Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Liturgically Redundant?

A commenter on the Cancelling Christmas post wrote this:

The conversation everywhere seems to be focused on whether or not we should have church on Christmas, especially if we have already had Christmas services on Christmas Eve. I think there could be a good case to be made that, on the Christian calendar, to have BOTH Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services is liturgically redundant.

This is my knee-jerk response:

I think it's mistaken to say that it's liturgically redundant to have services both days. That doesn't bode well for the creativity of the church! Surely we can think of more than one service's worth of ways to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the incarnation of the living God, the children's understanding of these events, the way the world changed, the second coming, the culmination of advent...

My church already has two very different kinds of services (two of each) on Christmas Eve: a pageant for kids and a solemn eucharist. And they do another service on the Day, although as I've admitted elsewhere, I haven't been to it (probably a normal Rite II Eucharist). Surely there are more ways to celebrate. If it would be redundant in a church to do services both days, then I have to say it's not a very creative church! :)

This goes back to the question of the importance of Christmas, of this festival of the Incarnation. If we truly gave it the significance it is due in our lives (and on the Church calendar), seems like we'd be doing it up a lot bigger - thinking of many ways of celebrating the multiple facets of the festival. There is so much going on at Christmas. We are missing a lot, I fear. Wouldn't it be fun to do services all the twelve days that look at different parts of the event? One could be about the different songs we sing, one about the historical situation of the birth, one about theological ideas regarding incarnation (in other religions, too), etc., etc. Maybe this is more of a Sunday School class, I don't know. I want us to think outside the box when planning our services!

If you go back to my post about whether to hold communion at both services, you'll see my liturgy prof's response, which I think is well-said. Also, he points out the tradition of doing thirteen pontifical masses over the Christmas holiday. If the pope, a rather busy guy, can find the time and strength for all that, couldn't we do two?

Anyway, I'd be very curious for your opinions on this. Is it liturgically redundant to celebrate both days? Do we need new liturgies written? Those of you who do both days, what do you do differently so it's not the same service both times? Or do you just expect different audiences and provide the same product?


Anonymous said...

It's always tickled me that this is the one holiday Christians celebrate "Jewish-style" -- starting with an eve, and progressing into the day itself.

All of our festivals begin with the eve, and continue into the day (which ends at sundown). And holiday eve services tend to have a different feel than holiday daytime services. Our liturgy, at least in theory, reflects the arc of each holiday. On Shabbat we begin with joyful celebration, move in to a more intense and text-heavy heart of things, and then wind down and bid the holiday farewell. On Rosh Hashanah, similarly, we begin with a relatively brief and celebratory service on the eve; on the day, in contrast, services are longer and delve into more complex theological themes.

Dunno if this is helpful to you, but I figured I'd mention it! :-)

kate said...

Here is the list of Christmas services at my church:

Christmas Eve:
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 4 p.m.
Choral Prelude at 10:30 p.m.
The First Mass of Christmas with Procession and Blessing of the Creche at 11 p.m.

Christmas Day:
Low Mass with Carols at 8:30 a.m.
Solemn Choral High Mass of the Nativity at 11 a.m.

As you can see from the titles of each service, each one has different elements and a slightly different liturgy. So, based on my experience of Christmas at my church, it is not at all redundant to have services on both the eve and the day - they are all different services, and I would feel that I was "missing out" on something were I not to go to both.

Sarah said...

Hi--Just found your blog and haven't totally caught up yet, but I wanted to share that your idea of a different service on each of the 12 days of Christmas made me laugh out loud. How creative! I love it. My husband and friends constantly make fun of me because I suggest things like this and I have come to realize that I am either a Jesus geek or am headed for seminary...or maybe both!