I recently went with our church's children to see a Christmas pageant presented by a rather large church. This was the second year that I have been to this particular church to see their Christmas pageant. Throughout my years in ministry I have led numerous Christmas programs, some small, some not so small. I have been in large scale programs a number of times as well, so I feel that I can speak from an informed point of view. This particular pageant was visually and musically stunning. There can be no doubt about the talent and skill that was on display. They presented a wonderful program. But I was disturbed as I sat through the program and that feeling only increased as I considered what I saw and heard.
The program was divided into three sections: a choral opening was followed by a "traditional" program followed by a "spiritual" program. The opening portion featured a choral concert of traditional Christmas hymns such as "O Come, All Ye Faithful." This was a beautiful experience, although is was all too brief.
The "traditional" program featured what could best be described as vignettes built around secular Christmas songs such as "I'll be Home for Christmas" and "Here Comes Santa Claus." The amount of work that went into this portion of the pageant was obvious. This was the longest portion of the entire evening.
The third, "spiritual" portion of the pageant featured, for the most part, music that I was unfamiliar with. The centerpiece of this section was a recreation of the nativity. My son, who attended with my, noticed that the leadership took liberties with the biblical account by having the wise men come to worship at the manger. This was the shortest portion of the program.
Why was I disturbed by what I saw and heard during this performance? I have a very real problem with a church, which by definition is a body of believers who proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, placing a greater emphasis on Santa Claus and the secular than on the birth of our Savior. I am also disturbed that the leadership of the music ministry would be so disrespectful of the Word of God and present a decidedly unbiblical version of the events at the manger. These may seem like small things to be concerned about, but if you raise the water temperature one degree at a time you can boil a frog without him ever knowing about it. The church has lost its power and effectiveness one small step at a time through small compromises such as these.
What the world needs to hear at this time of year is not "Here Comes Santa Claus" or "Frosty the Snowman" but "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" and "What Child is This." Why would we sacrifice our message? We know the true reason for the season and we should be true to that message in all that we do.
May you know the very best of God's blessings this Christmas season.