“THE EARLIEST OF THE FOUR GOSPELS makes no reference to the virgin birth, and neither does Paul, who wrote earlier still. On later evidence, however, many Christians have made it an article of faith that it was the Holy Spirit rather than Joseph who got Mary pregnant. If you believe God was somehow in Christ, it shouldn't make much difference to you how he got there. If you don't believe, it should make less difference still. In either case, life is complicated enough without confusing theology and gynecology.
In one sense anyway, the doctrine of the virgin birth is demonstrably true. Whereas the villains of history can always be seen as the products of heredity and environment, the saints always seem to arrive under their own steam. Evil evolves. Holiness happens.”
--- Frederick Buechner -Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words
This Advent, may we stand against evil, and let holiness happen.
Christmas music is on the radio, trees are being decorated across the country, it’s time for pastors to start planning that Christmas Eve Service – if they haven’t already! Christmas Eve brings new faces into our churches. Family members from out of town, non-attendees who come by invitation, and those who value the tradition of religious worship on the high holy days.
It’s easy to be annoyed at those folks, as if they are not our “real” congregation. But take the 30,000 foot view and notice something: at least twice every year, those folks are probably dependably going to be in our community. Their needs and interests are different, but longitudinally, they are valuable participants in the life of our church.
In his excellent article in The Atlantic Monthly, entitled “In defense of Christmas-and-Easter Christians", Jacob Lupfer noted that there are three reasons why most Christians from across America’s spectrum of churches have become disaffected: they feel hurt by the church, they are angry at their former tradition, or they are bored. He notes that “churches have often failed to offer a compelling vision of lifelong Christian spiritual community, and they often don’t acknowledge their own fault in driving people away.”
So, as our church prepares for Christmas Eve, maybe it’s time to think about those Christmas/Easter folks (aka ChrEasters) in a new light. Here are five things to consider:
Visitors to our Christmas Eve service are hoping for:
1. BREVITY – to really engage non-church people, our Christmas Eve service will be shorter and specifically targeted for the irregular attenders.
2. MEANING - the sermon will contextualize and make relevant the birth of Jesus.
3. NOSTALGIC FULFILLMENT – most everyone loves candles and greenery, the solemn singing of Silent Night. We will be investing in making the Sanctuary beautiful and the worship service bright!
4. VALUE FOR THE CHILDREN – parents bring children to church because they were brought to church. They want their children to experience something of value and to be valued by those in attendance. We'll be having an open Christmas procession and manger scene. All children will be invited to participate and wear costumes.
5. FAMILIARITY – even if they’ve been away for years, it’s comforting to say a prayer they memorized in childhood or sing familiar songs. The songs we sing will be familiar.
For unto us, a child is born, unto us a son is given. The wonder of Christmas is the arrival of the unexpected. Let’s offer a welcome for all – the expected folks, the surprises, and the ones we haven’t seen since Easter. They are all a part of the family!
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.