Friday, December 20, 2019

Confusing Cultural Christmas Adventures

So this is just a quick story from a recent sermon I preached that I thought would be fun for you all to hear. It is a reminder that no matter how long we live here, we will sometimes forget things we've learned or not always connect the dots.

As we are preparing for the church plant, we are serving in an existing Austrian church. I preach there on occasion to keep my skills up and to serve the church. We've been in a sermon series talking about Christmas songs, where we look at the scriptures that are quoted or alluded to in the verses and see how they are preparing us to celebrate Christ's birth.

I personally love Christmas music. I worked enough retail while in high school and college to be inoculated to the pop music side of things. But I am deeply affected when we sing about the simple and old truths of our faith. These songs refresh my faith and remind me of the core of what I believe.

My text was Oh Come All Ye Faithful. It is a truly great song. It is an invitation to come and see the child, the baby king and savior of all. The invitation is to respond to the incarnation with worship.

So here's where I goofed up a bit. One of my points of application was that we should set aside our worries and hurrying and make our Christmas celebration more worshipful. For example, as a family we do readings together that go along with taking ornaments out of a box and putting them on the tree. Each ornament has a picture on it that reminds us about the story connected to it. It is a great family tradition that leads us to think about who Christ is and what happened in that stall. We talk about the incarnation and celebrate Christ's arrival together.

So this was my encouragement to the congregation in my sermon: to grab something like this and move Christmas from worry and hurry to worship. To try out something like putting ornaments on the Christmas tree throughout December that remind us of Christ.

Here's the problem: Almost everyone in that room listening to my sermon didn't have a Christmas tree up yet.

Some of this depends on the family and background, but Austrian tradition regarding Christmas trees is pretty different to how I was raised. Austrians put their tree up usually at Christmas eve. The kids are sent out of the room, and the parents decorate the tree, and put out the presents. Then the kids come in and open their gifts. The tree usually stays up until January 6th (Three Kings Day). This marks the 12th day of Christmas.

To be honest, it wasn't that big of a deal...mostly because people understood the point. They understood the application and the basic point still stands, even if the specific suggestion doesn't quite fit. But thinking about this error, it was a good exercise in humility and reminder that I still need to work hard at learning this culture and always keeping cultural norms in mind.

We pray that you have a worshipful time this Christmas. We pray that you find times of stillness where you can connect with the creator and sustainer of the universe. The same one born as a small child in the middle of nowhere.