January 25, 2021

Open Thread: The Good, the Bad and the Whatever in Christmas “Worship”

lct06_copy.jpgUPDATE: One of the reasons we go down this road every year is to laugh a bit and tell one another it’s OK. (Those of us in the evangelical wilderness need this. The rest of you talk amongst yourselves.) But we also do something else, which for a few is always difficult: we give ourselves permission to look at what’s just awful and to say so. We look at the eliminating of tradition in favor of innovation and we count the cost to our children and our faith. fundamentally, that’s a healthy exercise. But it might require a bit ‘o humor on your part.

It’s time for an Internet Monk tradition: the open thread where you, the reader, can share with us the stories of your experiences at Christmas Weekend “Worship.” Because this is the weekend many of our readers will be visiting various churches they don’t normally frequent, it’s a good weekend to be “surprised.”

Share what you like that’s on topic, but I’ll admit I’m looking for the following:

1) The meaningful. Either as your usual fare or against all odds 🙂

2) Our specialty in this thread has been the “contemporary” Christmas entertainment “worship” experiences that fall somewhat short of the actual meaning of the incarnation and birth of Jesus by their devotion to what’s hot on K-Love, etc.

3) The humorous, the bizarre, the completely inappropriate, the startlingly horrid….all done for that room full of “seekers.”

I’m going to mass where I’m safe. In fact, so far, I’ve had an “O Antiphons” service, a “Lessons and Carols” and a Southern Baptist Choir cantata, and all have been so traditional you’d never suspect that some choirs are dressing up like David Crowder. (OK…we did have a calypso number at church yesterday, but it was low attendance.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the thread is yours.


  1. Sorry I am late to post this one. I would like to remind my friends that are still worshiping in non liturgical setting that the grass is not always greener on the sacramental side of the fence. What ever the faults of the non-denomination churches of my youth (and there were many starting with the orange carpeting in the sanctuary and the fact that the main instrument of worship seemed to be a base guitar). I was never subjected to any quite as strange as the liturgical dance that our Anglican Church hosted during our “family themed” Christmas Eve service. Imagine the entire Sunday school of at least 20 kids prancing through the sanctuary complete with tinsel garlands and cloth streamers leaping and swaying to some innocuous contemperary christen hymn. I wish I could describe it better but I had to avert my eye so as to not be overcome with laughter. Give me the bathrobes and the cardboard camels of the Christmas pageants of my youth any day!

  2. Chuck Bridgeland says

    Not this year but last, Christmas Eve Day service. Early on in the service they showed 3 or 4 minutes of movie clips, from secular Xmas movies. All I could do was turn my head and think “Oh God, please make it stop.” This soured the whole service for me. The evening service , billed as “traditional” was exactly the same. I hit up an elder about it later. He wasn’t sure whose idea it had been, but said it wasn’t going to happen again.

  3. This was the year we were finally going to establish my own family’s traditions at Christmas. We’d moved back to my hometown and instead of tagging along to my parents’ (dad and stepmom actually) church (a contemporary style SBC church) on Christmas Eve, we wanted to go to the Christmas Eve service at the Anglican church we’ve been attending. They were going to have a short, traditional Nativity play with the children, then the Eucharist and were singing almost all of my favorite Advent/Christmas hymns.

    But they didn’t post the schedule until about 5 days before Christmas Eve and when I informed my parents that we wanted to go to our own church, it became an ordeal. We always go to my dad and stepmom’s late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, attend church with them and other family on that side, then come back and eat dinner then open gifts with that side of the family. We wanted to come over a little earlier to still spend time with them, but when they left for their service, we’d leave for ours then come back and do all the rest. But, par for the course, there was a conflict. They wanted to go to the 4pm service and ours was at 5:30. So doing this would have meant missing out on about 4 hours of time together on Christmas Eve. They’d already arranged it with my grandmother and other family, so we gave in and went to the contemporary SBC service…again. But the caveat to me giving in was that next year, we’re going to our own church and if the times conflict, they will be expected to adjust, not us.

