Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Checklists and Holiness

Note:  the musings below will run in the local newspaper, The Krum Star, rather than the article I wrote which is posted above in order to lesson the possibility of some unnecessary conflict that could happen in this lovely and small town in which I live.  It is always a challenge to live both from compromising integrity and deep love for neighbor and it was my choice to write something a bit softer--but still to the point, I hope.  All comments are very much welcome!  Please feel free to email me, or post a comment below.

During this Advent season, the time Christians have used for ages to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Savior, I decided to do something I have not done before in worship.  I've been taking some of the well-loved but not necessarily religious Christmas and seasonal songs and using them as doorways to the hallways of grace.

I know that I personally have struggled for years with Christmas songs that seemed to me to have nothing to do with Christmas.  So this year, I sought to take a different view, and honor in a whole new way the fact that I really do believe that God is Lord over all, whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not.

I started with "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .) and compared it to "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" a classic and powerful hymn by Charles Wesley.  Both of these songs invite us to consider the importance of family connections, one for our earthly family, the other for the family of God.  They do not exclude one another; they connect us.

Then we looked at "Frosty the Snowman" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!" and made an move into acknowledging the mystery of the season.  I mentioned how very, very much all of us don't know about the workings of the universe and the workings of individual relationships and the workings of God.  Out of that huge field of "not-knowing" we are invited to consider a whole chorus of angels who periodically show up and remind us not to be afraid because God is getting ready to show up in a new way.  Frosty can be seen an a scaled down angel, giving us opportunity to enjoy the mystery of an unseen and animated world.

Last week, we enjoyed "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" and "O Little Town of Bethehem" as we thought together about hospitality.  Just as a hotel is a place of hospitality, inviting different people to come together and experience unusual moments together, the town of Bethlehem extended its hospitality to the young family of Joseph and Mary with the baby to come.  The biblical "inn" was really a private house where the guest room (the "inn") was already full of other extended family members who had come to register.  Joseph and Mary would have been brought in to what ever space was available, and then been surrounded by loved ones and and the larger family during this time of sojourn and birth.  Our fabulous chorale offered  their voices, singing "White Christmas" as a complement to the congregation singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." This beautiful, haunting arrangement created by our worship director, Damon Downing, gave us all insight into wholeness of the good news of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday, I'm going to talk about Santa Claus and see how this funny little man can be for us a shadow that points into the presence of the Most Holy God.  Santa's "checklists" may be seen as a way to ask if we are really prepared to receive the Savior who shows up on that Holy Night.  As a congregation, we'll hear again the words to that most beautiful of songs, "O Holy Night."  Perhaps, by the grace of God and our own willingness to be repentant of our sin, we can use the Santa Claus myth to move to the reality of a God who loves without restraint.

Prepare your hearts, all.  The Savior is on the move!

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