Monday, December 21, 2015

Singing from the wrong hymn sheet at Christmas - carol theology

Ok so I'm getting older and more crotchety, but do you ever stop to think about the songs you sing? I can remember going to a primary school concert and being dumbstruck that pre-teens were singing 4 ever by The Veronicas. It's a catchy pop song (I love the guitar) but it is very typical of hook up culture, and young children shouldn't really be singing that should they?

Coming away from a carol service I was reminded of subtle assumptions in music. I'm assuming this matters (if you think theology is the study of nothing leave this blog now and go back to cat pictures, LOL). Two we sang that just ended up depressing me were Silent Night and Away in a Manger.

Now for a Christian, the idea of the incarnation should be Earth shattering. God adopts the human condition, enters into our world in order to radically transform it. This means more than just be nice to each other one day a year - it's a metaphysical bombshell, a theological conundrum and a life changer. But we miss it so badly. Take Away in a Manger

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

What? Did Jesus never crap himself? Did he never teeth? How close did he come to dying of the diseases the modern, individualistic smart ass doesn't want their kids getting immunized against in case 'they get autism'? Why the heck doesn't a fully human baby? What's wrong with crying? A false view of perfection, of sin, of humanity and of what it means for God to assume all that we are. Fake, plastic Christianity.

Now Silent Night
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild
Why the blazes was it silent? Again, no crying. What is so holy about being a mild baby? Was the Jesus who denounced the religious leaders, who called Herod 'that fox', who cleared the temple 'tender and mild.' Save me from plastic baby Jesus!

To top it off, back to Away in a Manger 

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

Gah! Add to the docetic 'Jesus didn't cry like a baby' some 'beam me up Goddy' theology. Heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world. What of resurrection? Of heaven descending to Earth? Of his will (peace, justice, righteousness, radical neighbour love) done on Earth as it is in heaven? Thank goodness for Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Hail! the heav'n born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!" 

Here we have one born to be king, to bring righteousness, healing, second birth (resurrection). Now there's a meaty carol.

Veil'd in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th'incarnate Deity:
The incarnation cannot be reduced to kitsch. Accept it or reject it, Christmas is Earth shattering, Advent is about being adventurous. Time to shake it up.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

So funny. We were having identical reactions to the same hymn and blogging about it at the same time :-)