22 December 2015

Can we say "Christmas"? In public?


I check snopes so often it's not funny. Here's the one I check this time of year from Jewish actor Ben Stein and his confessions for the holidays . He says, "I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are — Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they're slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we're all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year." This is in reaction to the overreaction of so many to the "Christ" references in the holiday celebrated by Christians and with his obvious commitments to the Jewish religion.

Down in Victoria, the education guidelines are hardly clear. In fact the guidelines could have been drawn by a primary school kid with a new crayon. Here is the article by The Age reporter Henrietta Cook . She reports, "State school students can sing Christmas carols in class time, but they can't sing hymns. And honey-dipped apples are allowed for Jewish New Year, but programs that use the Koran and Bible are banned from class time." Sounds as clear as mud.

I have coined the phrase and hashtag #OneWayReligiousTolerance to indicate that as long as something is clearly secular the government will allow it, but once Christianity (and by that I mean personal faith in Jesus as Messiah) is openly shown, the government will seek to disallow it. Sadly.

The other night I watched two different carols singalong shows, one from Sydney's Domain and one from Brisbane. They had no trouble singing "Oh Holy Night", "Hark the herald angels sing", and such great carols of the past with beauty both in stage and voice. And the people seemed to desire and enjoy singing along. After all, these were 'carols' events. And those same events take place in neighbourhoods all over Australia and other countries. Carols in the Parks and Carols in the Church buildings and ... abound just now. They are wonderful events for families and singles, for believers and others to enjoy this festive time of the year. No one is required to attend. No one is required to sing. But the events shouldn't be demeaned to disallow songs with messages that are uncomfortable.

I remember singing sacred music in my public high school, which was 30% Jewish in those days. We sang sacred music because we in the madrigal and concert choirs considered the Jingle Bells playlist to be juvenile and pedestrian. We wanted music with bite and that was entirely sacred. To be fair, "Silent Night" is a bit simple, but our choir director found some significantly tough arrangements for all his own demands. We were better for it; the Christmas concert (Now retitled "Winter" concert) was full of powerful and beautiful music. We had 8 other months of the year to sing secular music. This one was special.

I like the hymns for their poetry. I like the hymns for their focus. Christmas is not only about the season of giving. It's not only about family. It's not just Currier and Ives and snow scenes. It's not just (for us in Australia) barbecues and prawns, beaches and time off work. Christmas is about a Jewish boy born in Bethlehem. It's personal for me. And whether Jesus was even born in December is to me irrelevant. This is as good a time as any to celebrate his birth. And his life. And his mission. And his love.

Sorry if that offends you.
Sorry if I offend you.
Sorry if he offends you.

Christmas is about light bursting into our darkness and bringing hope to the hopeless. Jesus is the glow in the dark reality who loves us and still lives to help us. Find out more here just now. "Born is the King of Israel." Merry Christmas.

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