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 Review: Saint Luke's Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Dec 24, 2001
My wife and I are spending Christmas with my son and his wife, and this evening we attended Christmas Eve services at Saint Luke's Lutheran Church, which my son's family attends regularly. We were told to expect a tremendous service, a festive celebration of the birth of Christ, expertly presented by Pastor Seth Thomas, an up-and-coming man of the cloth. We were told that Saint Luke's service is the best in the area, and that we would be treated with tour-de-force performances and a truly unforgettable experience.

Unfortunately, we were misled.


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The experience got off on the wrong foot; we were 30 minutes late arriving at my son's house because my wife dicked and piddled around while shoveling our driveway, and it ended up taking her far longer than it should have. I tried to compensate for her sheer laziness by moderately exceeding the speed limit during our 120-mile drive to their home, but in the end we were tardy. As a result, we didn't get to Saint Luke's until five minutes before the service started; naturally, this rendered us unable to sit anywhere other than the Scriptural equivalent of the "Eucker seats" in the church. We didn't have a good view of the pulpit, and we had to uncomfortably crane our necks in order to look at the choir loft. Suffice it to say that the evening was off to an unpleasant start.

Let me say that Saint Luke's has some logistical problems. The service bulletin looked as if it was prepared on a Commodore 64. The ushers were haphazardly-dressed and sported obnoxious ties and inordinately loud shirts. One of them was wearing blue jeans, for crying out loud. The church lobby was decorated with art so trashy that one would expect to find Sally Struthers selling it on a late-night television informercial. In my mind, what I was seeing was not at all what I had been lead to expect by my son and his wife. It was about to get much worse.

The Prelude

The musical introduction to the service took the form of a performance of the classic Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard On High." Saint Luke's had apparently retained the services of a part-time piano player from some honky-tonk joint on the outskirts of Tulsa. I could tell that he had some piano-playing experience; the notes were all there and they were all correct, but the song was wrong. There was no warmth. There was no feeling. It was like listening to a robot recite the Gettysburg Address. The piano playing was serviceable, but it was by no means good.

This passable piano playing was unfortunately accompanied by the horrendous flute playing of one Katie Michaels, age 12, of Emerson Junior High. Not only did Ms. Michaels miss nearly half of the notes, her flute was flatter than Nicole Eggert's pre-Baywatch chest. Haven't these people ever heard of the concept of tuning an instrument? Good God, the performance was so excruciating that I had an urge to run out of the church and go out in the parking lot and chew an entire roll of aluminum foil in order to relieve my senses. If Katie's parents have any sensibility at all, and if they possess the slightest modicum of musical ability, they will take her flute out into the backyard, chop it up into a million pieces, and never allow her within 50 yards of a musical instrument for the rest of her natural life, and thereafter.

The Sermon

Dreadful. Mind-numbingly dreadful.

I had hopes that Pastor Thomas would do something original for his sermon, that he would captivate the congregation with an interesting yet wholesome oratory masterpiece. This, unfortunately, was nowhere to be found. Instead, the pastor used the hackneyed, cliched, and time-worn technique of telling a "nostalgiac" Christmas story from his childhood and then using some mental gymnastics at the end in order to tie the story in with the whole Christmas message. Been there, done that. You remember the Hardy Boys books? How the cases that the boys were working on always ended up being connected, in some fashion or another, to the case that their father was working on? That was how this sermon went. And I've got news for Pastor Thomas: it was corny in the 1950s, and it's still corny today.

The details of this sermon involved a snowman that the pastor and his brothers made when they were small children; how they put lots of work into it, and how they were devastated when spring came and the snowman melted ("went back to the Father", as the pastor put it.) He then attempted to equate the "life" and "death" of his snowman with the life of Jesus Christ. Booooring. And silly. The pastor spent way too much time talking about the construction of the snowman. He prattled on for ten minutes about that damned thing, and all the while the congregation was yawning, looking at their watches, and wondering if that "Ralphie movie" would be on TNT when they got home.

This was the "Pearl Harbor" of sermons. It was a silly three-minute story squeezed into fifteen minutes. It had a slow and laborious setup that promised to segue into action-packed fireworks, but said fireworks were disappointing and failed to fully materialize. It was pompous and overlong, and I felt genuinely dirty after it was over. It would have been far more appropriate to have this sermon be read by Ben Affleck in a hospital johnny (if Mr. Affleck wasn't in rehab, that is.)

