Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Hymns sung during Advent?

Over at revgalblogpals the question for the Ask the Matriarch was about singing Christmas Hymns during Advent;

Dear Matriarchs,
This will be my fifth Advent in ministry, and I am still trying to negotiate the shark-infested waters of choosing hymns in December. Although I grew up primarily in a non-liturgical denomination, I have come to love Advent as a season of preparation for the new. Holding a hard line on the hymns my first year may well be one of the reasons my musician quit a few months later. Could you share your wisdom with regard to cleaving to Advent versus allowing the Baby Jesus to come just a little early?

[Note: I saw a couple of RevGals and BlogPals on LJ asking similar questions--"I didn't have Advent in my youth and I'm in love with Advent" kinds of things.... and my EFM group posits that they love Advent more than they do Christmas... so some reflections on the season in general, Advent vs. Christmas might be helpful too.]

You can read the Matriarch's answers at revgalblogpals. They asked me to post the links I suggested. Here is my full response with links:

Okay, some of you hardliners for Advent are going to think I am heretical and sacrilegious
Here's my thoughts and practices. I do not keep Christmas hymns out through the month of December. I pick my music by the theme I am preaching. So if I am preaching on hope, the music goes with hope, if it is a Christmas hymn, then we sing it. Having preached in a service where there were people who had not been to church, didn't know Jesus, we tried to gear the preaching, the music, whatever we did toward them using the idea of a felt need. We did light the candles, but even rewrote the liturgy for that to reflect the felt need and language they could understand.

But I also think worship is about God, and offering God our praise and adoration. God is the source and object of our worship. And I think whatever we do in worship needs to lead to that whether it is a seeker service or tradition, advent, Christmas, epiphany, Easter. John Wesley in his Directions for Singing said; "Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sin, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve her, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven ." vii The United Methodist Hymnal.

The church I serve now mainly has long term church members. Those who visit are new to the community. But we have youth who did not grow up in the church and so I try to keep it a bit of both.
Do you know that not one of the Christmas hymns is in the top ten of popular Christmas music anymore?
What does that say, and what is it we need to be doing to respond to that?

Now having said that, I remember being deeply touched when I for the first time went to an advent service. I would rather go to a liturgical midnight Christmas Eve service, than any other. I believe the liturgy, the bells, smells and whistles touches something deep within the core of human beings. I believe that it is the five senses being touched. So how can we make the service be that experiential for people? How can it be experiential to bring one to the object and source of their worship? God. I am not sure this says what you wanted to hear about the hymns. Maybe it provoked some the thought for addressing all parts of the worship than just the hymns....

The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship has some articles concerning this matter that might be helpful.

The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship has some articles concerning this matter that might be helpful. Here is one called a Modest proposal for Advent/Christmas Peace
Advent Reflections: From Despair to Hope
Advent, Year C: A Season of Flashbacks and Previews
Music Musings on adventWhat to do about AdventAdvent Hymns Set to Christmas Tunes
Advent: Finding the Balance Between the Sacred and Secular
Why the Holding Back?
A Christmas Lament
Christmas Before and After: Celebrating the Journey Commentary: Christmas and consumer captivity

Here are some from other writings
Bah! Humbug! Should Christians Give Up on Advent? from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Can We Sing Christmas Carols During Advent? Dennis Bratcher
Twas The Beginning of Advent Rev Todd Jenkins
The Presbyterians Today
Why Don't we sing Christmas Carols at Advent? St. Jude Catholic Church, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Advent: Waiting and Holy Hubbub First Congregational United Church of Christ Baraboo, WI
Advent Jeff Meyers
Advent and Christian Year Mark Roberts
How Do We Keep Advent Four Sundays Long?
Christmas Hymns in Corporate Worship
Advent Rev. Jeff Wright
Lights Out Christian Century

What's your thoughts about singing Christmas hymns during Advent?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great policy, Abi, because I do the same thing!! :) And if I chose just Advent hymns, we'd be done the second Sunday in Advent. And I love to think of Advent as a both/and time. God is both incarnate already and prayed/ hoped for again. Thus, I think Christmas is appropriate.

My two cents...