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What if they gave a Church service and nobody came?
To 10% of Protestant Churches, the answer is “preemptively cancel if you think that will happen.” That’s what’s happening this Sunday, as Christmas inconveniently falls on Sunday: Sunday yields to the commercial bacchanalia (“cherished domestic traditions” if you prefer sentimentalist delusion).
This is related to the tension between two Christmas calendars, the shopping mall calendar and the ecclesiastic calendar. The former officially starts on “Black Friday,” but may be creeping backward, the latter on December 25 (anticipated by Advent in the West, the Nativity Fast in the East).
… Washington Post scribe Hank Stuever, author of that snarky but fine book called “Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present” … told me that, while he was researching that book, he decided that big event is the day that the National Retail Federation releases it’s first official forecast of precisely how many billions of dollars Americans will be spend during any particular Holiday marketing season. Once that press release hits reporters’ email in-boxes, he said, “there’s no stopping it. Here comes Christmas, whether you’re ready or not.”
And what about the other Christmas, the supposedly religious one?
The problem on the religion side of this equation these days is that the overwhelming majority of American churches — especially the so-called megachurches of evangelicalism — are essentially doing Christmas according to the shopping-mall calendar, not the calendar of the church year.
Stuever thinks that’s the truth, and so does the dean of the School of Theology at the very, very conservative Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Pause and roll that duo over in your mind for a moment.
Moore told me:
Many evangelicals fear the “cold formalism” that they associate with churches that follow the liturgical calendar and the end result, he said, is “no sense of what happens when in the Christian year, at all.” Thus, instead of celebrating ancient feasts such as Epiphany, Pentecost and the Transfiguration, far too many American church calendars are limited to Christmas and Easter, along with cultural festivities such as Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl.
(Terry Mattingly, emphasis added.) If the shopping mall calendar says that the morning of December 25 is for gift giving and cookies, well how dare the
Bride of Christ a mere church say otherwise?
I guess canceling church makes perfect sense once Church becomes theater. No audience, no show, right?
But what if Church isn’t theater? What if it’s Liturgy and Eucharist? What if there’s always a great cloud of witnesses waiting for us to join them? I reflected on this early in the life of this blog, and it seems like a good time to reprise it.
Merry Christmas. Hope your Church is open. If not, mine is.
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I hope that some folks follow my blog partly for occasional comments about Orthodox Christianity, and that some of those are non-Orthodox but interested or open to thinking about it. Continue reading “The Role and Richness of Orthodox Liturgical Texts”