First off, a quick apology for the tardiness of this post. Orchestra tour has kept me busy!
But now on to the fun topic of talking about Christmas Fest. Some of my most powerful musical experiences have come from being a part of Christmas Festival at St. Olaf. No matter how stressful it always is to memorize those hymn verses at the last minute or preparing all the rep we have to do memorized, in the end I’m always satisfied musically and spiritually through this process. But our discussion last Thursday brought up a very important and interesting question that I’ve thought about often: Is Christmas Fest a worship service or a performance? More importantly for the purposes of this blog post, what would Luther think of Christmas Fest?
First off, I would argue that just because something is a performance doesn’t mean that it can’t be worship. For me (and I believe also for Luther), what really counts is the motive behind what you are doing, in other words, are you doing this Festival for God or for man? With this festival admittently this isn’t an easy question to answer. Christmas Festival is a huge money maker for the college and one of the main events that has put St. Olaf in the national radar. Every day is sold out and packed with very wealthy alumni, who all have expectations of what happens during Christmas Fest (like Beautiful Saviour at the end of every night, there would be literal riots if we didn’t sing that song). So in that sense, we are undoubtedly putting on a performance based on consumer expectations and tradition.
But at the same time, is there anything wrong with that? Can’t we still worship even if part of the motive is commercial? This is a dichotomy that I talk about extensively in my paper about CCM, but I’ll summarize my point by saying that inward motive is more important then outside factors. While I can’t judge the motivations of every participant, for me I am actively worshiping as I participate in Christmas Fest. I’m aware of it being a performance, but that’s not at the forefront of my mind when I sing and play. When I perform, I am doing it for Jesus and His glory. Now as I’ve mentioned before, I have a very conservative evangelical outlook on life, where everything I am is based on Him who gave me life. I am always very aware of being too much a performance and not worship (much of my concern with CCM is this), but I don’t think Christmas Fest is struggling with this in nearly the same way. As Luther said “Why should the devil have all the good music”, and in general I would agree. Thus, Christmas Fest can be worship and performance in my mind, because preparing performance well only contributes to worshipping God in my mind.