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Discussion Starter: Christmas

The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to consider a challenge to a ban on religious carols in public schools. The decision underscored how singing "songs of good cheer" can be complicated. Some Christians believe that leading up to Christmas, churches should not sing carols that celebrate the birth of Christ. Others question the theology of some carols.

"Music leaders have a responsibility for the lyrical content of their selections, but they also recognize that music serves a different function than preaching. I tend to consider cases of questionable lyrics under a number of categories. … Some carols have odd or misleading lyrics, such as 'no crying he makes' from 'Away in a Manger.' This lyric misses a key aspect of the Incarnation: Jesus entered into our suffering. We don't sing that carol, but have instrumental arrangements of the melody."

"Only with great care. For thousands, carols will be their only link with a church. At the same time, sentimentality is perhaps the single most dangerous feature of our Church and culture—and the sentimental air is never thicker than at Christmas. The Incarnation is messy, dirty, and resonates with the crucifixion. We need a new wave of carol writing that can gradually swill out the nonsense and catch the piercing, joy-through-pain refrains of the New Testament."

"The time we set aside for corporate worship in song is precious, so while the idea of 'banning' certain Christmas carols is a little too Ebenezer Scrooge for me, pastors and worship leaders should select Christmas songs wisely (just as they should use care choosing which hymns and worship songs will give expression to their people's praise throughout the year.) The good news is that ...

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Away With 'Away in the Manger'?
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December 2010

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