Why Christmas Needs Fog and Lasers – Or Some Implications of the Incarnation

I normally don’t do this sort of thing, but I know I just had to say something. The truth is, I’m not big on twitter feuds, blog feuds, family feuds, or the medieval feudal system, but when something says something that I feel has the potential to undercut an important element of our faith, I know I have to say something. So here is me saying “something” about a tweet that Jared Wilson tweeted out….

Here is Jared Wilson’s tweet from 12/16:

Churches, you don’t need to create “Christmas experiences.” Save money & your staff from burnout & still save souls by preaching the gospel. – Jared Wilson

I completely agree with Jared, Christmas is the beginning of the gospel. In fact, some reformed theologians (Torrance and Edwards) would argue that the gospel (i.e. the atonement) begins at Christmas. So yes, we don’t need to create “Christmas Experiences;” we need to preach the gospel in all of its beauty. So this Christmas preach the fact that the second member of the trinity became incarnate in order to save a fallen humanity from its sins. Preach that gospel!

Wilson followed that tweet up by another tweet:

It’s the Incarnation. It doesn’t need fog and lasers. – Jared Wilson

Lasers and Fog

That is where I take issue with Wilson; his view of the Incarnation. We do need fog and lasers. Without going into much detail, Christmas celebrates the fact that God himself took on human flesh. As Oliver Crisp once said:

In the Incarnation, God the Son stoops down to gather up our humanity, becoming one of us so that he may reconcile us to God. He takes up our humanity in addition to his divinity – he unites what makes us human to what makes him divine.

The Son took up our humanity in a specific time and place, 1st Century Palestine; he ate food, he slept, he got tired, he learned. He lived as a 1st century Jew, eating Jewish food, singing Jewish songs, dancing Jewish dances at weddings, celebrating Jewish festivals. Jesus didn’t sit in a dark room meditating for 33 years. Jesus lived out a fully human, fully Jewish life. What does this mean for us? It means that God values the human condition. God doesn’t simply value abstract humanity, he values humanity as it is found in its historical situation. God values the human condition as something that is good (note: I’m not saying humans aren’t sinful). Humanity in all of its glorious existential conditions is valuable in God’s eyes; the fact that God decided to join himself to a human nature in a specific context shows this.  So the fact is, God values our human natures and how our humanity is expressed in our cultural endeavors.

Now I turn to the lasers and fog… As human beings God created us to be sensually simulated creatures. We are stimulated by taste, sound, touch, sight, etc. Jesus was also stimulated by these things. These things are good. To deny the fact that visual, auditory, gustatory stimulation is a good thing is to deny the fact God knew what he was doing in creating us. To deny the fact that we should use and enjoy these senses, even while glorifying God at church is to deny the very thing that God took on to himself, namely our human nature.

All this to say:

  1. We must take the fact that we as physical beings were designed to respond to certain sorts of visual and auditory stimulation.
  2. The fact that God became incarnate shows that God values human beings as physical creatures designed to respond to stimuli and as creatures that are located in specific cultures, times and places.
  3. To deny this, i.e. to deny the (possible) goodness of lasers and fog machines, is to deny the truth of the incarnation.

Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

2 thoughts on “Why Christmas Needs Fog and Lasers – Or Some Implications of the Incarnation

  1. I kind of doubt that JW would deny that. Speaking on his behalf (which I probably have no business doing), he’d say that the lasers distract from the central beauty, and take away from the beauty of the incarnation by focusing your attention on sensory overload.

    The “Christmas Experience” also falls on a spectrum ranging from asceticism to Justin Bieber concert pyrotechnics. Obviously, both poles are to be avoided, and I’m afraid that both sides of the “feud” will be talking at the opposite pole, and miss the entirely reasonable middle ground. Everyone wants the same thing, and there are things we can do to detract from, and enhance that goal: the proclamation of the incarnation.

    1. It is possible that lasers distract from the beauty, but it is also possible that a semi-gnostic-in-your-mind-only Christmas service distracts from the announcement of the incarnation as well. I know that Willson isn’t taking it to that extreme. Its just bothersome to me that we (reformed types) are so quick to cry foul when attractional elements are used in church services, when in fact God created us to respond to those types of things. Ideally though, those types of things would help point us to the Message, often times they don’t though….

      We reformed types have an have fallen into the trap of downplaying the fact that we are embodied beings, and that is a good thing. We aren’t simply disembodied souls. Spiritual ≯ Physical and Physical ≯ Spiritual. Its dangerous when somebody who obviously knows that talks as if it weren’t true.

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