This year I didn’t know if I would be able to make it to the Christmas Eve service my dad would be playing drums for because of work. Fortunately, I was able to make it to the service only a few minutes late.
I don’t attend this particular church anymore, though it was the church I grew up in, but my dad still plays drums with the worship team there frequently. It’s all a complicated mess, so I’ll bypass that point for now…
I’m not one to typically sing Christmas carols. I’m more of a pensive listener- more prone to meditate on the words and meaning, if you will. And lately I’ve been thinking about the paradox of the child Christ and the adult Christ. Not the paradox of the human and divine, per se, but the paradox of the Church’s perception of the two separately.
This came to me suddenly as the congregation (of a few thousand people, easily) were singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. The world is clearly rejoicing at the fact of Christ’s arrival, which will usher in a new age of peace, healing, and harmony.
Two lines in particular caused me to think in a way I hadn’t before, and were seriously contradicted by the short sermon that followed worship.
“God and sinners reconciled” and “Born that man no more may die”
Granted, there is no strict Biblical basis for these phrases, but they are of course inspired by the biblical text and serve to represent the story of Christ’s birth in a particular way.
For me, Jesus’ arrival truly did mean that God had chosen to reconcile with the world, with sinners, with everyone; No one is now to “die” (of which the definition I can’t even begin to think about discussing right now) for Jesus had come.
How come, then, there was a sermon delivered on the punishment of eternal damnation to Hell for those who do not come to Christ that very evening? It struck me as a frustrating contradiction to be sure. We sing that all are reconciled with God due to Christ’s coming, and then immediately take it back, claiming that this reconciliation is conditional. The Christ child is the one who will bring peace and joy, and then the Christ who is crucified will only being peace and life to those who follow certain guidelines.
I don’t have an answer to this conundrum, and to me that’s exactly what this is, but I haven’t heard this topic raised before and believe it ought to be. I haven’t done any serious research on this point, either, as is clear by my lack of biblical and scholarly references; but I believe in a Christ and God that saved all. Granted, it’s not all that simple; there are hefty tasks that need doing, but nothing that is not irreconcilable in the end.
In the end, I made it through the service, and my dad killed it, but I was left with this strange feeling of uneasiness that I couldn’t shake. So, naturally I wrote about it on the internet.
I hope your Christmas was joyous, regardless of religion or social affiliations.