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It’s that time. Stores fill with Christmas shoppers. Christmas songs fill the air (though not many carols). Christmas food, Christmas events. December is Christmas—except in an increasing number of our churches.
If a seeker comes into one of our CBWC churches at this time, there is a chance they will come away with a disorienting sense that we are embarrassed about Christmas.
I have learned much from study and experience of liturgical worship. I value the Christian year, the rich prayers, the rhythm of self-examination in Lent and exaltation in the season of Easter—and more. I even value the sense of longing that is Advent—longing for Hope, Peace, Love and Joy to be perfected, longing for the Kingdom of the Christ Child to come in its fullness.
However, I think it odd—when so many around us are into Christmas—so many churches refuse to draw during December 1 – 23 on the marvelous Hope, Love, Peace and Joy expressed so wonderfully in the carols. We can become liturgical purists at risk of finding ourselves out-of-step with the spiritual needs of visitors to our services.
Yes, I understand that we may want to sing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” first at Christmas Eve. However, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” powerfully expresses Advent longing, and other carols (at least some of the verses) can do likewise. For visitors to our services, it will strike a familiar chord to hear some of the carols sung as an expression of longing that will be fulfilled. It could well be that they are there to find that very consolation. After all, “it’s Christmas.” Indeed let our Advent services strike a note of longing caused by our broken world.
But I would urge, too, that we make sure our visitors know that we know it is Christ who brings Hope, Peace, Love and Joy now and forever. A well placed carol, even in Advent, can meet deep needs. Let us not appear afraid of Christmas.