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I am still trying to find a church home in the northwest Phoenix area. So, I have been visiting new churches every weekend. Last weekend, I found time to check out three new congregations.
The first one I visited was what I’d consider a mega church with a large auditorium, lots of members, a big staff and plenty of small groups, Bible studies and volunteer opportunities.
The pastor delivered a rock solid message on the destructive nature of credit, which was a timely reminder during this season of frenzied shopping.
However, the church had a rather unusual approach to advent.
As you know, advent is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. I would certainly call it part of the Christmas season.
Walking into the church, I noticed that Santa was scheduled to make an appearance right after the Saturday night service had concluded. There was a throne for him to sit in and a giant queue line to control the flow of excited children wanting to sit on his lap.
Although I was initially caught off guard, I actually found that to be a refreshing scene. It conveyed the idea that we can make Christmas all about Jesus while keeping the magic of the holiday alive for youngsters.
However, when the service started, the worship team did not sing a single Christmas song. The music consisted of the typical 7-11 type of music often performed week after week in non-denominational churches. By 7-11, I mean the same seven words repeated 11 times.
For this reason, while I was willing to give a nod to St. Nicholas, I was not ready to give up all the typical vestiges of the Christmas season in favor of the fairy tale.
I don’t know why evangelical worship leaders have such an aversion to traditional Christmas music that they simply refuse to perform any of those songs during advent. I attended three services where 13 songs were played and two of them were devoted to Christmas.
Had this church opted to play one or two Christmas songs, I think having Santa Claus in the lobby would have been okay. But, by ignoring Christmas in the auditorium — where it really matters — and embracing a secular image in the lobby certainly does encourage confusion over the reason for the season.
In a side note, another church I was investigating had its “Christmas” schedule displayed front and center on their website.
The traditional Christmas Eve services were planned for Sunday afternoon on Dec. 22. Nothing was scheduled for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day — and all the regular Sunday services had been eliminated that week.
That, my friends, is just plain wrong. Surely, churches can set aside time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to celebrate our Savior’s birth.
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