The internet got a little obsessed last week with this video of a Hillsong London Christmas Performance called Hillsong Carols.
One of the most common accusations leveled online was that this performance was "worldly," a word we don't hear very often these days. But I tend to agree - taking a song that seems clearly written in a subdued attitude and adding lasers and drum solos certainly seems to fly in the face of reverence. And while I wouldn't say the dancers are moving provocatively, there is something quite odd about taking a break in a worship tune so girls in sequins and short skirts can contort their bodies in the spotlight.
I don't have a problem with big-band-styled music, but I'd have to agree that, yeah, this seems pretty "worldly." But as I watched it, another type of worldliness became all the more glaring to my mind.
This is how the world thinks.
I've been doing a lot of shopping lately for the holidays. I've been sneaking out to buy my wife presents or taking the kids shopping for each other. I don't particularly enjoy shopping, but I do love Christmas and it's a lot of fun to try and find a way to bless someone with the perfect gift.
But do you know what I've heard as I've been shopping? You've heard it, too, I bet. Christmas carols. Right there in Target and World Market and the Mall and in coffee shops. Once a year, stores with no religious affiliation at all are happy to play "Away In A Manger" and "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "Silent Night" and no one seems to mind. Clearly written songs about Jesus and His mission to redeem His people are played in secular stores and shops constantly in December and nobody gets upset. Why?
Because this is how the world thinks.
These songs have been relegated to nostalgia. They don't mean anything. They're just traditions we use at this time of year. Those stores don't mind playing those songs because so few people really believe in what those carols are trying to say. That's what's most disconcerting about the Hillsong performance. I don't know the reasoning behind this performance, but I fear things like this aren't worth the time and energy they demand because they play perfectly into what the world things about Christmas already. I think the carols should confront us with their awkwardness - their datedness, if you will - and stand as unique, memorable messages of the birth of Jesus.
Worship leaders, let's be careful. Let's be intentional and arrange our Christmas songs in such a way that makes much of the story and less of ourselves.