Why is it that the people most likely to demand that we “keep Christ in Christmas” seem to know so little about the historical birth of Jesus! If they did, they would have no sentimental attachment to traditional nativity scenes and they definitely wouldn’t want to have them placed in centres of commercialism like shopping malls. This isn’t so much to grouse about the chintz and cheesiness of traditional Christmas celebrations as it is to bemoan the widespread ignorance of the gospel story by the very followers of Jesus.
There are lots of arguments being had by Christians on social media right now. And I mean lots! And that’s not to mention abortion, same-sex marriage, creation, etc. etc. And the impression most people seem to have is that all that typing and posting and sharing and venting and raging and debating achieves absolutely nothing. No one is ever convinced of the other side. No one ever changes their mind. No one ever sees both sides of the story. In other words, the conventional wisdom is that online debates are a complete waste of time and energy. But I’m not so sure.
Nearly fifteen years ago, I ruffled a few feathers when I criticized contemporary Christian music for its highly romanticized – even sexualized – lyrics for expressing devotion to God. In my 2006 book, Exiles, I carped about Matt Redman declaring “Jesus, I am so in love with you,” and Delirious singing “We are God’s romance,” and I outlined all the reasons why I thought the phenomenon of feeling “in love” was an entirely inappropriate phrase for Christian worship. “Jesus ain’t my boyfriend,” I whined.
This week I came across two news stories from different Anglican dioceses on opposite sides of the world, one of which heartened me greatly. The first story wasn’t the one that heartened me. It was from the Diocese of Sydney entitled “Behind the decline in Church attendance”, and in it, Anglican priest, Antony Barraclough tried to make sense of the dropping rate of attendance at Sydney Anglican church services.
Who doesn’t love a fountain? Fountains are extravagantly, unceasingly festive. Whether it’s the continuous trickle of Rome’s Trevi fountain, or the exuberant bursts of the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas, a fountain is a thing of joy. Some fountains are flashy and show-offy, like Seoul’s Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow. Others, like New York’s Bethesda fountain in Central Park, are stately and majestic.