Faith: December 2011 Archives

Christmas dissent

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Brian Ervin, former reporter (and a darned good one) for Urban Tulsa Weekly, has started a blog called, 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.
of the United States

would like to extend
our thanks to
The Jewish People

we do not completely
understand your dietary

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

Happy Holidays!

A call to prayer from King's College, Cambridge, and nearly 100 years ago:

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our diocese.

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forevermore.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us:

Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

A hymn:

As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom Heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin's alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, is available for listening online via BBC Radio 4.

Experimental surround sound recordings of Lessons and Carols from 1958 and 2007 are also available on the BBC website.

MORE: My reminiscences about Lessons and Carols.

As kids send emails to Santa, as we update our own online wish lists and peruse the lists of our loved ones, Bartlesville-based ministry Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is asking Christians to include on their gift lists their brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering persecution.

By persecution, I don't mean Christian store clerks in America who are forced to say "Happy Holidays!" or school children prohibited from singing Christmas carols, as sad as that is. We're talking about meeting the physical needs of Christians who have been beaten and imprisoned, the families of Christians who have been killed, whether by the government, by criminal gangs, or by vigilante mobs (with the government's implicit permission), Christians whose homes have been burned, Christians whose generosity has been repaid with betrayal. Out of our abundance, we can be used of God to provide them with comfort and encouragement.

vomso_201110_03_christmasCare_small.jpgVoice of the Martyrs is offering two gift packs that you can purchase for them to deliver to Christians in North Africa. A Christmas Care Pack ($25) is a backpack filled with a new set of clothing, toiletries (soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.), school supplies (including notebook, pens, crayons), treats, vitamins, Christian story books, coloring books, and a toy. VOM hopes to distribute 10,000 of these.

For $75 you can give a North African church leader or evangelist a Village Outreach Pack a small library of materials to help them more effectively teach their neighbors about Jesus. The packs include a DVD player, DVDs, tracts, Bibles, and Christian literature. VOM hopes to raise enough money to distribute 3,000 of these.

General donations to VOM allow the organization to fund legal aid, medical treatment, housing, clothing, and other help to those directly suffering persecution and their families.

Whether or not you can give, you can pray with VOM's weekly prayer updates. At, you can learn about individual Christians who are imprisoned for their faith, so that you can pray for them and their families, advocate on their behalf (petitioning the imprisoning government, raising public awareness), and, often, send notes of encouragement to prisoners.

There are countless worthy ways you can share Christ's love with others during the Christmas season, including many opportunities here in Tulsa. But don't forget your brothers and sisters who share in Christ's sufferings as they steadfastly proclaim His Name.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from December 2011.

Faith: November 2011 is the previous archive.

Faith: May 2012 is the next archive.

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