Amy Grant, the best-selling contemporary Christian artist of all time, just released her first Christmas album in 20 years. Her new songs speak to both the joy and loneliness of Christmas. Her message is simple — you are loved and you are not alone, important words for everyone to hear in this very broken world. But according to Lifeway, a major distributor of Christian books and music, her album “is not Christian enough” and they are refusing to sell the record.
This Makes My Head Explode
I don’t want to speak for Jesus, but I’m thinking he’s a little confused. Here are the lyrics to my favorite track on the album, “Melancholy Christmas.”
I post another picture from the quiet of my room
And wonder who’ll like it and wonder what to do
With the rest of tonight and tomorrow night too
Christmas is coming soon, coming soon
Maybe I’ll call up some friends just to see if they’re home
I don’t want to feel lonely, but I’m here alone
And the snow falls down, coming down
You could come over, it’s not too late
Don’t worry about presents, I’ve saved you a place
Light a few candles and sing Christmas songs
Everybody needs a place to belong
At Christmas, it’s Christmas
If you feel lonely I feel it too
If nobody’s said it I’m wishing you
Since Jesus loved the lonely and the forgotten most of all, I’m pretty sure he likes that song — even if his name is never mentioned.
Same Measuring Stick, Different Story
When I got divorced, I found out that there are Bible studies that actually forbid divorced women to lead them. This fact makes me grit my teeth. My divorce brought me into relationship with God, who was with me on the front lines of my suffering. I believe in a God of second chances (and third and fourth, on to infinity). When given the opportunity, I can share stories of hope and God’s grace. But apparently in some circles, I’m not Christian enough, given my sordid past. (Lucky for me, my very insightful rector said, “Sounds like you’re going through a divorce made in heaven.”)
Henri Nouwen, the Dutch Catholic priest and theologian, makes a profound observation in his book The Wounded Healer:
The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.
A Mainstream Message of Love
I need to re-read Martin L. Smith’s essay about the importance of loving Christians we do not agree with — as he puts it, “those other Christians.” I’m struggling these days, and not just because of Lifeway’s choice about Amy’s album. Some folks calling themselves Christians keep spouting words of judgment and division, often in the name of Jesus. I’ll take an inclusive message of love and hope for all people any day.
So go buy Amy Grant’s new album Tennessee Christmas at Target if you want an actual CD (and you get two bonus tracks) or online at Amazon and iTunes. Then give it to your friends and family that aren’t Christian enough. Unless we’re loving as radically as Christ did, that includes all of us.
Here’s “Melancholy Christmas” to whet your appetite.
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