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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bah, humbug!

Is there anything sweeter than children singing at Christmas?

I don't think so.  Then again, I have a very tender spot in my heart for children.

This morning at All Saints' Church, Rehoboth Beach, twenty-two little ones sang the Offertory Anthem for us. Well, it was sung at the Offertory, but it wasn't exactly what one might traditionally expect from an "anthem".

It was, in fact, a camp song that our brilliant Music Director, Alex Helsabeck, taught to the kiddos. It was about Emmanuel - God with us - but the kids never used that word, exactly.  Instead, they learned - as they sang - a little something about how God is always with us, and, when we pray, we are always with God.

It was in the language and the tune that was more familiar, more meaningful, to them.

A few of the folk - not many, just the prerequisite number for any church just about anywhere in Western Christendom - grumbled about how the children didn't sing a Christmas carol. And wasn't that just a shame? And, no wonder the church is in such a mess and we're losing members left and right! And, how else did we expect kids to carry on the great traditions of the church when they become adults if they don't learn it now, when they are young?

And, tsk, tsk, and tut, tut, and O woe!

There seems to be a lot of that going on these days.

The other day, I was reading David Anderson's Christmas newsletter. You may know that David is a bishop and the executive director of the American Anglican Council - the breakaway group of Episcopalians who now describe themselves as "individuals, parishes and ministries who affirm biblical authority and Christian orthodoxy within the Anglican Communion".

Want to know what that means, really?  Well, let me quote you a piece of his Christmas newsletter. You just won't be able to stand the joy!
The Church of England (CofE), which could and should be providing strong leadership isn't doing so - they are too busy planning to add shopping carts to the aisles of some of their churches. The Telegraph reports that the CofE will issue guidance this week on how to turn their naves and vestries into areas where groceries and household goods are sold.

That the CofE may have lost its focus on what it should be offering - salvation, or that the local folks aren't interested in salvation, are not reasons to compete with Tesco. Some CofE churches, principally the evangelical and the Anglo Catholic, can still remember what they are called to do and to be. May the Lord prosper those who are faithful and obedient in fulfilling his charge, to go and make disciples, and for those who want to add dry cleaning and prescriptions to the liturgy--GO AWAY.
Well, there it is, then.

Just a cheery little something to warm your heart on the Fourth Sunday in Advent.

Jesus lives - and so does Scrooge!

Never mind that many, many churches - filled with devout, faithful, Christian souls - are turning their sanctuaries into "grocery stores" of sorts like the SHARE FOOD PROGRAM a nonprofit organization serving a regional network of community organizations engaged in food distribution, education, and advocacy. SHARE promotes healthy living by providing affordable wholesome food to those willing to contribute through volunteerism.

When I was Vicar at St. Barnabas, Newark, we had a SHARE Food Program at the church. Once a month, people from the church and the neighborhood would volunteer to pick up the food at the distribution center in Newark, drive the boxes of food to the church, sort and arrange them - boxes of fresh vegetables, frozen meat, canned goods, etc. - and then work with church members and neighbors who would bring in their vouchers or their cash for the food.

If you volunteered to help pick up, deliver, distribute, or provide nutritional education, you got a certain amount of points which reduced the cost of your groceries. Some of our neighbors would volunteer for the elderly or those in fragile health conditions so they could also get a reduced rate.

Many, many were not members of the church. Several became members through their participation in the SHARE Food Program.

It was evangelism at its best: justice, education, advocacy, pastoral care, all rolled into one.

It was also a pathway to salvation - spiritual and corporal - by helping people to help themselves and each other - and not just with handouts.

Apparently, the Scrooges of the world like David Anderson and the members of the AAC just can't see beyond the incense or hands raised in praise, or hear beyond the chanting or music.

If you can't carry on the 'traditional traditions' of the church, then "GO AWAY".

Well, near as I can recall, justice has a long tradition in the church. Indeed, Jesus is the incarnation of the love and justice, the mercy and kindness of God.

Christmas is about the in-breaking of God's Realm in our midst, "robed in flesh" and dwelling among us.

Okay, I'll give David his gripe about money machines in the Narthex. Dry cleaning and prescriptions? Hmmm . . .That's a bit of a stretch, even for me, but then I'm willing to admit that I am of a different generation. Who knows what might bring someone of this generation into church? And, if you can get them in the door, well, that's a wonderful opportunity for evangelism.

So, there was no Christmas Pageant this morning at All Saints', Rehoboth Beach. Sweet little cherubs with slightly less than angelic voices did not sing what some wanted them to sing.

They sang of Emmanuel. In their own way and for their own time. And, with great joy and enthusiasm.

I think Jesus heard them. Indeed, I'm quite sure Mary heard them, too. No doubt God heard them as well. And the neighbors up and down the street. As you'll note in the video below, they were Quite Loud.

Emmanuel! God is with us!

Because of Mary and Joseph, two very brave people who broke with tradition and said 'yes' to God's very unorthodox request, God is with us!

God is with us! Emmanuel! Alleluia!


Brother David said...

David Anderson must not have done very well in the history of the church. Depending on the age of some of these English church buildings this will not be the first time that their naves have seen local produce and wares being sold. And it was not just in the aisles, because until after the Reformation and its over emphasis on the ministry of the word, churches did not have benches or pews and naves were multipurpose as the church ministries strove to feed the whole person.

These self righteous pendejos spend an inordinate amount of time judging the faithfulness and the ministry of the gospel of others, I hope for their own sake they can meet their own standard of measure or they set themselves up for a sad day of reckoning.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Elizabeth...what's it worth to you for me to come to RB, have you put me in front of the little clutch of "Tsk tskers," and start singing snippets of Handel's Messiah, using the words you've seen me Facebooking the last couple of weeks that would more correctly be called, "Handel's Canine Messiah?"

What do you think they would do when I started singing at the top of my voice of the "Glory of the dogs...shall beeeeee reeeeeveeeeealllll-ed....for the mouth of the dogs.....have bar-ked it!" LOL

marnanel said...

Well said!

JCF said...

I'm afraid I'm instinctively a HumBugger, Elizabeth.

Our kids sang "Happy Birthday Jesus" this morning. When the first soloist was EXCRUCIATINGLY off-key, my hand---I swear, it was involuntary---quickly formed a finger-pistol, and I fired it at my own head!

(Like the pain-threshhold, the aesthetics threshhold is a very personal thing. ;-X)

---which is not to say we should be inhospitable, or (perhaps worse) of the "We.Have.Never.Done.It.That.Way.Before" dinosaur herd.

There's gotta be another way...

Mary-Cauliflower said...

I think that the presence of kids in church is always a blessing and whatever prompts them to engage with the central ideas of our faith is great. The exuberance of the song was fun, as was the interaction between the kids and the adults.

But...there are some really nice, easy to sing pieces out there for kids to learn. And kids do grapple with the mysteries when we let them. So I think I would have a small problem with "Happy Birthday, Jesus." Not so much on aesthetic grounds as much as the basic right of kids not to be set up for saccharine displays.

After all, in order to do a clever parody, you have to be familiar with the original.

MadPriest said...

Is there anything sweeter than children singing at Christmas?

A poke in the eye with a sharp stick, maybe?

Brussel sprouts for the tenth day in a row?

Simon Cowell?

Oh, the list is endless, Lisbeth!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay, okay, okay, Jonathan and JCF. Sweetness is in the ear of the beholder.