Christmas is a big moment for the Church. This is the time of year in which people are more likely to visit us than at any other. This is the point where people come to see what the church have to offer to their communities and the world around them. We have some wonderful news to share, God’s heart was breaking so much that he was born as a baby boy and placed in the hay the animals were eating. He was born into a world of pain, war, hunger and poverty to show us how it could be different. He was born into a world to show us how to love and care for each other and to tell us to look after the least in society. Mary understood this before he was born as she sang:
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
Every year I agonise about the music we use at Christmas. To pick something that people know well enough to sing. Something that speaks of the incarnation that can be played with integrity in a band is a difficult task. People often talk about popular “secular” music not speaking of the “true meaning” of Christmas. For example, if we were to sing this Chris de Burgh song as we try to tell the world God’s story, I’m sure the extra terrestrials would confuse the issues.
Over the past month I have attended many carol services and I have come to the conclusion that I have been mistaken in the role the church are to play at Christmas. Whilst I thought we were trying to give account of God’s incarnation, all around me people are singing “O Little Town of Royal David’s City”. We are happy to perpetuate the Victorian ideals and social engineering of past centuries. I need to know my place within the created order and must not step outside of my defined social background. Children must be seen and not heard. “Christian children all must be, mild, obedient, good as he”. Unfortunately this myth does our children no favours as it places unrealistic expectations upon them. It also facilitates those who want to complain about young families in church because “in my day…” Unfortunately this also portrays Jesus in an unrealistic manner. A baby who was born on a silent night without crying who lived a life so meek and mild that they nailed him to a cross.
It was recently pointed out to me that “people outside the church don’t take the Christmas story seriously, they treat it like a fairy tale”. I disagree. The people inside the church don’t take the Christmas story seriously, they treat it like a fairy tale. Is it any wonder that the people who hear us singing “I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky” and “when like stars His children crowned all in white shall wait around” spend the rest of the year saying “pie in the sky when you die”. Who can blame them? They are just repeating our story as we have recounted it.
Next year I think I may include A Spaceman Came Travelling in the repertoire. It is easier to try and explain aliens than to try and recant your previous explanation of the afterlife. It is certainly more believable.