December 5, 2020

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. visited my parents church. same denomination, similar traditional church. however, they served communion during the service, which was fine. the 45 minutes it took to move through communion.. not too fine.

  2. This year I attended my mother’s UCC church which is known for it’s traditional classical music. There was no way that I was going to subject the relatives to a bunch of contemporary crap complete with an altar call on Christmas Eve.

  3. Our church did an interesting mix. They opened up with a rock-n-roll version of Little Drummer Boy complete with a trash-can band. They then switched to several traditional hymns, although with more contemporary arrangements. We then saw a video of a church member talk about his struggles with God and his journey from an addict to a grateful father of two autistic children. We then had communion, followed by an invitation to come to the front of the church and light candles for anyone who wanted to celebrate a spiritual event in their life this year (poor wording by me but hopefully you get the gist).

    I suspect many IM readers would gag at all this if they were there, but I can say that it was an amazing service for me. All I can speak of is how I felt in my heart. It started out with a celebratory feel, which I felt was quite appropriate – we are celebrating the arrival of our King, and we should jump with joy. The communion was nice, and it was great to then see the hundreds of people come forward to light candles.

    This service was probably not for everyone, but I felt it was a great celebration of the coming of Christ.

  4. Attended an Eastern Orthodox service (OCA) with my wife, including the “Holy Supper” meal before the service. It was a beautiful atmosphere that spotighted no individuals and engaged all the senses. These folks have so much right about corporate worship, but I have a hard time getting past the icon kissing (a truly eastern thing) and the chanting of the entire liturgy. If there was a westernized Orthodox church I would be sorely tempted to make the jump. Many ex-evangelicals attend this church.


    PS – Christ is born! Glorify Him!

  5. Went to a church this past Sunday (not my home church) where the only Christmas song was “O Holy Night”…everything else was “modern worship” that unfortunately not many people knew (I would say the first 3 or 4 out of the 5 songs were new to the congregation…almost zero participation).

    But the most most meaningful part was after the opening 35 minutes of “worship music”. Two young kids, a brother and sister, got up and played two Christmas songs on the piano and orchestra bells. It was technically flawless, well performed, and brought tears to my eyes as these young kids brought their musical worship before the Lord. By far the most worshipful part of the music presented that morning.

    While it was beautiful and encouraging to see those kids share their talent, at the same time it made me sad to see the rest of the corporate musical worship time fall so flat.

    Out of the mouths of babes…

  6. In my small corner of the world, I’ve been sort of surprised that we have sung mostly traditional hymns. Our church choir did do a musical presentation but it involved a good bit of traditional hymns in it. On that subject, a small number of people that I have talked with agree that they would like to return to singing the hymns at Christmas and not always have to come up with some new music. But, doing that would cause some musical publishing companies to lose a bit of money, and perish the thought of that happening.

  7. Nothing too different at my church. I was pretty thankful actually – music was classic hymns with a well-written contemporary song thrown in. Special music was ‘eh’ but not terrible, just didn’t inspire me. The musicians (band) did a nice job helping accompany us in worship.

    We have done the season of advent with candles and responsive readings by the congregations – I have enjoyed that liturgical aspect.

    I missed the sermon and candle lighting due to childcare duty but the sermon was short – whole service was 40 minutes. I assume some sort of call to be ‘saved’ was given but with a short sermon it couldn’t have been too long.

    It was a very nice Christmas service, one I would have felt ‘safe’ bringing a non-Christian friend to since it wasn’t over the top.

    BTW – I saw your blog get several plugs in the latest issue of the Evangelical Free Church denomination’s monthly magazine – pretty cool.

  8. So far I have been spared any “Christmas” worship. The local Baptist church I attended Sunday morning had their Advent/Christmas special last week, which I missed, so this Sunday was pretty ordinary with the exception of lighting all four candles on the Advent wreath and singing a single carol at the conclusion of the service.

    Was going to go to a R.C. midnight mass with a friend who is a deacon there but ended up too tired to go.

    This evening my wife and I will attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the context of a Catholic high mass — don’t know how they are going to do that. A friend of ours is a member of the choir which is reputed to be very good.