    So I was very disappointed. The service was fine. Better than past years actually, but still lacked reverence and awe and reflection like I think a Christmas Eve service should. The rocking opening number (that Trans-Siberian Orchestra number that’s so popular now) didn’t help matters.

    But at least I didn’t have to suffer through Jingle Bells or O Christmas Tree like services I’ve attended before.

  4. Like, OMG, Christmas Eve service at my parent’s Seeker-Sensitive Baptist church was totally kick-ass! I was totally edified by the PowerPoint slides of the Nativity lifted from some Seventh-Day Adventist website and the great fonts the praize songs used. The somewhat-professional praze band like totally rocked out on “What Child is This?” including a fantastic chorus of ‘Na Na Nanana Na Na Nanana Na Na Na’ that Henry VIII would’ve totally wigged out on! I love it when we give the finger to tradition!

    The service revolved around storytellers telling the story of the Fourth Wise Man, who totally misses Jesus the first time around and has to put his family jewels in the hands of any woman that will take them but uses the money to heal people and finds him on the way to the Cross and gives him water. It totally made me reflect on how I should make lots and lots of money so I could found hospitals and build big churches like the Astrodome so I can show everyone how much I love God and stuff. Totally true and much better than the old story that Linus tells.

    The best part, though, was while we were rocking out to “What Child is This” my Grandmother, who has dementia with paranoid delusions, Parkinson’s Disease and uses a wheelchair, confused the drum solo with gunshots and thought God had sent someone to shoot the church up. I always know it’s Christmas when I have to physically restrain my Granny during a Christmas Eve service.

    When it was all done I was so very edified that I was too tired to go to Midnight Mass at my friend’s Episcopal Church like I do every year. So instead my parents, who were just as edified as I was, decided we should watch the Pier Paolo Pasolini film “The Gospel According to St. Matthew,” which was totally edifying in a different way, and taught me that a gay, atheist, Communist could have more orthodox things to say about the Birth, Life and Death of Christ than an Southern Baptist church.

  5. January 11, 2008

    Well, this one is the latest so far – been a little under the weather lately but was reading over this section on Christmas services and traditions. I must say that Christmas 2007 at my baptist church was somewhat refreshing – we’re without a “worship leader”
    at the moment and the wonderful guy filling in took an approach to Christmas that is so diffent these days in SBC churches (I’m organist at mine – yes, a few still have those – we’re fortunate at the moment) and I was
    very pleased because he mentioned that at Christmas he
    really liked hymns and carols insted of the usual contempo mush that most baptist churches have become so
    accustomed to. So, 2007 Christmas was just that – traditional and for an organist heaven on earth even but for a brief four weeks.

    I determined a few years ago that we needed and Advent wreath at church and begin to put one on the top corner
    of the organ console nearest the congreation and each year more and more interest has been shown towards Advent and it’s meaning and this past Christmas I had
    orded some pamphlets with a brief description of Advent and short devotionals or services that were availble if folk wanted more info – I ran out! Refreshing.

    At home my wife and I decided to start our own Advent tradition and we had an Advent wreath on the table in our living room and each Sunday evening after getting in
    from church we lit the candles week to week and had a short devotional on each weekly theme and closed each one with communion and prayer – just the two of us – it was very moving, very wonderful.

    My wife and I decided to take this one step further and share it with the family on Christmas morning – when everyone arrived we gathered around the table in the living room and I lit all five candles, mentioning the theme for the four Advent weeks and the Christ candle for Christmas Day – had a short reading from the Book of Common Prayer followed by a reading from gospel of Luke chapter 2, a short prayer and family communion – it was powerful. All this we did without a big show – just a simple, short time of remembrance that our hope began with a simple birth, in a simple place, to simple parents, announced to simple shepards in the midst of their work – “unto you is born this day a savior who is Christ the Lord….”

    Hope all had a very blessed time this past Advent and Christmas season and hope that you have a great 2008!!

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