Monday, December 22, 2008

A Savior, Who is Christ the Lord

“I’m so sick of the secularization of Christmas.”
“I’m tired of Christians being caught up in the commercialism of Christmas.”
“I can’t wait for Christmas to be over.”

Have you heard any of these over the last couple of weeks? Have you said them?

I know that, for many Christians, the struggle between having the wonderful, memorable, traditional family Christmas and keeping our eyes on Jesus can be very frustrating. We see the anti-Christian Christmas bus ads or the sign in the Washington state capitol placed next to the nativity saying that Christianity is all just a myth, and it’s easy to get distracted and angry and frustrated. I know I do.

Of course, while we can't choose the pressures that come into our life, we can choose our reactions to them. Some people decide on constructive, pro-active responses to the commercialization/secularization issue, such as The Advent Conspiracy.

I don’t mean to imply that I don’t have same kind of stress about making sure all the family is visited and bought for and all that stuff. But I have found that the most effective way of keeping my focus is to immerse myself in Christmas music. But, like everything else popular involving Christmas, Christmas songs/carols/hymns/whatever-you-want-to-call-them have become marginalized, not by the secular world, but by the church.

This year, Christmas at our church has felt different. Well, really, holidays in general have felt different. I know that our church was always unique in its recognition of the non-religious holidays such as Independence Day and Memorial Day, but frankly, I’ve always considered that a good thing. If the church isn’t going to publicly, corporately thank God for His provision and blessing for our country and for our freedom, who else will? But back to topic….

Christmas has felt somewhat acknowledged this year, rather than savored, like the in-law you’re obligated to be polite to but can’t really wrap your arms around. Oh, we’ve done the Christmas boxes and other outreach programs that usually occupy December. I don’t mean it in that sense.

Building up to Christmas this year, we sang a couple of carols (a.k.a Christmas-themed hymns) a week, except for this last Sunday, Christmas Sunday, when we sang a nice little medley and a choir special I particularly enjoy. (I still can’t remember what “Noel” means. I should google it.)

Where I sit in church places me in the line of sight of several staff members during worship, both on stage and off, and it’s really hard not be a little voyeuristic. I noticed several members of our leadership were not only not singing – they looked downright bored. Until, of course, the non-seasonal songs of their preference came up, and then the eyes were closed and the arms were raised. And then, of course, twenty minutes later we are (correctly) told we should be able to worship without regard to our personal stylistic preference.

I’m sorry, but what part of “Mild He lays His glory by/Born that man no more may die/Born to raise the sons of earth/Born to give them second birth” doesn’t absolutely thrill you, as a believer?

I know I’m just a girl in the congregation, so my words will mean nothing to the church hierarchy, but it seems like we have been so (rightly) focused on worshiping Jesus as he is today, we forget to be thankful to God for sending him in the first place.

After all, that’s what Christmas really is all about. It’s the Christian Thanksgiving, not just Jesus’ birthday party. It is to take a day or a season to focus on specifically thanking God for sending us Jesus so that he was able to reconcile us to God, as the (Christmas) song says.

And that’s what the Christmas music is about. It seems like we have pushed it to the side, as though we should acknowledge it so we don’t make anyone mad but not really focus too much on it because we like our contemporary praise and worship theme we’ve been building on.

But, unless you are singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you are singing praise to God, whether in adoration or thanksgiving.

If the commercialization of Christmas distracts you, it’s not commercialization’s fault.

If you can’t worship God through Christmas songs, it’s not the songs’ fault.

Here are the lyrics from my favorite song rendition this year, a juxtaposition of two traditional songs. Next time you’re getting overwhelmed by the pressures of this week, recall these words, think of the men who wrote them, and the reason we sing them. It’s better than any 7/11 song you’ll sing all year.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Worship Him, God Most High

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

God bless us, every one.

1 comment:

David Greggs said...

I feel the same way this year. I know I've personally gotten a little distracted and that's my own fault but it's sad that the church can't just rejoice in this season because it marks an incredible blessing in the lives of all Christians. The church has become commercialized to a degree I think too because the focus has been largely on the Christmas boxes and other things like that and avoiding the real meaning of Christmas.