  9. Why look for the bizarre?

    My Methodist pastor has 3 country churches in his charge and asked me to play piano for their candlelight service at Elliot’s Island Methodist. Elliot’s Island is a community originally founded by watermen making their living off the Chesapeake Bay. To get there is one incredibly winding road through the marsh where a high tide produces brine water on the roadways which I drove ever so slowly.The church lay leaders wear blue jeans and flannel shirts to worship service.

    They ALWAYS have a meal before or after their Sunday service. The piano is a slightly old electronic job – the “unplugged” pianos in that church are in horrible shape. As I played Silent Night, the pastor gave a quick afterthought of lighting our world with the Love of Christ.

    For those who wanted a horror story or some spectacular thing as you view ‘spectacular’, there wasn’t any. (Except a rainstorm during the service did produce lightning once, with a rumble of thunder as the preacher sang ” Mary, did you know” to a CD.)

    This wasn’t a “country Christmas”; it was more like boondock Christmas. Like my own home church in Vienna,Md, in ten years, half of those in attendance will be dead or in nursing homes.

    These are the kind of church services that lower heartrate and blood pressure.There was a time in my past where I thought excitement and loudness of any kind produced revival. Unlearning is painful but the results of that are good.

    And on the long and dark, dark, DARK commute back home through the wind and rain, the quiet Presence of God accompanied me. God is found in the ends of the earth.

  10. I pastor two small United Methodist churches in Texas. This year we cmbined the services as in previous years I have done one at each church but that was just too hectic. The service was well attended with many parishioners grandkids present. The service was about 30 minutes. We sang 4 traditional carols had a brief message on the angel Gabriels message to Mary and had communion and candlelight where we closed with Silent Night. At the conclusion of communion I always say “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you do show the Lord’s death till He comes”. I heard one of the little ones ask grandma Is he really coming back? It was beautiful.

  11. I pastor a SBC church in rural Louisiana. We had an all day Christmas Eve prayer vigil beginning at 6 am yesterday morning until 4pm. All the hours were filled! We had a prayer table set up with prayer requests on it with index cards for anyone who wanted to leave another request. We had the creche and crucifix in center of table to symbolize Jesus birth and death and there was a Nativity Scene set up on our Communion table. Christmas music played continuously. At 5pm we all gathered back and sang Christmas carols, read together Isaiah 9:2,6-7, shared testimonies and then i read Luke 2:1-20 and spoke about 10 minutes and we closed with another Christmas carol.

  12. Tim M,

    I like your idea of a westernized Eastern Orthodox Church…only slightly westernized:-) I do enjoy and appreciate the more traditional expression of worship, but it seems hard to find something that fits in the middle. Hope that doesn’t sound too consumerish, just a preference.

    Celebrating Jesus the Messiah,


  13. Like others, our Bible church on Sunday morning featured rock versions of two or three carols along with some unknown/lesser known songs. Mercy! However, we ended with a strong showing with O Holy Night.

    On Christmas Eve, we celebrated Midnight Mass with a large very “high church” Episcopalian congregation. There was incense, kneeling, a grand choir with some pieces in Latin and French, strong singing (which our “worship team” has a hard time encouraging), a weak homily (oh well, often goes with the territory), lots of prayer and Bible reading (that’s at least something Bible churches can imitate from these folks) and a general confession followed by a powerful Eucharist. Now, for me that was worship, and I could give my all! It’s almost impossible to get any of my Bible church friends to attend; they are sure they experience all the worship they need.

  14. I go to a Southern Baptist Church (though they hide the fact well) in the San Diego area. They have had advent wreath with candles, but have just lit them before the service and let them burn, no mention was ever made of advent. One Sunday, they forgot to light them. On Christmas Eve the pastor called all the children up to help light the Christ Candle. He introduced this by saying, “this is the part of the service that pyromaniacs like!”

  15. Midnight Mass at the Cathedral. Choir opened with the Vivaldi “Gloria”. Enough incense to make my eyes water, and some good latin as well. Oh, and we got to
    “consume” Jesus. Literally.

  16. My wife and three boys attended the Christmas Eve and Day services at a small Lutheran Church (my in-laws church) in Manistee, MI. Both services were excellent! The eve service was basically a children’s program, rich with the Gospel. The day service was a celebration of Christ’s birth; liturgical with communion. At both services we enjoyed seeing and hearing our boys (6, 9, and 11) sing Christmas hymns.

