Ok, well, where to start when so much has occurred over the past four-five months.
Obviously, the biggest event was Christmas Day, which was only a couple of days ago. But let me jump a day before that to Christmas Eve. Since it’s our first Christmas in North Carolina and our own church wasn’t going to hold a Christmas Eve service since we are a new church plant, we thought it would fun, different, and a great experience to attend the Christmas Eve service at a well known Methodist church, a “traditional” service in a “traditional church”. They had several services to choose from, so we chose the 6pm.
Angel appearing to Mary stain glass window of the church we visited.
We had visited the church a month earlier and really enjoyed the architecture and learning some of the history behind it. It harked back to my childhood days being raised Episcopalian with all the traditional architecture and history. Sitting in the hard wooden pews brought back memories: the Bibles and hymnals in the slots of the pew backs, the organ pipes towering over the congregation, the elaborate wood and stone carvings, the many colorful stain glass windows, the podium where the priest preaches…However, I had left the Episcopal church years ago and don’t regret it. I can say with all confidence, the only things I miss about the traditional buildings, art, and even some of the rituals is the awe and reverence it creates and prepares in the church goer’s heart to worship God. These days, many of todays Christians go for the traditional ceremonies because of the ritual aspect, and having some link to history, but the theology and doxology are altered to modern whims. I’m finding that more and more of the old traditional churches are all just a visage for trustworthy preaching, while their internal practices and beliefs are a mess. (Think white washed tombs)
Realizing how progressively liberal this well known church is I wasn’t surprised, just saddened… in how lacking the Christmas Eve message was in mentioning the reason for why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Instead the priest went on about English grammar to build up on what he was going to talk about: the word “with”. His wordy reasoning on why Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with us” came to be among us. Apparently – and I’m paraphrasing here, Christmas is because God was so desperate for our company after he made us he came down from heaven into human form to gain our friendship. (Huh??) God doesn’t need us. He already had an intimate community, Three in One. He didn’t create us because he was lonely and longed for our relationship like a love sick lover. I found that portrayal of God offensive and Biblically incorrect. The priest missed the opportunity to speak of our need of the Savior Jesus Christ; that God so loved He created us, then when sin entered by Adam and Eve, God gave His very best, His one and only Son, to live among us, and to draw us back to Himself. Ultimately to die taking on all our sin in our place, dying in our place though He is without sin. And, gift on top of gift, Jesus comes back from death, conquering it giving us hope of new life in Him! But none of that was mentioned. Only weaving grammatical poetry regarding “with” to show how desperate God is for our acceptance of Him and how inclusive His love is. I’m sorry, that’s not the God of the Bible. And not one I want to know.
As we left at the end, I was feeling some of the wonder of Christmas dampened. I felt so robbed of the message that should have been told. And I felt a desperation within me for all the other people who were leaving the same service to hear the Truth of Christmas. All I could think of was what a missed opportunity to share the Gospel. But as we drove home, my spirits were lifted when we discussed with the kids what was off about the sermon, and I was relieved and so thankful when I heard the kids voice the same misgivings that both myself and my husband had. They caught this and some other observations on their own. I was reminded that God is sovereign. His Truth will and is getting out, and those who are meant to hear it will hear and follow.