Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Silent Night

The other night while praying, something came to my mind. I pictured a small church in a snowy countryside at nighttime, with a warm glow coming through its stained glass windows. Inside, the faithful sat (or stood) in the wooden pews, singing the carols and hymns they'd known since childhood and were eager to hear the Christmas story yet again. Something about this image really warmed my heart.

Now this isn't far off from my own experience, having grown up in a pretty conservative Lutheran church. (Shoot, the pastor wears robes and we still use a centuries-old liturgy!) For as much good as it can do to have varied styles of worship services that seek to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in fresh way, I think a lot is to be said for the traditional (or is that timeless?), "culturally irrelevant" churches out there. What good is it when a church has organ music, lots of older people, and the King James Version? I think what it tells me is that there are people for whom the gospel has proved its lasting worth, and that it's not just the latest fad. New crazes in culture come and go, and if the church is too tied up in these, what makes it any different than grunge rock, a new pair of jeans, or L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics (i.e., Scientology)? This is why I'm often leery of the "emergent" movement. And yeah, perhaps pews and crying babies aren't quite like having a church that serves lattes and has fancy PowerPoint presentations, but it shows me that coming to church is more about Christ and community than about entertainment and ease. Faithfully attending such a church is itself an act of worship and death to self, an esteeming of God above allother pleasantries.

I guess this just all led me to praise God's constancy and unchanging love. It's so common to quote Psalm 23 or John 10, but it's really true. It was nearly in tears at the knowledge that God never changes and that the gospel isn't more new than true, and even when I'm nervous or tired or scared or ware of nothing by my sin, all I need to do is get on my knees and know that our Jesus "will sustain [us] to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor 1.8-9).

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