Good news everyone, even though Steven Colbert revealed recently that the war on Christmas is over, you can still attend religious services on Christmas Day in San Francisco. Some of this was covered in yesterday's DBD, but since only a few of us are at work anyway, who cares?
Catholic: Old St. Mary's Cathedral is in the heart of Chinatown and is staffed by the Paulist order, who also staff Newman Hall in Berkeley. They'll have a Christmas pageant and midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day services are at 8:30 and 11.
St. Ignatius is the Jesuit church at USF; they'll have a "family mass" on Christmas Eve day at 4 PM, a "teen mass" with contemporary music at 8 PM, and organ/choir and mass beginning at 11:30 PM. On Christmas Day the masses are at 8 AM (organ- note it's a gigantic built-in organ, not a keyboard), 9:30 AM with contemporary music, and 11 AM with the choir.
Both of the above welcome visitors and tourists.
History nerds might like to visit Mission Dolores Basilica, which is the large church next door to the original mission which was built in 1776 (unfortunately the museum isn't open on Christmas) on Dolores Street (you knew that, right? And that it's part of El Camino Real?). They have posadas nightly at 7 PM through Friday. They'll have a family mass Christmas Eve at 5 with carols and bilingual (Spanish) midnight mass beginning at 11:30 PM. Christmas Day masses are at 8 and 11 and in Spanish at noon.
Another interesting historical option is the National Shrine of St. Francis in North Beach. When the diocese planned to close this church, the Capuchin Franciscan order of priests stepped in to staff it and keep it alive, thinking it important that the church dedicated to St. Francis in the city named for him was worth saving. And, after all, he is the guy credited for nativity scenes (aka creches), which he used to help illiterate medieval Catholics understand the story of the birth (not missing a beat, the Franciscans will have a live nativity at 4:30 on Friday). They'll have a Christmas Eve service with choir/bell ringers at 9 PM and Christmas Day service at 10 AM. Like every Franciscan-staffed church, they will welcome any visitors with open arms.
If you're in the East Bay, you can't go wrong with Newman Hall. If you never went while a student, it's worth a visit someday just to drink in the Brutalist architecture. They'll have 5 PM family mass, are singing carols at 9 PM, and Christmas Eve service at 10 PM. Christmas morning services are at 7:30 AM (the bleary-eyed parent post-present mass) and 9:30 AM.
Friendly reminder about 16th century history: non-Catholics are not "in communion" with the Church and are not supposed to take bread and wine (which is transubstantiated (lol SBN spellchecker) into the body and blood of Jesus). You can just remain in the pew during the communion hymn, many others will refrain for various reasons and no one will think bad thoughts about you.
Hopefully those of other faiths will chime in with recommendations for visitor-friendly services for their denominations. I'll take a stab at a couple of them:
Episcopalian: Grace Cathedral is atop Nob Hill and although I've not been to services there I'm confident they welcome visitors. They'll have a Christmas pageant with the bishop at 11 AM on Christmas Eve and "Christmas lessons and carols" at 4 PM. They'll also have choir, orchestra and so forth at 10:30 PM and note that "the church often fills up by 10 PM"*. On Christmas Day they'll have 11 AM service and there's a "contemplative Eucharist" at 6 PM.
Holy Innocents is in Noe Valley at 455 Fair Oaks Street, and I can attest to them as good people after attending Easter service there last year. They'll have a family service and "Do-it-yourself pageant with costumes provided" at 6 PM (but they suggest coming at 5 PM to pick a costume). They'll also have Christmas Eve "lessons" (is this an Episcopalian thing?) at 10:30 PM followed by mass with choir. Christmas Day services are at 10 AM. If you would like to take communion, I believe all are welcome to do so here, and you'll be invited to do so. I imagine it's the same at Grace but won't say so for sure.
"Methodist": Glide Memorial is another San Francisco institution. You'll know them from annual shots of their soup kitchen, or from the lines outside same you may have seen in the Tenderloin. Their Christmas services will be at 9 and 11:30 AM; I can't say for sure what they'll be doing there but there will be amplified gospel music and probably dancing and who knows what all. They list "Christmas Dinner" on the day's schedule from 9AM to 2 PM, and that means they will be feeding thousands of people (there's a link on the website to an online signup for shift work.. they're doing a breakfast on 12/26 too). I have heard that it can be hard getting in to help over holidays on short notice... if you are interested in serving on the holiday and get shut out you might try St. Anthony's Dining Room, which serves families and seniors at 10 AM and all comers at 11:30 AM every day. They might not allow you to serve without an orientation first; in either case note that Glide and St. Anthony's are open every day and they do not lack for customers. Come back in January.
Shaker: You are about a hundred years too late. This is what happens when a religion makes celibacy a tenet of faith for every member.
Jewish: Several new films are opening this week and SF's movie theatres await you. The Mission Impossible movie seems to be getting good reviews, amazingly enough. As for traditional Jewish Christmas meals, try House of Nanking in Chinatown or Eric's in Noe Valley. I'm sure others will have other favorites to suggest.
Also, the Contemporary Jewish Museum is open with free admission. 736 Mission St.
The Make Out Room at 22nd and Mission will be hosting "A Jewish Christmas", with Woody Allen films, DJs, and strip dreidel.
African Orthodox: I've never been, but the Church of St. John Coltrane has services every Sunday at 11:45 AM.
We encourage everyone to participate in the services by singing along, clapping your hands,and dancing. If you play an instrument, bring it.
Their website doesn't seem to have been updated in a while so you might call if you are seriously interested in attending on Christmas.
Drunkards/Hipsters: Bender's on S. Van Ness will have a no-cover country music show and $2 Schlitz beer. 9PM. Also see the above listing for the MakeOut Room and below for the Satanic Church. Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings at Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro (see below) at 12 and 7:30 PM.
Kwanzaa: Stupid reader. Kwanzaa starts on 12/26. There's a kickoff event with City College trustee Dr. Brenda Wade at 7 PM at the Westbay Conference Center, 1290 Fillmore (I think that's the big, nice new building) at Eddy.
Satanic Church: Karla Lavay's (yes, Anton's daughter) First Satanic Church presents the 14th Annual Black X-Mass at 9:30 PM (shouldn't the anti-mass be at midnight?) the Elbo Room, Valencia near 17th.
Teh Gayz (and everyone else): The world-famous SF Gay Mens' Chorus will be presenting "Home For the Holidays" on 12/24 at 5, 7, and 9 PM at the Castro Theatre. I couldn't come up with an official event on 12/25, but if anyone is interested in seeing how a Catholic parish can reconcile itself with the gay community, consider attending a service at Most Holy Redeemer. They'll have carols and mass at 9:30 PM on Christmas Eve and at 8 and 10 AM on Christmas Day. Restaurants and so forth in the Castro are kind of hit-and-miss on Christmas Day, some open and some closed.
*= Note there are a zillion Episcopalian churches in SF and each and every one of them will have Christmas services. Consider taking your custom to a more intimate setting.