For some in the church, I am committing a major faux pax this Sunday (as I did last Sunday). Every hymn this Sunday is a Christmas Carol. Some out there might be scratching their heads wondering, "What is the problem with this?"
Well, I am a pastor in a liturgical church. This means, we follow what is called the "Church Year." We have certain seasons of the year which we celebrate which have themes and expectations. Currently, we are in the season of Advent. This season is a time of preparation as we await the birth of Jesus on one hand and his return on the other.
And the problem is?
Well, Advent is not Christmas. According to the Church calendar, the Christmas season lasts for 12 days following the season of Advent.
And the problem is?
You are not supposed to sing Christmas carols/hymns during Advent. Advent is Advent. Christmas is Christmas. The two are not supposed to meet. That's at least to liturgical purists.
I understand their point. Christmas has become very commercialized. Stores begin putting out Christmas decorations before Halloween these days. They glorify consumption and urge us to be good little consumers and buy, buy, buy. Retailers are not concerned about anything but their bottom line. Some folks start putting Christmas lights up the day after Halloween. Never mind waiting until Thanksgiving any longer.
Liturgical purists argue that we should wait and be patient. We should not join the rest of the throng that jumps straight into Christmas without preparing for the true meaning of the season.
I appreciate such sentiments. Yet, I bump up against another reality.
Liturgy is taken from a couple of Greek words which literally mean, "The work of the people."
In other words, when folks get together to worship, it is their work which they are performing. It is their worship which they are offering to God. It is not my worship, or an organist's worship, or the choir director's worship, or the bishop's worship, or what have you. It is their work which they are offering up.
And honestly, my church (I think I am accurately reading this) doesn't like singing Advent hymns--aside from "O Come, O Come Emanuel." The congregation finds them a little difficult and not so conducive to worship. This was evidenced beyond a shadow of a doubt a Sunday ago where we sang Advent hymns for the first two songs and switched to Christmas carols during and after Holy Communion.
Can you guess which songs the congregation sang better?
Can you guess which songs the congregation put their hearts into when singing?
No brainier, right?
And if, just if, the liturgy is the work of the people...
And if, just if, the people are putting more zeal into worship when singing Christmas carols instead of Advent hymns...
And if, just if, folks are supposed to worship with their whole hearts and with gusto...
Why would I prevent them from doing so when there is no God-ordained rule which states, "Thou shalt not sing Christmas carold during Advent"?
Of course, I will still make them sing the obligatory Advent hymns for a couple of Sundays. After all--we all need to offer some penance for our sins. :-)
But, I refuse to prevent people from worshiping with their hearts. I want to help them do their work of worshiping God, so we are already singing Christmas carols. The liturgical purists are welcome to take their shots now.
For all the good they will do.
We'll still sing Christmas carols.