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Showing posts from December, 2015

"Christmas" hymns during Advent -- a source of angst among many clergy and worship planners

"Christmas" hymns sung during Advent seem to generate a large amount of angst among my fellow clergy/liturgy planners. Some people balk at the idea of singing "Christmas" hymns during Advent. And I'm the first to admit -- and have admitted repeatedly -- that I am a recovering Advent Purist myself. 
But here's the thing: if you take a close look at the hymn texts - what is actually being sung, what is actually being proclaimed, theologically, in the words -- you could make the argument that the assignment of a hymn to the "Advent" or "Christmas" section of the hymnal may have been somewhat arbitrary.
Here's what I mean: some hymns found in the "Advent" section of the 1982 Hymnal mention the birth of Jesus as an accomplished historical fact, already having happened. For example, in Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, (Hymn #66), we proclaim,
Born thy people to deliver/ born a child, and yet a king/ born to reign in us for ever/ now t…

Advent: a season of JOY-full anticipation

This Sunday -- the Third Sunday in Advent -- is traditionally called "Gaudete Sunday or "Rejoice" Sunday.
As it should be: Advent, I've long argued, should be observed NOT (as the lectionary would have us do) primarily as a penitential season anticipating the secondcoming of Jesus. Rather, Advent should primarily be ajoyful season anticipating our annual celebration of Jesus' first coming on that first Christmas. 
That is why we (The Falls Church Episcopal) slightly modifies (with the Bishop's permission, I hasten to add) our lectionary during Advent. 
Accordingly, we get to hear the remarkable stories of  the angel Gabriel's annunciation to Mary and Mary's visitation to Elizabeth,Mary's Magnificatsong of praise and As on this Sunday -- the remarkable story ofGod's interrupting Joseph's all-too-human, all-too-uninspired plansto "dismiss her quietly" as a way of preparing our hearts for Christmas. 

By way of putting Advent into a good…

Getting into "the Christmas Spirit" in the middle of "all that is going on"

I've been in several conversations lately that have to do with current events or someone's personal struggles, and as a result "how difficult it is to get into 'the Christmas spirit' with all the hustle and hurry and stress and violence and political conflict going on."

What I need to remember -- and offer to you as a thought today-- is that hustle, hurry, stress, violence, and political conflict are only a contrast with Christmas if you are insisting on trying to celebrate one of two cultural Christmas's (that aren't really Christmas at all).

The first non-real cultural Christmas is the "Commercialized Christmas" -- what I'd call "the Feast of the Incarnation of the unholy trinity of Zales, Best Buy, and Audi." This is a commodified Christmas, a "lie-loudly-and-often-enough-that-people-will-believe-they-can-buy-their-way-into-happiness" Christmas.  This Christmas is all about, as Wordsworth would say, "getting and…