  17. Our family is Japan this year and as there are very few christians in this area so we celebrated Christ in our own way. We watched The Passion of the Christ and explained to our children why it was important that Christ was born and ultimatly died for us. So that we could all be saved. I have read all the messages above and it seems that people have missed it entirely. It doesn’t matter what music was played or how the service was run, the question is did Jesus show up and meet you there? Did you get set free from the everyday humdrum of life. Are you going to make a difference in the new year? Are you going to do something for Christ? The one thing that we miss being here is that we don’t have the Christian fellowship that Americans take for granted. I will not forget what I have when I get home. There are many people around the world that do not know that Jesus is an option please pray for their souls.

  18. >the question is did Jesus show up…

    Could you explain what this means?

    Whatever it means, let me just remind everyone to stay on topic. Please don’t give us your “my denomination has it right and yours doesn’t” lines. They are annoying all the time, and certainly at Christmas.

  19. I’m the minister of a small Unitarian Universalist church in Utah. Our service coincided with the arrival of a winter storm. We had lots of carols, blessed two children, told the story from Luke, heard one jazz rendition of a carol, lit candles, and sang “Silent Night.” Quite traditional and beautiful, which suprises some, and then we emerged from the sanctuary under the full moon and in the new-blown snow.

  20. I love my church, but sometimes… We had a beautiful service with an assortment of carols; solos, groups and congregational. In the middle of this time of worship for many I’m sure, the lights came up and our pastor began appealing to everyone for a special offering, beginning with repairs to the sanctuary and ending with missions. Not a bad thing in itself but in a Christmas eve service full of guests and out of town family members, both uncomfortable and out of place. Many people got up and walked out. Then we retured to our candlelight service!(yes it’s a baptist church)

  21. I’ve been visiting several churches in my town, looking for a place to settle and call “home”. Overall, I have been discouraged. At our Christmas parade a few weeks ago, I received several fliers from churches who had floats in the parade. As a result, I ended up at the local UMC church and was totally blessed in spite of my bad attitude and cynicism going in. It is the first church I have been to in ages that did not feel like it was “trying too hard” or putting on a show.

    My kids and I went back on Christmas Eve for the 1st of 3 services (it was the early service so families with kids could come, since most of us wouldn’t be up at 11:00 p.m.!) Lots of scripture reading with some of the church kids walking up front as Mary/Joseph/shepherds/wise men at the appropriate part of the readings. At the end, the pastor gave a simple sermon, which all of 4 of my kids (ages 5-12) could follow, and then the nativity cast led the rest of us to the fellowship hall for a birthday party for Jesus.

    Bob Pinto, you (almost) made me homesick–I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I know all about Church in the Boondocks (Henderson, Tilghman Island, Crisfield, Cedar Grove, etc.)! I miss some of that life, but not enough to move back and put up with the cold (I live in Florida now). One of the highlights of my Christmas weekend this year was going caroling Sunday afternoon and sweating instead of freezing!

  22. Youth/family mass, because my oldest son was singing in the choir. The music was a mix of contemporary Catholic pablum and traditional carols, but at least they did it with some reverence. The pastor kind of oriented his homily toward the kids, but that was to be expected.

    Charlie and Tim M, there is such a thing as Western Rite Orthodox, but I don’t know where you guys are, or if there’s a parish near you. (I became Catholic partly because the nearest Orthodox parish was farther than my car could reliably make it, so I know the drill.) I don’t know if a link will come through or be counted as spam, but a google search on “western rite” should turn up something.

  23. I love the people that are part of the church that I attend, and I love the people that participated in our Christmas Eve service, but it was awful. We began with a day-glo puppet show lip-synching a version “In Excelsis Deo” that sounded like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, followed by some poorly acted skits.

  24. The Good: The annual candlelight service Christmas eve at my Grandparents’ church (RCA). My uncle is the music director, and he picked out a great array of both Advent hymns and Christmas carols. A nice touch was that the first half of the service was filled with the Advent songs, and during the service the pastor read of when the Christ child was born, and the songs were more oriented to Christmas. This always ends with “Silent Night” sung as the congregation lights up their candles.

    The Good, executed poorly: A fine soloist sings “O, Holy Night” with a DVD karaoke soundtrack (complete with video), with the DVD’s vocals in tact. I’m not a total luddite, but I really think that soloists and singing in the church need not be an A/V experience.

