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18 December 2011
Be careful where you bow
Yesterday I was surprised when Katie, a young Jewish believer, told me she didn't sing certain songs at her uni, because they are sung to Isis or some other tribal deity. She sings opera, and I never really thought about all that. I'd considered activities of worship when my family went to Thailand and we were invited to play with some sticks. The tour guide told us the luck we would gain from the Buddha in front of whom we were invited to bow would be wonderful. No, I said, I'm not going to bow down there. OK, so that was fairly blatant, but Katie's comments made me ponder more about 'the season' in which we find ourselves.
My friend Phil up in Brisbane updated his Facebook account today after church with, "Must be Christmas time, the place is packed pumping and jumping." I asked him if he meant the shopping centre or the church. He replied, "It might depend on who your God is." Yes, that made perfect sense.
Tonight in Lane Cove, in the Helen Street Reserve, some singers will lead some carols. And the neighbourhood is invited along. Bring a picnic, or buy some snags there, and sing some Christmas songs. Can you do that?
Back when I was in high school I was part of the madrigal singers at Shawnee Mission East High School. We got to leave school at this time of year, a lot, and that was in itself a lot of fun. Why did we leave? To sing carols and classical pieces, dressed in white dinner jackets, at Kiwanis Club luncheons or at shopping centres or wherever our teacher had arranged us to sing. One of the songs we used to sing was "Hallelujah", the famous chorus from "Messiah" by Handel which is sung worldwide at this time of year. I had a hard time singing one section of the song, maybe like Katie here in Sydney.
The song says, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ." It's a direct quote from the Newer Testament, in the Book of Revelation chapter 11. "the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ¶ “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.” Can you hear it in your ears or in your mind, just now? I can.
Back in high school I didn't believe in Jesus, and certainly wouldn't sing to him or about him. I knew almost nothing about Jesus, but definitely didn't want to sing a song about him. And yet, Messiah was massively popular and sing-a-longs are still held in New York and Australia and South Africa... how would I avoid this?
I mouthed the words. That's what I did. I couldn't think of anything else to do. I wouldn't sing about "Christ" but I felt it ok and permissible to mouth 'Christ.' Negotiation, eh?
We all have ways of dealing with things that are 'out of bounds.' Sometimes we vote or carry placards or even Occupy somewhere. Opposition may turn into hostility or outrage. Then you might get the outrageous comments of the rabbi in the US and Tim Tebow last week. Thankfully the newspaper for which he writes pulled the rabbi's article as it was not consistent with their editorial standards. I won't cite it, but suffice it to say that the rabbi's outrage was not warranted.
Still, what do you do with commercialism which abounds in these days, the countdown days until Christmas? Do you avoid the malls altogether? Do you avoid putting up green/ red tinsel at home? Or do you join in and put up the world's largest Santa Claus in your front yard, or let the neighbour do that like "Me Ditto" did in Kansas City this December?
Everyone has a way to deal with things with which they agree or with which they disagree.
That said, I recommend you be careful where you bow. And in front of whom. I like this photo of the little girl at the mall in Bondi Junction. She's not in front of Santa. She's not in front of a shop. She's considering the truths that this little manger scene (creche) communicates. Is this really the reason for the season? Is this "born is the king of Israel?" Is he your king?