The Blog of Kevin on the dilemma of churches up and down the land
The balance we have to strike every year is that we want people to come to our carol services; we want some contact with them, we want them to catch a glimpse and maybe even a full-on view of the real, transforming Jesus. At the same time, that is not what most people are expecting or wanting. They want Away in a Manger sung by little children, some candles a familar (short) reading and nothing more. Not even coffee and a mince pie.
So how much do ‘we’ do Christmas ‘their way’ for ‘them’, because we don’t want to alienate or upset’ them’; and how much do we do Christmas for ‘us’, real and honest and raw and authentic, brazenly mad and ridiculous and dangerous a story as it is, politically murderous (the killing of the babies), historically pertinent (Palestinian refugees from a controlling state) and socially alienating (look at the reaction to Nick’s book).
This is pretty close to the truth, if a bit overstated. For a start I'm not sure there's such a clear line between 'them' and 'us'. But the expectations of people coming to Carols by Candlelight, or a Christingle, don't allow a lot of wiggle room. Having said that, it's within the comfort of the familiar that something provocative, or challenging, or engaging, has the room to breathe and grab people.
But I take the point at the end: if we started afresh, with the Christmas story, and didn't have any of the cultural barnacles, is this how we'd authentically celebrate it, or would we do something else?