  25. The Christmas day service at the Dodoma Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Tanzania, was the culmination of four weeks reflecting on Advent – the coming of His hope, joy, peace and love into a world that, 2000 years on still so desperately needs these things. As we moved into communion, the words of the liturgy ‘Lord have mercy… Christ have mercy… Lord have mercy’ became powerfully ‘alive’ in the light of the Christ candle burning on the advent wreath and all the others that had been lit before it: what great mercy He has already shown in sending Jesus and how great the continuing need for His mercy amongst and around us! A Christmas gift that I will treasure for a long time to come.

  26. On Christmas Eve we went to Compline and Matins at St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church in Johannesburg. And on Christmas day went to Divine Liturgy at the same church.

    It was as meaningful as usual, and as usual more things struck me about it that I had missed in previous years – the emphasis on the poverty of Jesus, for example.

  27. I am the student pastor at a small church in Western North Carolina. Our worship leader is a woman who has an obvious ego problem, and probably shouldn’t be leading anyone is worship, but she is. Of course, the “cantata” was from one of the thousands of adult cantatas that the publishing companies put out that include strange mixes of traditional and contemporary worship songs and christmas songs put to synthetic horns along with a few poorly written songs just for the musical.
    In the middle of one of the songs, a guy who does not attend our church dressed up like Jesus and walked down the aisle and shook people’s hands… i was confused to say the least…
    The worst part was, the last song, that went “Get all excited, go tell everybody that… Jesus Christ is King,” was showcased by the entire choir walking around the sanctuary clapping while singing. A visitor in front of me was making fun of them to his family. I was making fun of them to my wife, as well. At the end of song, the Jesus guy walked up on stage and the choir turned to him and raised their hands in worship to this Jesus with timberlands on. Then at the end of the song, they did jazz hands.
    The saddest thing is that my wife and I are probably the only ones who were freaked out at the fact that the choir was worshipping a guy dressed up as Jesus. if it had been in the context of a dramatization, thats a different story, but they had said many times throughout that this wasn’t a performance, but an act of worship and they bowed down and raised their hands toward a really tall guy dressed up as Jesus… were they really worshipping him?? I hope not, but it looked to anyone who was a visitor, especially, that they were.
    For the record, I’ve been looking for a new church to serve at… and am in pretty serious talks with a church in Thompson, Manitoba. 2000 miles away from this…

  28. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we sang traditional carols, including Silent Night. Funny thing, we normally stand to sing, taking our cue from various people (normally the choir). But for Silent Night, no one stood. We just sat there and sang. And sang. and SANG. At one point, the organist just dropped out and we sang a capella. I could hear the normally anemic voices of the congregation at full power. It was very moving.

  29. I visited my parent’s church, pretty bread-and-butter evangelical. We did sing one carol, and the music was excellent, but in a “sit there and listen” sort of way. During the sermon the pastor had us all repeat “substitutionary atonement” after him three times. For a while I thought I was at a Good Friday service. I guess they don’t know any other Good News?

    Then they “shared” communion by passing plates around with absolutely no explanation and everyone just eating and drinking whenever it passed them by. Surreal.

  30. I’ve gone through my period of ranting about “entertainment” Christmas services but I’ve come to realize that every service, no matter traditional, litergy-laden, orthodox or contemporary is in it’s own way entertainment, all staged to produce an effect. One style does not fit all and I for the life of me can’t find any indication in my New Testament of what type God would prefer for us.
    I guess I’ve just gotten a little tired of service bashing when it’s isn’t one’s cup of tea. God is capable of working in every form of worship from roof-raising African-American services to a somber atmospheric Mass. I can’t tell you how many times services that leave me stone cold seem to dramatically effect others.

  31. Our little Bible Church has done a service of Christmas carols and Scripture for the past 5 or 6 years on Christmas Eve out in a shed on our farm. Low-tec, unrehearsed, everybody participates. If we have a recent baby born in the group, parents and child portray Joseph, Mary & Jesus. This year there was no suitable infant, so one of our teenage girls played the role (with plastic Jesus). Our neighbor brings one of his sheep to stand in the corner, and sometimes it doesn’t stand very well, but the children look forward to seeing it.
    Folks from the community and friends from previous church families often come. This year there were about 70 in all, including a friend who brought his violin and volunteered to accompany the piano player as we sang the traditional carols.
    One of our Elders led the service, but there were many (2nd graders, teens, grandparents) who read passages of Scripture from prophecy to fulfillment of Christ’s birth. Together we marveled at God’s Wonderful Gift.
    And when it was over, a couple dozen of us who had no other obligations came into the house and fellowshipped together (with the usual cookies & goodies).
    That was Christmas Eve. I look forward to it each year.

