There seems to be a lot of ignorance around Christmas … and it’s not just the meaning of Christmas or the reason for the season. The very fabric of the holiday season is being torn asunder and the church largely seems to be oblivious to it.

  • I’m not talking about the replacing of Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays (I wonder if there would be such a fuss in we remembered they’re really wishing us a happy HOLY-day).
  • I’m not on about taking Christ out of Christmas by spelling it X-Mas (as if the Greek Chi wasn’t the first letter in Christos and “code” for the mass on the day of Christ).
  • I’m not even talking about the fallacy of three wise-guys tenderly looking at a newborn laying in a feeding trough.

No, the ignorance I’m talking about is how our culture has failed to embed traditional Christmas carols into our children’s repertoire.

I’ve long reminded our clients that Christianity is no longer part and parcel of Western culture. Only the very well churched have the Lord’s Prayer memorized (or even know what it is anymore). Fewer still are familiar with the 23rd Psalm. John 3:16 is largely thought to be Austin 3:16’s younger brother. And it’s a rare unchurched adult who has a clue what an invocation, benediction, doxology, or Gloria Patri is. But somehow I had a notion that in a community Christmas sing most people would at least know the first verse of Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, or The First Noël. But that’s not the case.

A couple weeks ago, I was asked to be the Cheermeister and Hay Ride Song Leader for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights Festival. Mostly kids from elementary through high school braved the cold for the hay ride (it wasn’t that cold) and of course there were some adults. I’d printed out lyric sheets for the riders and included old favorites like Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. But I also include five traditional religious Christmas carols that included the three mentioned above plus Away in a Manger and What Child is This?  On every hayride I tried to lead a combination of both. With one lone exception, no one under the age of eighteen knew any of the Christmas carols. And the lone exception was an elementary boy who knew Away in a Manger, but didn’t know any of the others (apparently, children today don’t watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special anymore!).

I say all that to remind all church leaders that we live in an ever expanding non-Christian culture. We simply can’t expect the unchurched around us to know even a smidgen about the faith, and so we’re going to have to explain, explain, explain when we preach, when we teach, and especially when we’re faith-share.

Question: What words, phrases, songs, concepts, etc. do we need to add to the “Be sure to define this” list?