Ministers Note – November 2018

Ministers Note – November 2018

In the coming month or two we shall begin hearing Christmas Carols piped into supermarkets and shopping centres. In times before education systems promoted widespread literacy, carols – along with hymns – acted as educational tools to aid the remembrance and spreading of stories, doctrine and theology. In fact even into the modern era, often the verses of the theology many people can most easily recall were authored by Wesley, Watts or Newton from hymns, rather than Paul, David or John from biblical canon.

In itself this is not a major concern – after all we confidently make the claim that the Spirit continues to speak to God’s people through the prophets and teachers of each generation; that the church has never been left without faithful scholars, interpreters and teachers, including songwriters. However, all writing comes from a context, therefore it must be held in accountable relationship with the origins, the life of Jesus, scripture and unfolding witness of the tradition.

One popular carol that comes to mind is
‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’.

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Here I suggest the constraints of the song format leave us needing to respond “yes, but…” or “yes, and…”

While we can sing in celebration and gratitude at the revelation in Jesus, we cannot let our response remain passive. If the words of this carol were taken in isolation they could mistakenly be read to suggest that Jesus has achieved all that need be done, so no further response is necessary. Good news everyone! Jesus came and took care of things: sit back in comfort and joy! This of course would stand in contrast to the fuller witness of our faith.

While we claim faith in Jesus offers comfort for the afflicted, we also proclaim affliction for the comfortable. Jesus turned tables over, he sent rich man away disappointed, he confounded those who wished to install him as their leader. Jesus was not executed on a cross for making people comfortable!

The additional truth to be added to the Carol are the tidings of discomfort and joy.

In the October edition of Crosslight, a colleague and I were interviewed regarding our collaborative project ‘Beyondering’, a podcast, live events etc. In order to provoke further reflection about the rituals we engage in and messages we proclaim, we have produced a series of Theologically Thoughtful Christmas Cards. One of the ten original designs conveys this very message – tidings of Discomfort and Joy. If you’d like to see the rest of the card designs or perhaps even purchase a pack or two go to www.beyondering.com.au and follow the link to ‘Christmas cards’.

May you welcome the disruption faith in Jesus brings.

Rev Lucas Taylor