invite them back. Pray for them.

And to my fellow Chreasters: Know that, no matter how long it’s been since you were in church, you are loved by your Creator. He wants to give you His gifts, not just on Christmas and Easter, but every day of the year. He uses your fellow Christians, however imperfect, as instruments for doing so. So go to church, and keep going, even when it’s hard. I’ll see you there.

is managing editor of Reporter, the official newspaper of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. She has written for a variety of publications, including The Federalist, Touchstone and The Lutheran Witness, and is a contributor to the book He Restores My Soul from Emmanuel Press. She has degrees in English and music and enjoys playing piano in her spare time.

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