Christmas Eve morning. That rare thing - a cloudy Colorado morning with frost on the ground. But the perfect setting for sipping a warm mug of Yorkshire Gold tea and listening to the live broadcast of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College Cambridge. It is beautiful and stately and luminous and Anglophile believing Christians like myself can't help but be moved and pray along. "And the glory of Lord shaun among them . . "
And yet I know all too well that for the vast majority of Brits, this service is an exercise in seasonal aesthetics; so removed from daily life that it doesn't even qualify as nostalgia. Empty churches. Muslim women in full abayahs feeding the pigeons in Regent's Park below the enormous dome of the nearby mosque surrounded by the lush green of an English May. Those are the images from my last trip to London in 2006 that flash to mind. And listening to a passionate English missionary tell me of the revival fire he experienced in a giant Pentecostal Ukrainian church founded by a Nigerian pastor. Not to mention the fact that coffee seems to have supplanted tea as the dominant drink of Londoners!
I was struck by the wonderful old words of the carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. How charmingly the carol sums up the Great Story:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen Let nothing you dismay Remember, Christ, our Saviour Was born on Christmas day To save us all from Satan's power When we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy O tidings of comfort and joy
I could use that at the next Making Disciples weekend in Los Angeles in January, I thought excitedly. I imagined 500 Angelinos lustily singing the familiar carol together as a fun segue into our section on telling the Great Story of Jesus.
But then reality smacked me upside the head. Most of the people coming are not Anglos. They are Hispanic and Asian. Cause the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is 70% Hispanic. And many are first generation immigrants. Some of them may not even know the words. In any case, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen doesn't tap into the bone deep cultural reserves that the words would have evoked in Euro dominant American Catholics of the 1950's. Or the 80's for that matter. A world that no longer exists in many of our dioceses or parishes.
It is with these realities in mind that I am planning to do a little Christmas season blog series beginning on December 26. The topic: the shape of the real world in which we 21st century Christians are called to announce Christ and a few of the implications for our discussions and pastoral practice.
In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful recording of the King's College choir singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Wherever you hail from, it is wonderful.
May you all have a very blessed and merry Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And remember to drop by during the week of December 26 for more on this very important topic for the New Year ahead.