Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bravo to the musical rebels!

A lot of the erosion of "the true meaning of Christmas" has been like cutting yourself shaving: you feel the nick, you know it's going to bleed, and there's NOTHING you can do about it. When I was quite young, I remember hearing Stan Freberg's "Green Christma$" for the first time -- and when I did talk radio in the 90s, I played it in my last show before Christmas. Then there was Charlie Brown's weinachtsangst and Linus' Scriptural antidote, which, in fact, started me on the circuitous road into evangelism. Yet for all the sermons and PSAs and Christmas specials decrying the growth of commercialism and our diminishing awareness of "Whose birthday we're celebrating" (as Freberg's Cratchit put it), the situation has spiralled unabated, and the bleeding from the nick has come, as prophesied.

My office is adjacent to one of the biggest shopping malls in the west -- Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, just outside Vancouver. With a lot of the Hallowe'en candy still in the wrapper (heck: still in the stores), "Christmas" music started blasting away on the sound system and the stars and lights and decorations went up to remind us that 'tis the season to get down on our knees and pay. My boss -- who's also a Stan Freberg fan -- did register a complaint with Starbucks, that they should at least wait until after Nov. 11, out of respect for our war dead. But since Jesus is about as politically incorrect as it gets these days, the music is actually 'mas music -- no Christ in it at all. Lots of "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bells" and "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and that insipid thing by Perry Como (I think) that tells us "he'll be comin' down the chimney down".

I do wonder about people who come to Canada from other cultures. Here they are in the midst of what's become two months of hype for what appears to be the sole purpose of getting people to spend money. What are these people celebrating?, they must be asking. Somehow, they figure, this celebration has become ingrained in the national psyche, but simply to spend money and have parties is a pretty flimsy reason to have a big celebration like this.

Of course, excising Jesus from Christmas is all a part of this obsession we have with "including" everybody and not offending anyone. But isn't it ironic that, in the name of "inclusivity", we're barring the one truly "inclusive" faith there is? There are no requirements for race, birth, financial situation or even to have lived a perfect, righteous life. You don't have to assume uncomfortable positions, chant bizarre lyrics, flog yourself or offer perfectly good food to a statue. All you have to do is believe, and you're in. Believe God ... believe Jesus ... and as you do that, you are accounted as righteous and God starts sanding down the rough edges. (As Kenneth Copeland puts it regarding race: there are only two races in God's eyes -- those who know Him and those who don't.)

Praise God, I saw a lovely example of swimming against the tide at Christmastime last Friday. My daughter sings in a youth choir drawn from students across her public school district.

Victoria prides itself on being "progressive", which means, as you can guess, that Christ doesn't get much of an airing in public forums. But somehow, this choir, which is sponsored by the public school district, does honest-to-God Christmas concerts, with songs about Jesus and the Saviour and Bethlehem. This show on Friday combined my daughter's choir with a men's choir, and it was magnificent! A beautiful sound, uplifting music, and a totally joyful evening!

Are they really "musical rebels"? I hope we haven't reached the point in our society, where spreading joy is regarded as an act of rebellion. I know Someone Who was very pleased: I closed my eyes at one point, and the Lord started showing me a vision of Jesus, with His arms spread out over the choirs -- and all of us in the church -- and absolutely beaming at the love and worship. The Lord is also telling me now that He will keep on lifting up and protecting and preserving that choir and blessing its leaders.

The concert had one major personal benefit for me: the slight gloom, which tends to settle over me every year at this time is gone, and banished forever! Yes, even preacher types get the blues around Christmas -- it had been the enemy's last point of attack, making full use of the estrangement between my kids and me since my marriage broke up. But that depression (which had not been helped by the endless barrage of christmercialization prior to Nov. 1) was GONE by the middle of the concert -- interestingly, during the first verse of "We Need A Little Christmas" from the musical Mame.

So Merry Christmas to all!

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