Well, go ahead and grab some eggnog (or perhaps mulled wine if you prefer);  because, you guessed it, we are thinking about Christmas. A time that, lovely little treats aside, has major potential to be a vexed (rather than blessed) experience for the weary pilgrim. Now, beyond my perhaps slightly over-dramatic description of this vexation in the last post, the issue boils down to this: The Christmas season is a time when we will hear both Jingle Bells AND Silent Night on the same Christmas album.

Just so that we let this sink in properly, let’s start with a sampling of the lyrics in Silent Night:

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Bear in mind, I could have picked almost any other hymn-carol instead of this one. My point being simply this: Christmas carols at this level, make up a profound part of the Church’s hymnody, and have some of the most theologically rich lyrics in existence.

Alright then. Next . . . a sampling from Jingle Bells:

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle all the way!
Oh, What fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh.
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle all the way!
Oh, What fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh.

Notice any difference in emphasis? I think so. Yet, as we know, one song is happily sung alongside the other at Christmas time. But, following Tertullian’s famous question (regarding Athens, Jerusalem and the mixing of philosophy with theology), we might well ask of this situation: What hath Jingle Bells to do with Silent Night, anyway?

Well, let me start by pointing out (once again) that Christmas time is a truly great example in showcasing the value of understanding a biblical distinction between the sacred and the secular. In order to answer the question then, we need to focus on three key ideas: 1) “the holy”, 2) “the common” and 3) “the profane”. In my hopes to offer you food-for-thought in the three day lead-up to Christmas morning itself, I’ll develop one of these ideas per day (in reverse order). Tomorrow we’ll talk about “the profane”. On the day before Christmas we’ll talk about “the common”. On Christmas day itself, we’ll talk about “the holy”.

So, if you find yourself with eggnog in hand and nothing much else to do, open up your ‘absolutely-favourite-favourite-must-read-blog’ bookmark list, and click on toleratedsojourner.com (you know, the one at the top of the list).

 

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