Christmastime in America’s megachurches is a middle-class utopia. Jesus’ coming rewards the faithful with more than enough, a whole-life prosperity that can be seen as much in the Xbox One under the tree as in the worship at the altar of children’s Christmas pageants. So much the better if your church can assemble a living Christmas tree or a nativity scene that doubles as a petting zoo.
But perhaps this has more to do with what Tewaldi, an Ethiopian refugee member of our evangelical Mennonite church, observed after his first year in Canada: “At this church, I can’t tell the difference between Good Friday and Easter.”
Coming out of the ceremonial richness of his Coptic background, Tewaldi couldn’t feel among us the liturgical lows of the Christian calendar. And so he couldn’t feel the highs either. The flattening effect of North American Protestantism came at a theological price. Without that temporal economy of up and down”” sanctified periods of celebration and discipline, light and darkness, feasting and fasting””it was hard to tell spiritual time at all.