Field of Science

Christmas Eve Services

While I am an atheist, I grew up in New England in a Lutheran/Protestant tradition. Like most people, I keep a number of traditions in association with the Christmas holiday. I still require a previously live tree, spruce is my favorite although the needles are a bit pokey. On Christmas Eve, we open one present. My wife and I have changed this tradition in that we exchange an ornament for the tree on Christmas Eve. Our son gets an ornament too, but also gets to open a "fun" gift. After everyone is asleep I put out stockings with little gifts in them (my wife does the same for me). One thing that I remember fondly from my childhood is going to Christmas Eve services at the Lutheran church, at the time I think I hated it as the services were at midnight and I had to be woken up. If I recall correctly, I got dressed up, went to bed, and was woken up ready to go. Anyway despite the pain-in-the-assness associated with this process for a 5-8 year old, it factors into part of the whole process.

So, we have taken my son to several Christmas Eve services over the last few years, the first at a Lutheran church here and another at a different church this year. This year my wife found a church that advertised a live nativity scene and as an animal lover (particularly sheep), she couldn't resist. So we all went to this church and saw outside a long haired cow about 4 foot tall, a camel, and a donkey, all of which you could touch/pet. I immediately started doing an Andy Samberg impersonation of Mark Wahlburg....

Once inside the church, there is a Mary and Joseph with baby (real life one). Lovely scene seeing a clearly young teenage girl with a baby. Though I'm sure the baby wasn't really hers, it was a somewhat surreal image when I think about how many churches like this one promote virginity promises, abstinence only education, etc. Anyway, there was also sheep. Thankfully they were inside the church because it was a frigid late afternoon to say the least. BTW, got to meet the lead pastor, seemed like a pleasant charismatic guy....unlike all those other church leaders.

So on to the service, some singing of songs and brief talking, a skit with children, more singing, and a Christmas service message, followed by a saying good-bye song. Standard stuff, right? Wrong!

I should have known better and I won't advertise for this church directly by naming names, but it is an evilgelical evangelical church and that in and of itself should have been enough to convince me to not stay for the actual service. Here are some things they profess to believe "As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises." (in the previous sentence feel free to replace "it" with "the pastors", who although human, have infallible opinions on the bible.")

The one thing I took home from this "service" besides a headache was this church epitomizes my thought that much of modern American Christianity is nothing more than a death-cult. First, the skit with children was a story read by a female leader of the church acted out by the children. When I was a child and these things occurred the story was basically a baby Jesus story with three wise men, some farmers, and an angel or two. This story was about three trees and their desires and wants. The first ultimately becomes a manger for the baby Jesus, so although a new story this seems to fit the bill. The second becomes a poor little fishing boat for reasons that are still unclear to me. There are numerous fish stories in the New testament and James and John were fishermen so that may be relevant, but now Im a little confused about where this story is going, since all the fish references that I am aware of would happen after Jesus was grown. But no, I see where this is going....The third tree becomes the crucifixion cross for Jesus. WTF?!?! We have children acting as trees and lumberjacks leading up to the nailing some dude to a cross until dead!!! And video games/rock and roll are the reasons our kids are often so screwed up.

Didn't Christians steal the solstice holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Wasn't Easter supposed to be the celebration of Jesus' death? Did I miss something? My experience has always been that Christmas in the Christian tradition represented joy and peace and love and well being. Not in this church and this was just a portents of things to come. The Christmas service message (remember peace, joy, love, babies, etc?) was, how to say this.....psychotic. I heard more about how we deserve and need to be punished more (3-5 times) than I heard about joy or peace (0 times). I heard the pastor berate us as horrible insignificant worms (my words and I apologize to worms), he tried to emotional break us down, and then offer the carrot of immediate redemption. Needless to say, no one in my family left with a warm feeling about Christmas (and O'Reilly thinks atheists are waging war on Christmas, at least when his ratings begin to fall in the early winter). Take home message from church: You were given a gift you didnt ask for, this gift is to fix a "mistake" you never made, oh and if you dont take this gift you will be forever punished in eternal hell. Now that's an offer he can't refuse! Wait that wasn't god, wasn't that...

Regardless, we had a very nice Christmas, lots of toys, books, family, food, and pleasantness PLUS I got to pat a camel, how cool is that!


Anonymous said...


God is in the Italian Mafia- no wonder he tortured his "only begotten son" on a plank of wood for 3 hours.

Glad you had a nice holiday! Happy New Year!

The Lorax said...

Thanks and Happy New Year to you too Rose. Actually, based on the Judicial Council assessment, Im not sure if crucifixion counts as torture anymore.