Tradition and the contemporary at Christmas

Perhaps the greatest challenge at Christmas is how to combine the traditional with the contemporary. On the one hand, how do we honour people’s expectations of traditional forms whilst ‘proclaiming afresh in this generation’ the truths of Christmas? On the other hand, how do we make an ancient story connect with the concerns and questions of the modern world?

I offer here two complementary solutions that you might want to make use of this Christmas time.

Modern message: traditional form

For those who want to say something contemporary, but who want to honour traditional forms, here is a version of ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ arranged in Latin as mediaeval plain chant. This recognises both the light-hearted aspects of Christmas celebration, and the contribution that contemporary thinking adds to the season, whilst giving a sense of gravitas to the occasion. It will require some serious practice, and should be sung with appropriate solemnity. This approach will appeal to those who come expecting formality, tradition and dignity at Christmas time.

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Traditional message: modern form

For those who want to engage with the ancient message of the truths of Christmas, but want to do so in a way which engages with contemporary culture, here is a re-telling of the nativity by puppets using a version of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. This recognises the ancient roots of the Christian story, alongside the possibility of communication in contemporary formats. Using this will require confident use of projection technology; putting it on yourself as a live event should only be attempted if you have a committed musical and puppeteering team, though if you have access to a friendly Oxford college Dean that could also be of help with the key roles. This approach will appeal to those who come expecting to find the contemporary relevance of the Christmas message.

Whichever approach you choose, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas and God’s blessings in the coming year.

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2 thoughts on “Tradition and the contemporary at Christmas”

  1. Our church has recently hosted an interactive ‘walk through Christmas’, many local schools visited and discussed the myths, stories and depths behind them, using the themes you mention. Thought provoking and much appreciated by children, teachers and other visitors. Nothing new in our church community, will be more discussion next year on these themes. (Christchurch, Ilkley)


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