Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Problem With Christmas #7

I've been tossing around the idea of doing a Christmas series for a few weeks. I didn't know what to do because I felt it would just turn out being a rehashing of what I've been doing except with nativities, or Christmas tree ornaments, or drunk Santas.

Always the believer that freshness is better than beating a dead horse, I decided to take a slightly more serious route. I want to take the next week to talk about some things I find wrong with Christmas and the whole season in general.

Now, before someone gets up in arms about my personal blasphemy in saying something could be wrong with Christmas, read this post about Christmas over at Think Christian. Maybe it will give you a little perspective about how God might feel about Christmas.

Protest or Celebrate?

So, without any further ado:

#7: Christmas Plays and Carols

What could possibly be wrong with all those cute little Christmas plays, and the carols we love so much? On a list of things wrong with Christmas, it's last for a reason, but it's still on there.

The less egregious error from a scholarly standpoint, but perhaps the more insidious one is committed by Christmas plays every year. I, myself, once starred in a Christmas program, for a church, with a sheep as a main character. It was a comedy of course. Diesel over at Mattress Police recently had the pleasure of attending a school Christmas play which starred Elvis, James Brown, and Garth Brooks as the three kings. Cool, huh?

Linus as "The Shepherd"

What's the problem with these things? Well, generally they accomplish little more than to make Christmas seem silly to us. It becomes a game and something fun to do after school. These funny little productions deaden us to the beautiful message of God become man. We're talking about the Incarnation here, people, not an ABC Christmas special.

Coating your front walk in ice is usually an effective deterrent.

So, what about Christmas carols? They, along with the Christmas plays, present more of a danger for cultural Christians and the unbelieving public than for committed believers. Unfortunately, many people who have not read the Bible get a lot of their information from really bad sources, Christmas carols included. Many Christmas carols, and plays, commit the sin of bad exegesis. Here are just a few examples:

We Three Kings: The Gospels never speak of kings coming to visit Jesus. Matthew speaks of magi, or wise men. The plays really mess it up when they show the wise men visiting Jesus on the night of His birth. The Bible never reveals when the magi came, although Herod's decree to kill all male children under two years of age, suggests that Jesus could have been as old as two years before the men came bearing their gifts.

Away In A Manger
: Although Luke says that "[Mary] wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger" (Luke 2:7), it does not say that he was born in a barn, as the line "the cattle are lowing" would imply.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: Despite this song being one of my favorites, it really isn't Biblically correct in its discussion of those herald angels. Then again, neither is the majority of the Western world. We practically worship the created servants of God.

Anyway, back on track. The angels weren't singing. After being told by an angel of the Lord about the infant Christ born in the town of David, "a great company of the Heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.' " (Luke 2:13-14)

I know it seems like I'm making mountains out of molehills here, but when it comes to Scripture, it's important to get the details right.

So, please, don't think that I don't want you to enjoy singing those Christmas carols. They are a lot of fun. Just keep in mind what's correct and what is Christmas myth as you go from door to door. Help keep people from building their theology from carols.

Oh, and put a little thought into the Christmas pageant this year. Remember that we're talking about very serious, world-shattering stuff here. If the play can communicate that, you're on the right track.


Diesel said...

Gregory - It's interesting that you cite an article attributing statements to God that He never made. This must really bother you if you let that pass without comment. ;)

Actually, I think that article makes some really good points. Maybe there is a "War on Christmas," but we don't need to get suckered into fighting it.

And yes, I really did attend a school play with James Brown, Elvis and Garth Brooks as the Three "Kings". I was sitting in the front row watching my son about 20 feet away singing his heart out, and all I wanted to do was grab him and run out of the church. It was horrible.

Gregory said...

It's true that the article is quoting God on things He never said. However, I said it might give us some insight into how He might feel. And yeah, I know I've complained about that horrible "-God" trend before, but I guess there's always exceptions to the rule.

I know, I know...I'm a horrible hypocrite.

Allen said...

I've never cared for "We Three Kings," either, but the explanation lies with a misunderstading of what "Magi" meant--and the fact that they're bringing rich treasures as gifts. One can sing "We magi of orient are..." Though there's still the contentious point as to whether they actually followed the star all the way to Jerusalem, as "Westward leading, still proceeding," indicates. Certainly, they followed it from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, but I don't exactly get the feeling that it led them all the way from Arabia or Persia or wherever to Jerusalem. Their comment is "We saw his (the king of the Jews) star in the east [or, when it rose, sure] and have come to worship him.
My personal favorite is "I Saw Three Ships." Just try sailing anywhere near Bethlehem!
Then of course I must mention "Joy To The World," which--though often sung at Christmas--is not about Christmas at all, but depicts a "millenial" reign of Christ on earth! Yes it does. Go back and read the lyrics!

A blow struck for Christmas Pedants everywhere! Thank you!