Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spectacle Oft Repeated is Just Spectacle, But You Can Still Hear the Still, Small Voice

I've seen the Crystal Cathedral's Glory of Christmas and Glory of Easter, and have two observations.

  • Camels stink.

  • When angels spectacularly fly into view time and time again, the spectacle loses some of its luster and has a numbing sameness.
I know that they're trying, in our limited human way, to somehow represent the Glory of God. But, at least for me, the spectacle doesn't work.

I thought about this when True Discernment decried a similar production in Florida.

A Florida megachurch has garnered national attention with its annual Christmas pageant. The First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale’s production is filled with extensive pyrotechnics, live stock and a bevy of actors....

The play rivals some Las Vegas-style productions, and Broadway producers choreographed the show.

In fact, more than 600 actors dance through the aisles during the play. The church’s pageant is a lot more extravagant than the more traditional productions many have become accustomed to, where bed sheets act as shepherd costumes and tinfoil serves as an angel’s halo.

Predictably, some don't like it:

Some visitors said they truly enjoy the vast production, but others believe the $1.3 million price tag of the pageant would be better spent on charity.

“A million dollars could feed a lot of folks,” said the Rev. Bill Talen, who is against the consumerism of Christmas. “I mean, we have hunger now in the United States.”

Talen said the bright lights of the production might outshine the point it’s trying to get across.

“I don’t think of faith as something you pay money for and then sit in the audience to be entertained. That’s consumerism,” Talen said.

Unfortunately, when I read Talen's statement about how the money could better be used elsewhere, I was reminded of a particular Biblical passage.

John 12:3-7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

3Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5"Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial."

I'm not necessarily saying that Bill Talen is Judas. But I wouldn't get hypercritical over the expense of the production, if they're trying to go for some level of authenticity. And it can move even the ornery:

How many of you have seen "The Glory of Christmas", the annual pageant at the Crystal Cathedral? I must confess that I never had much desire to see it. I'm just not a pageant kind of guy....

But God, with his sense of irony, gave me children who love pageantry. He also gave me a wife who's more attentive to my children's needs than I am. So, a couple of years ago, when Linda suggested strongly that we go to "The Glory of Christmas" as a family, I ruefully consented. Of course that fact that we had to spend a bunch of money to see the show, and that we bought our tickets through Ticketron, didn't lessen my cynicism any. Nevertheless, one December evening Linda and I gathered our kids and drove to Garden Grove to see "The Glory of Christmas."

Nathan's and Kara's youthful excitement about all of this helped to squelch my "Scrooge-ish-ness." And as the program began, I was impressed with how faithful everything was to the Christmas story as found in the Bible...."The Glory of Christmas" retold the biblical story with drama and music that, in spite of my orneriness, moved my spirit to awe-filled worship. Moreover, the whole program ended with clear, straight-forward, faithful presentation of the gospel. No possibility thinking here. Just unabashed biblical truth. I had to repent of my negative attitude.

If God is speaking to you, don't tell Him to shut up.

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