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December 22, 2011



Hmmm, I dont know. I mean, when I was in church leadership, I was all militant about coming to church on Christmas, of course. But from my perspective now - and I don't have the time to write this all out as I should, but the bottom line - if "only" 90% are having services, and Jewish folks put up Christmas trees, and my Hindu housemates know the words to "Silent Night"? - I don't think it's a holiday Christians "own." As you point out - they never did, it's a cultural appropriation, a theology that was, so long ago, imposed on a pagan celebration - but they don't now, either. And it goes to the central point that religion is so much more than theology. It's culture, too, and a host of other things. The interaction of all the elements makes each incarnation of a particular "theology" what it is. Personally, I find it interesting (and at isolated times, beautiful.) Also, I like the idea that, at the heart of the whole thing, is a simple celebration of the solstice - recognizing the light is coming back :)

Greg Horton

April, I've been thinking about some of that too. I just emailed a pastor friend that the difference between legalism and identity formation is a treacherous one to navigate. I remember the militant feelings when I was in ministry too, but I'm not working toward that here. Rather, I assume Christians want to act like Christians. It's the anabaptist influence on me, I supposed. So, for people serious about identity formation, what the culture does with their holiday is moot; they will participate in the story. It's possible to have both, but the narrative has to come before the cultural practices.


That's a good way to put it - the navigation between legalism and identity formation. It's interesting that you bring up your anabaptist influence. As I've been pondering this (while desperately practicing, trying to cram music for my Christmas Eve gig) I've been wondering if "liturgy is god-directed" works here - that's more for Catholics and high church types. For Baptists (and anabaptists, I'd presume) - a liturgical gathering is more like a voluntary association meeting, coming together to "remember" something but necessarily participate in the reality of it - if I am remembering correctly? (Which, in my mind, is where their theology poses both some serious problems AND has some potential benefits for the whole concept of "identity formation.")

Greg Horton

The model is clearly broken when a liturgical gathering is for the people rather than by the people. This is partly (almost wholly) a product of the Protestant Reformation's elevation of the sermon to the central place of worship. It was a matter of time before people thought of church as for instruction rather than liturgy. For anabaptists, the participation is embodied; that's the appeal for identity formation. It's pointless to discuss Jesus' work without discussing his ethics, and to embrace him as an anthropological model means that we embrace both the work and the ethic, so that we don't just do as he did, but how he did as well.


Where does watching Midnight Mass from Rome on TV with a glass of Moscato in hand fall along this line?

I think realpolitik is in play for a lot of people. I'd bet that 10% is rural churches where the pastor is due to be at his mother-in-law's all day.

Mike McVey

As part of the 10% that will not be having services, it is mostly because our church rarely has services on Sundays. Our worship service is Wednesday evenings. Obviously, our church is probably an exception to the rest of the 10%, but just wanted to pass it along.

Greg Horton

Mike, understood. I'm sure there are legit exceptions

Sent from my iPhone

David T.

For most of the American church, the birth of Christ is only important because it meant Christ could die on the cross. Viewed from this angle, it makes sense why Christmas would be a lesser holiday. Heck, the music special in my fundamentalist church this past Sunday was a song all about how wonderful Jesus didn't stay a baby because He had to die for us. ARRGGGHHHH!!!!!

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