Friday, December 26, 2008

Emotional Christmas

Upon Cheryl's urging and Fritz's do-it-right-now reminder, I listened to a portion of the Lessons & Carols service from King's College in Cambridge. I see why they both like it so much. There's something about it that kinda chokes you up.

Pr Petersen cried while he was writing his sermon for Christmas. He noted that the tears sneak up on him more frequently at Christmas and Easter.

As I did exciting things on Wednesday (like clean the litter box and mop the floor and fold laundry and do an errand in town that involved driving past the Episcopal church) I pondered these things. (Nooooo. I was not pondering the cat box. I was pondering the Christmasy emotions.) Anyway, I had a thought. [Ta da!]

What is preached in Christian churches? Far too often the sermons and the Bible readings are about things like being kind those who are less fortunate, helping the elderly, giving more money to church and charities, even topics like politics and weight loss and "Christian" financial management.

But not at Christmas and Easter.

Even the churches that care oodles about making us into good little people tend to get it right at Christmas and Easter. They read Luke 2 and John 19-20. The sermons and hymns are about the incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection -- the historical events tied most closely to the forgiveness of sins in Christ's blood. (Now, don't go and give me counter examples. There are probably way too many. But, y'know, compared to other times in the church year, these are the times we particularly look at God's mercy instead of at ourselves.)

At Christmas and Easter, the Christian Church is ecumenically united in a way that cannot offend even the most conservative bronze-age Missourian. Furthermore, "it is necessary to everlasting salvation that a person believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Athanasian Creed) and, at these two high feasts, this is what we are all are focused on together.

So we listen to and sing about the most fundamental portions of the Creed, and we all do it together. Seems odd if that didn't bring tears of joy to our eyes.


  1. I'm reposting this comment because I don't think the first one went. Feel free to delete if it's a duplicate!

    I'm glad you got to listen! I think in addition to the music one of the things I love about the broadcast is the way the lectors approach the readings (not to mention that beautiful King James English). It's so deliberate and unhurried and brimming with "gravitas." I also love that people start lining up at dawn to get in to church--like it's a rock concert! And then there's just the timelessness of it--knowing that people across the ocean are celebrating Christmas while we're having our morning coffee. I love that.

    But I wish that Clebury, the current choirmaster (I think that's his title), would give his own descants a rest on occasion and resurrect the classic Willcocks ones. Seems it would have been especially appropriate in this 90th anniversary year. I just can't get away from wanting to hear those older descants--kind of like you and your hymns, huh?

    By the way, did you get to hear Rutter's "What Sweeter Music"? That was a highlight for me.

  2. The thing I noticed about the lectors was that they read like my pastor, with the same deliberateness and lack of hurry. I don't recall hearing the carol you mentioned. But if I did, it's unfamiliar enough to me that it went unnoticed. I just caught the last half hour.