Christmas dissent

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Brian Ervin, former reporter (and a darned good one) for Urban Tulsa Weekly, has started a blog called TheThirdHelix.com, and his first entry asks some tough questions of his fellow Christians about Christmas:

Jesus said, "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it."

So when we say "Christmas is all about family" as an alternative to the commercialism that typifies the season, does that really honor Him? Howler monkeys and hyenas and wolves have "family values" all on their own, quite apart from any Christian influence.

When we celebrate this mish-mash of customs and obligations we call "Christmas," do we really do it to worship Him? Or is it just that these are a part of our cultural security blanket, and we do it out of childhood nostalgia or a sense of obligation to the people who inculcated those customs?

Julie R. Neidlinger has had her fill of Christmas, American style:

Church, which should be a place where the never-ending nails-on-chalkboard noise slips away, becomes its own monster. Pressure to be festive and solemn and then festive and then introspective at church services, as jerked about by worship leaders and sermons and well-meaning folks leaves me nothing but angry. This last Sunday, the sermon was wonderful and just as I began to mull it over in the difficult place in life I find myself, it was wiped from usefulness by a rendition of the Chipmunks Christmas song and wanting hula hoops because I guess Christmas is about the kids and we can't possibly leave the service without choking down something upbeat.

Don't miss that link in the above quote. It leads to Julie's account of a Christmas eve megachurch service that seemed to miss the whole point.

My own Christmas eve church experience this year (also at a megachurch, with the relatives we were visiting) began with clips from Rankin/Bass holiday specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, Jingle All the Way, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and, of course, A Christmas Story, displayed on the big screen in an endless loop until it was time for the Christmas concert to begin in earnest. Yes, concert -- the worship leader and his family, amped up so we couldn't hear the singing of our fellow audience members, and the lights down so we could keep our focus on the family at the front. ("What would Christmas eve be without the [worship leader's] family?" asked the senior pastor rhetorically. An actual worship service, perhaps?) And this was what they called the "traditional service."

There was one almost traditional touch: At the end, we sang "Silent Night" as candlelight spread through the audience, along with the sickly green-yellow glow of the glowsticks they gave to the small children (liability issues, presumably).

Finally, here's an interesting story about Christmas eve traditions from a religious group that doesn't observe Christmas: Slate: Benyamin Cohen: Holy Night: The Little Known Jewish Holiday of Christmas Eve. Seriously. It's about Jewish traditions that evolved from the 1500s or earlier, in the face of persecution, on how to keep oneself safe and holy on the Christian holiday.

MORE: Here's another Jewish Christmas tradition via a photo posted by GaelGreene on Twitter. The sign in the photo reads:

The Chinese Rest.
Assoc.
of the United States

would like to extend
our thanks to
The Jewish People

we do not completely
understand your dietary
customs...

But we are proud and
grateful that your GOD
insist you eat our food
on Christmas.

Happy Holidays!


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2 Comments

Julie said:

Worship services are like concerts, now.

Our worship leader actually refers to us as the audience and has used the word "set" as in "that was a good set" when the worship/music part of the service is done. I hate it.

Ugh. That's terrible. One of the reasons we've stayed at our church, Christ Presbyterian PCA, despite a significant doctrinal difference, is the fact that our worship services are *not* like that, although there are some worrying tendencies, like having people on stage solely to sing along. If the musicians are amplified, I don't see the point of having them on a platform facing the congregation. Like choirs of old, they should be behind the congregation, or at least not facing the congregation from the front.

It's easy to feel isolated, as you've noted -- everyone else seems to love the concert/audience style. I appreciate you being there as an eloquent kindred spirit in the blogosphere, affirming the legitimacy of these concerns.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 29, 2011 1:20 AM.

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