Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pontius Pilate and Christmas

Pontius Pilate and Christmas?! How do they belong together?!

Well, last Christmas we at Bethany had a musical experiment at our Christmas services: the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ was sung at the beginning of the service. It wasn't exactly a big hit.

There are people and churches who are very interested in the ancient liturgies of the church and who can get very involved with the details of ceremony and ritual, usually involving plenty of Latin, candles, and incense. (This web page has an amusing list of comments/discussion about the Proclamation itself, while is always interesting in general on various related subjects.)

I won't try to defend the chant or the Latin or the ritual (because I don't think I'll actually change anyone's mind), but I do hope that people can recognize the intent of the text and its inclusion last Christmas. On that night, we proclaimed the historical fact of the incarnation. For instance, Jesus was born in the 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus. That should make everyone pause to consider in awe of the sweep of history.

The Creed in its own way points out the historical nature of our faith by mentioning Pontius Pilate. The Passion narrative took place in a specific place and time, within the context of its location and era. When we recite or sing the Creed that mention of historical fact serves a similar purpose to the Christmas Proclamation - without the long chant.

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