Saturday, November 26, 2011

Liturgy Review: Advent and Christmas


Gilmore, Rachel. 'Tis the Season: Church Celebrations for Advent and Christmas. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2011. 110 Pages. Paper. $14.99. www.judsonpress.com (L)


Rachel Gilmore is back for another resource book for churches. We reviewed here previous release favorably (http://lhpqbr.blogspot.com/2009/12/noted-review.html).

'Tis includes church celebrations intended as worship services (Part 1), multigenerational celebrations (Part 2), and celebrations that could be adapted for different circumstances (Part 3). Reproducible Resources and Handouts are provided in the Appendix and online (http://www.judsonpress.com/free_download_book_excerpts.cfm).
I would not personally be comfortable using the "services" as outlined in the resource guide. Nor, must I say, would my congregation. Perhaps this is an example of the cultural and practical differences between Lutheran and Baptist Christians. Perhaps it is more than that.

American Baptist Churches USA do ordain women (xii). The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod refuses to do so on the basis of the New Testament. This author appears to have a high regard for Scripture. Thanks be to God! However, the Gospel does not predominate in the content of the services (12, 20). The Gospel is shared, and often is the last word, but it does not have place as the primary message. In a service of hope, we are directed to our own prayers rather than to Christ as our first stop and resting place. The Interactive Service (13ff) has much in common in structure with an Anglican service of Lessons and Carols, but the inclusion of "We Three Kings," while popular and well-known, shows a toleration for things added to Scripture. (The Wise men were not kings, were not from the orient, and were not necessarily three in number.) Call me picky if you will, but if I'm worshiping in Spirit and in truth, there is no room for error.

Parts 2 and 3 may be more useful for liturgical Lutheran congregations that want some creative options for members of the congregation to be occupied in between an Advent supper and Vespers or Evening Prayer. Various options in the text present "stations" for groups to visit, not unlike a VBS experience with multi-age groups. This time, include parents and grandparents!

I commend the author's inclusion of Townend's "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" (24), Chapter 10's carol history (43), and the honest fact-checking behind rumors about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (79). The volume may be worth the purchase simply because of the Biblical symbolism handout for "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (108).

Rachel Gilmore is a creative writer who wants depth of experience for Christians at Christmas and as Christians prepare for Christmas during the season of Advent. She is to be commended for this sourcebook. If she is currently considering one for Lent and Easter, I would recommend more research into historic Christian practices and adapting them for modern use in Baptist and other Christian congregations. 

Not every resource in the book has to be used. Pick one to start. Not every resource in the book has to be used as-is. Modify with the author's blessing to fit your Christian community of faith. Grow in faith and knowledge of Christ this Christmas season!



The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.