Apparently, people have a problem with Christmas Fest.
I can’t say I’ve ever thought of a problem with Fest. I’ve always loved the hullabaloo, the excitement, and the chance to worship God. Also, the repertoire is fun to sing. Even though it’s long, it’s like when a runner does a marathon. Tiring, but still, glad to have done it.
In Luther’s day, he borrowed from secular traditions like in his chorales and other musical works, and he encouraged worship in vernacular. Fest accomplishes this, but we also include more pieces from foreign traditions (“Chinese” tunes, “Gospel” songs, and songs sung in dialects). The issue of appropriation aside, I can see how these songs may be deemed as a bit too modern or different for us to include in a very Lutheran, lutefisk-filled weekend of Christian worship.
While Luther did condone slowly incorporating new things into the church, I don’t know how he would feel about us singing these more modern-inspired songs. On one hand, I think that they reach people in ways that hymns sometimes do not. Everyone worships differently and feels closer to God through different kinds of music. Personally, I don’t feel anything at all while singing hymns, and even though Fest is more of a pageant/performance, I feel very connected to God when listening to the more contemporary pieces at Fest. Some people may have different experiences and think that the “O come, All Ye Faithful” that we sing basically every year is just the most awe-inspiring thing they’ve ever sung as worship. I think that it’s important that Fest include these varying genres in hopes of having at least one or two things that every member of the audience can love and feel more connected to God. Since Luther encouraged music that brings incredible amounts of joy and happiness because it’s a gift from God, I think that this is very important.
Also, I suppose there is the issue of Fest being more of a performance than a worship service – it’s a strange hybrid of the two, which I think is fine! There’s nothing wrong with this fairly unique spectacle. As to Luther’s opinion, I think he would have approved, especially considering his opinions on vocation – this isn’t nearly as controversial as say, if you were playing covers of screamo music for a living. I have no qualms categorizing this as a Luther-approved way to spend our free time (since, you know, we don’t have to spend all of our time doing good works to get to heaven, according to his doctrine of justification).
However, I am not a Luther scholar, and I cannot possibly know what Luther would have thought. He’s been dead for 470 years. I can have my opinion, but he could surprise me. As I understand it, surprising people was kinda part of what he did (“surprise, here’s 95 theses,” “surprise, I actually don’t support the peasant revolt,” “surprise, I’m kinda racist,” etc).