Over at Mad Priest's blog OCICBW... we are celebrating "You don't have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas!", as a response to those in our own Episcopal church nationwide as well as those in the Anglican Communion who have been for years now declaring us liberal types non-Christians. We're celebrating with links to Christmas tunes since if we're not Christians, then their rules about Advent and Christmas carols are right out.
Christmas tunes are forbidden during Advent, for those who are observant Anglican Christians. We can't sing them in church, while the rest of the world is inundating us with tunes everywhere else we go, and not the really good tunes, either. We have to wait until December 24 in the evening, and then, with the rest of the world putting a stop to all Christmas music after December 25, we get to keep singing, out of step, for twelve more days.
I have been a stormtrooper as a priest, with regard to this practice of not letting my congregations sing a single Christmas carol, except Silent Night or Away in a Manger if the Christmas Creche/Pageant takes place during Advent, which of course it always does.
But to tell you the truth, I start playing Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day.
A long time ago, when I was ten, my mother took us to Radio City Music Hall for the annual Christmas Show. She bought an album of the Nativity music, with carols on the reverse. At around the same time we acquired an album of German Christmas carols, all in German. From that time on, on Thanksgiving Day, we were allowed to listen to both albums, and keep playing them until Christmas.
Every year we wanted to listen to the albums at odd times - summer, for instance - but we had to wait until Thanksgiving Day. To this day I begin to listen to Christmas music - the good stuff, not the Frostie or the Rudolph stuff - on Thanksgiving Day. This year we played a cd of "Celtic" Christmas music on our way in to spend Thanksgiving with my niece, and on Saturday we played a cd of Christmas carols from Kings College Chapel on the way home.
So who have I thought I am, refusing to let my congregations sing Christmas carols in church during Advent?
Last year all that changed. We still sing Advent music - there are Advent purists in this and every congregation - but the congregation's offertory hymn is a Christmas carol. Yesterday we sang "It came upon the midnight clear". Next Sunday we'll sing "Love came down at Christmas", then Advent 3 will be verses 1,2, and 6 (the non birth verses) of "While shepherds watched their flocks" and on Mary Sunday (yes I know the tradition of celebrating Mary on Advent 3, but since the Mary reading is always on Advent 4, come on now folks, get real!) we will sing "Lo, how a rose".
Now Lent is another thing altogether! I know churches that use Easter bulletins all during the Lenten season. I bet they sing "alleluia" songs as well. But not here - that is a country too far for me to go.
But Christmas carols during December, why not? (and that's a rhetorical question, of course!)