Accidentally Encountering Jesus
by Ed Cyzewski
I live in post-Christian New England where concerned parents at a local high school fought tooth and nail in court to move their children’s graduation ceremony from a local church last Summer. While the church suited the space needs for the small-town school, I suppose they feared that the religious objects in the sanctuary would accidentally convert those in attendance.
I don’t really care where the local high schools have their graduations. I bring this up only to say that some folks in my corner of the country want to be perfectly clear about not being Christian. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “cross-inspired” plus signs in math books come under scrutiny next.
So you can understand my shock at the sign at the local high school declaring in bold letters: “Handel’s Messiah Sing Along.”
This wasn’t just a concert. A public high school was encouraging everyone in the community to sing about the birth of Jesus in a public space.
The graduation battle dominated the local news for months, but I hadn’t heard a peep about this latest affront to the separation of church and state. How do we end up living in a world where parents fight court battles over using a religious building for a secular event, but Handel can sneak in the most directly religious message under the radar?
What’s particularly fascinating is that Handel wasn’t even trying to subvert the public school system. He was just creating excellent art that happened to have Christian subject matter. Because it was beautiful, people performed it and continue to share it to this day.
Perhaps there are some who would object to a public sing-along of Handel’s Messiah in a public school, but in my little liberal town, the message of the birth of Christ has been naturally communicated with integrity and relevance without any complaints.
This is wonderful news for writers, poets, musicians, and artists in our faith communities. We can effectively communicate God’s message today if we create based on sound artistic principles and listen to what God has placed within us.
Without having to manipulate our artistic visions or what we write, we may produce something that is so inherently striking and true that no one will care about the beliefs of the artist or whether there’s an agenda behind the work. We’ll create something that is worthy of being encountered, which is what we’ve been after all along .
Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life and A Path to Publishing. He blogs on Christian living and theology at www.inamirrordimly.com.
Photo of the statue of Handel taken by 9-Lives.