  32. William,

    I think worship is supposed to produce a people, not an effect. In those terms, not every service is entertainment, and the discussion is about a whole lot more than style or preference or if it is emotionally affective. But perhaps I am wandering off topic here…

  33. Attended my brothers small, rural, country Baptist church in South Mississippi near where I grew up. The service was a bunch of kids dressed up like shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph, etc. with a real baby as Jesus. Not everyone knew their lines, baby Jesus began to “fuss” and had to be taken from the manger by his mom. The southern rural accents were loud and clear. Dads, moms and grandparents were beaming with pride over the great job their children did. One of best Christmas eve services I have attended since my childhood. No budget to speak of, no professional quality production, just faithful people worshipping Jesus and remembering the reason for the season. Reminded me of what is really important in church, faith and community.

  34. Jon: Well, we may be wondering off topic and Michael may wack us up side the computer with his ruler if so. I’m not sure what you mean by producing a people. My point was just that what one person my see as strictly entertainment is to another a real connection to God.

  35. We had a beautiful Christmas eve service. All the guitars, drums, etc. were moved off the front of the church and we sang Christmas carols with the piano. What a wonderful change for the season.

  36. William: I mean worship is formation. If we “create” worship with entertainment values, techniques, etc. in mind, we get Christians who expect to be entertained and gather for a spectacle. This would make Christians into church consumers…big surprise since this is what we’ve done.

    If we create worship where gathered believers practice confession of sin, affirmation of truth, mutual submission to the Word, the celebration of the Table, etc. we get Christians with character shaped into those practices–forgiveness, community, hospitality, mission.

    It seems to me too common of a view that worship is something individual Christians just do. I’m saying it is a primary way Christians are made. I’m not talking atonement or a judicial state before God here. I’m talking about being formed into the likeness of Christ, to become people that aren’t just called by His name but that form communities that actually resemble Him. The fact that Christians in America, as a whole, bear very little resemblance to the ways of Christ and the apostles clearly has something to do with the capitulation of worship to entertainment values and techniques.

    I understand you’re saying people view this differently, there are different preferences. Certainly. But how we shape our worship and how we critique our worship (or poke fun at it) has to rise above the language of preference to consider what our worship *does* to people. What kind of people does it make us into? That’s why I said we shouldn’t be trying to produce an effect in worship (“I really felt connected to God then”) but to produce a people.

  37. I attended our United Methodist’s church’s early Christmas service, comprised mostly of a children’s program. I was expecting a typical children’s program, but my expectations were way too low! I was blown away by the worshipfulness that the kids brought to the congregation that night.

    About 50 children, K through 6 grade, participated. A few older ones helped out. Several dedicated adults worked with the kids for months to make this happen.

    The program included reading, singing, dancing, acting, and PPT slides. It could have been really cheesy, but instead every piece was instilled with praise to God and thankfulness for the gift of His son.

    It was amazing. I learned a lot about Christmas worship.

  38. 9:15 Mass, Christmas morning, St. Peter’s Church.

    Church about 2/3 full, gorgeously decorated (it was the traditional German parish, Stations of the Cross titles are in German, etc. Very Gothic, beautifully preserved, never “wreckovated” as we Catholics call it).

    A single female cantor – the older woman with a gorgeous clear, unpretentious voice who usually cantors. She preceded the Mass with an unaccompanied “Puer Natus Est” first in Latin then English.

    Most of the music was carols, the homily was about the humility of God, the priest was obviously wiped out (he’s pastor of 2 parishes), but in that quiet and low-keyness was space for contemplation, joy, a desire to welcome Christ into my own life at a deeper level, the level at which his Incarnation tells me He desires, nd a 3-year old to shout “I want money!” (er..yes, he was mine.)

