This is a post I wrote in November of '07...I thought I'd bump it in case anyone missed it.
I love Christmas music. I began listening to "Jingle Bells" and "O Holy Night" several weeks ago. The way I see it, the department stores (and their incredibly early commercialism) are finally catching up to my family and our traditions. My mother would pull out the Christmas music well before Thanksgiving, and we had a very nice collection. Old records of Bing and Nat, updated classics with Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant, and even a little bit of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra filled our house and car with the sounds of the season.
Anytime I hear any of those recordings, or even any recording of some of those songs, a warm and welcome sense of nostalgia causes a flood of memories to flash through my mind. Christmas music is such a beautiful and fun part of Americana...no doubt everyone has distinct memories of Christmases past (whether good or bad), and, my guess is that most of us relate many of our Christmas memories with the music of the season.
And, therein lies the problem with Christmas music and the Church. I've discovered over the years that, it's very easy for us to sing our favorite Christmas carols at church in December and never allow for anything more than that warm nostalgic feeling. We can get so caught up in the warm feelings that worship never really takes place...worship is our primary purpose when we gather together on Sunday mornings, not singing Christmas songs.
And, I think this problem goes way beyond Sunday mornings. Christmas (or any holiday season for that matter) can, as a whole, seem more like a nostalgic and whimsical dream than a reality. The commercials, the movies, the shopping, the parties, the food and drinks...it's a huge thing that can seem to pull us out of our everyday lives, including our everyday worship. Singing songs, hanging out with friends, giving gifts, and even reading the Christmas story (Jesus) can become the ultimate goal instead of means to a greater end. (that's partly why January can feel like such a depressing month).
I've discovered some ways to help our people (including myself) understand how to worship during the Christmas season. But, first, have you ever thought about this or recognized this in your church before? What are some ways that you use the nostalgia and joy of the season to point people back to worship?