  39. Nothing spectacular to report (especially after Brandon Milan’s report straight out of South Park). Just a low-key Christmas morning Mass at St Boniface in Anaheim, livened up by the cantor/choir director accidentally mixing up two of the hymns.

  40. We attended 2 Christmas eve services…one at our own church (Ev. Cov.) and one at the church I am secretary at (UMC). Both were very similar, carols and the Christmas story. At our church the young man who is the worship pastor told the story..which on its own is a beautiful story but he had to add humor and not so intelligent remarks, I cringed for what visitors were hearing…..other than that beautiful, God filled time. At the UMC, Christmas story was told, hymns were sung dirge like (organist is pretty bad) but God was still there…nothing this side of heaven is going to be perfect!

  41. I posted this elsewhere, and someone directed me to this thread! I hope this makes sense, I’m just posting what I wrote previously…

    I’m thinking I wish I’d stayed home or picked a different church to visit. :/ We usually join my SIL and her family for Christmas Eve service at their ELCA (Lutheran) church here in Charlotte. Well, it was just terrible! I was almost angry at how bad it was.

    Typically, it is a “contemporary” service, with Christmas hymns that are all contemporary, a message, communion, lighting of candles. Well, we walk in this year (a tad late), and there is a bizarre contemporary dance going on. A big screen with all sorts of swirling snow. Then they start in on a “drama” segment with two “angels” reading news about a big event where God will go to “Ear-th” as a “people”. Ewww! they say. It’s all very LONG, confusing and full of juvenile humor. They start stomping randomnly at one point, which I belatedly realized was supposed to be a thunderstorm.

    Basically, it was a dance/drama contemporary production about the birth of Christ, not done very well at all. Some of the highlights including kites “flying” in the air to the tune of Celtic music, and white ballons filled with lights of some sort paraded around. Scripture was flashed on the big screen, I doubt anyone read it, it wasn’t read aloud. There were lots of cat-calls and clapping following each “performance”, and annoying testimony by their youth pastor that involved name dropping and that was supposed to be a “testimony” to God’s financial provision but it didn’t quite work. The two Christmas hymns the audience were allowed to sing were done in that awful monotone contemporary way. My dh actually kept laughing during the whole thing, especially the part where they danced around with balloons with lights inside.

    The passed the collection plates, but did not offer communion as they had previously. They only redeeming moment was a lovely a cappella duet by two middle-aged women. I really think that if it had been done as a church production in the week or two leading UP to Christmas, it would have been fine. But as a Christmas Eve service? I actually found it offensive.

    I honestly don’t know what they were thinking. My SIL & her dh, who regularly attend the church, were actually shocked by it as well. My SIL said she had heard talk about it, that it was something where all the performance groups and what-not wanted their moment in the limelight and it all got to be too much, too big.

    I told my dh I felt awful being so critical of a Christmas Eve worship service, but it really wasn’t a time of worship. It was just a performance. I’m really wondering what their intention and thought process was. Maybe the organizers just didn’t see how off-track they had gotten?

    I won’t be going back next year… anyone know of a reverant, scripture-filled Christmas Eve service in Charlotte, NC?

  42. Christmas 8:15 @ St. Mary’s. Our priest’s homily was really, really good… expounding upon his pet gender sensitivitiy linguistic crisis, bad, bad, bad.

    I’ll just say if one were to maintain literary continuity in his revisionary language, Isaiah’s prose would refer to Jesus as the “Princess of Peace”. Blah, Blech and Bah-Humbug!

  43. Christmas Eve I and my 35 year old daughter attended Grace fellowship in Orlando. We met at the Shakespeare theatre. Friendly pastor , dressed in his best jeans, good group of musicians and singers, Everyone was smiling, young families, many childen, some old people besides me. Jesus was the reason we were there and although no one claimed to see Him, God’ s Spirit was there, as promised…. Bill

  44. “Friendly pastor, dressed in his best jeans” That pretty much sums up church in Orlando 🙂

    Oh, and the “some old people”–what a blessing that almost every Florida church has some of those! The older people is one of my favorite parts of church in Central Florida.

    I’m telling you, when I’m down and out and not sure how I’ll survive the next step of my circumstances, I sit in church and look around at all the senior citizens still coming and still testifying to the greatness of God in their lives and I realize that their lives all added up represent God’s faithfulness over hundreds of cumulative years. And I understand that that faithfulness of God covers an awful lot of difficult circumstances. And I’m given fresh hope and courage that for me, too, God will be faithful and sufficient. Visiting with friends at a retirement center an hour north of here has been a highlight of my past two Christmases. They apologize for going on and on with their stories, and I say, “Keep talking. I need to hear your stories and the context of God’s faithfulness in your lives.”

    Well, that’s not a Christmas service memory, but it is part of my Christmas experience with the body of Christ outside of the buildings.

  45. Anita,
    My visiting parents and sister got to see (while visiting the church my wife had been attending when we got married) the contemporary music style with the “stay in your seat” alter call (not going to embarrass anyone he says) at the end on Christmas. Nice job going elsewhere. I’m pretty sure my niece and nephew learned they are wicked and Jesus is magical. Merry Christmas! I hope they were just confused.

    The best part of the service was an amazing male vocalist singing “O Holy Night” and the best part of that song is the line “the slave is my brother” which is lost on too many amidst the materialism of this wealthy church.

    The sermon, with the room packed with people, still ended up only being a sales pitch of “Jesus is great, see you next week.” My question is, what are people to do with that? What is there to apply? How do people learn to grow from within and grow in love when the emphasis is on “magic” supported by random proof-texting?

  46. Earlier in the month our church did “The Gospel According to Scrooge”, an evangelical bastardization of Dickens. They did a good job, but I just can’t get involved in these things anymore. The season is busy enough.

    No Christmas eve service at our church. For some reason A/G churches don’t do that much, something I really miss from the DofC. Currently we’re without an official “worship leader” so we’re limping along with keyboardists who struggle with Christmas songs. Changing chords every beat is a bit much for them! Our pre-Christmas service opened with a version of “Feliz Navidad”, which I thought a bit odd– and I’m the bass player! Oh well…

    Instead, we as a family have carols on Christmas eve, read both gospel accounts of the nativity, and toast the season (with sparkling juice). It’s a holy and blessed time that we all look forward to.

  47. Christmas Eve at my Lutheran Church… My wife and I along with 7 grandchildren sitting in the back two rows it traditional Lutheran style…
    We went to the family service and the kids put on a musical extravaganza highliting their individual talents (or the lack thereof). It was a wonderful time without a usual sermon but an extended children’s message that, frankly, I often have an easier time following anyway. (My problem, not Pastor’s)

    On the way up to communion, my oldest grandson turns to my wife and says “Nan, why are we doing this?”. Before she could say anything, my younger grandson looks around from in front of “Nan” and shrugs with his hands in the air and says “I don’t know”. They are 5 and 3 respectively. The congregation broke up since they were the loudest part of the service at that moment…

    Now THAT’S Christmas worship to me! I could just picture God smiling at that! Christ is born!

  48. Had a very good service at my in-laws’ church. A very good mix of some normal praise songs (mostly contemporary) and hymns. Best of all, they didn’t sing the hymns at 1 beat per minute!! (Sorry, I like Christmas hymns, but they’ve GOT to be sung faster than a dirge!)

    I kept getting distracted by the pastor’s accent – he ended every phrase (not merely sentence) with “nuh”. When we travel outside our familiar accents…. :^)

    Nothing particularly “special” about the service – no kids dressed up as angels or special readings outside of the basic Matthew/Luke passages. It was very good to praise God’s incarnation in a normal way. Since then it’s helped me to remember that we are to celebrate His coming all the time and not just at Christmas time with a special performance. Not that special performances are bad, just this time a special performance wasn’t what God needed to touch me.

  49. Our son plays piano for “worship” at a Unitarian church in a university town (no, he’s a Catholic…the Unitarian gig is a paying one). We went to the Christmas eve service to show support to our son (I really don’t know why Unitarians, who tend to believe in everything and anything but Jesus, think they need to have a service on Christmas eve). I have to admit that we sang more traditional Christmas carols/hymns at the Unitarian church than we did all holiday season at our home church which specializes in loud comtemporary music and considers it worship. I have to admit, the overall service was lovely and moving. There was a candlelight portion at the end where the entire congregation sang “Silent Night” (albeit, with a few key phrases re-written), but knowing Who we celebrate on Christmas eve, the service was beautiful and meaningful, at least to my wife and I.