One thing is clear: the congregation at Saint Luke's ought to cleanse themselves of this clown. He needs to be fired, or disbarred, or whatever the hell it is that you do to get rid of defective ministers. If Jesus Himself heard this guy preach, he wouldn't be able to turn the other cheek, because His first cheek would be firmly planted on the table in front of Him as He snoozed peacefully. The Reverand Thomas ought to bring a six-shooter to church with him and then fire it up in the air upon the completion of his sermon to signal to the congregation that "nappy time" is over.

The Offering

As is customary for churches in this area, there was an offering following the sermon, wherein collection plates are passed and the congregation is given a chance to fulfill their tithe obligations. During the offering, the congregation was subjected to the punishing performance of the church choir, which had decided to do one of those "new-Age" medleys that consist of several Christmas carols all rolled into one song. Here's a helpful hint to the staff at Saint Luke's: Next Christmas, you might want to take steps to ensure that half of the choir isn't obviously drunk. If I want to hear a bunch of inebriated zealots screech about the "Chrishmish shpirit", I'll head down to O'Malley's Tavern. This choir is an utter embarassment.

The service, to this point, had been so completely horrid that when the collection plate reached Mrs. Donnelly and I, I took twenty dollars out of it. I figure that $20/hour is a more than reasonable rate to charge these buffoons for subjecting me to such an awful failure. Saint Luke's got a real bargain, if you ask me. Sure, I found myself on the receiving end of a fair number of quizzical glances, but as far as I was concerned, these sons of bitches owed me.

The Children's Choir

After the offering was completed, the director of the children's choir herded the collective offspring of the congregation up in front of everybody; like a pack of frightened kangaroos, they bounced and bounded down the aisle, took their places in front of the pulpit, and stood uncomfortably, shifting their diminutive weight from one Keds-clad foot to the other. Now, after listening to the prelude and the offertory, I thought that I had heard the worst music that was tonally and physiologically possible. The children's choir proved me wrong.

Sweet Jesus. If this is the future of humanity, we ought to do ourselves a huge favor and commit mass-Seppuku right now. These little bastards and bastettes literally tortured the congregation. Most of them didn't even attempt to get the notes right; they just shouted the words out like a bunch of drunks trying to get lap dances at a strip joint. "Away in a Manger" is under normal circumstances a lovely song; the Children's Choir at Saint Luke turned it into a work of horror that would have made H. P. Lovecraft piss himself.

Some would argue that it is unfair to expect a group of four-year-olds to be a pack of little Beethovens. Strictly speaking, this may be true. But you can't tell me that the children of America aren't capable of anything better than this. The director of this "choir" ought to be fired, but before that, she ought to be locked in a closet and forced to listen to recordings of her children's performances. It would be a fitting and poetic touch, at least in the opinion of this reviewer.

The Communion

Finally, it was time for the part of the service that I most enjoy (that is, the part that involves alcohol.) My wife and I filled out our Communion cards and got in line to receive the blessing. Unfortunately, the staff at Saint Luke's had decided to punctuate the communion distribution with such dreadful hymns as "Your Little Ones, Dear Lord" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain." If you want to go tell something on the mountain, I've got a scoop for you: Saint Luke's needs a new music director .. the sooner, the better. "Go Tell It on the Mountain?" Criminy! Hell, why don't we all break into a chorus of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?"

When I placed the wafer on my tongue, it stuck to the roof of my mouth like Charlie Sheen to a hooker. "What do they put on these things?" I asked myself. "Krazy Glue?" I thought that perhaps I could get it unstuck by drinking the communal wine that was being handed out by the person at the next station, a skinny earringed punk who looked like he would be more at home at a Rob Zombie concert. Unfortunately, the wine that Saint Luke's was serving had the consistency and flavor of bat urine; it took every ounce of willpower in my body to avoid gagging. Eyes watering and mouth stinging, I staggered back to our pew and finally managed to get the wafer down after about five minutes of vigorous tongue gymnastics.


I have very little to add to this review. I will say that this service was an enormous disappointment, and it failed to live up to the hype that our son and his wife had been gratuitously slathering on us over the past week or so. I'll admit that the candlelit portion of the service was quite nice, although it was nearly ruined by an obnoxious man behind us who attempted to sing harmony on "Silent Night" and failed miserably; I had an urge to turn around and tell him that this most treasured of Christmas Carols was not written by Sonic Youth or any other of these dissonant punk bands that the kids listen to these days.

Let there be no doubt about this: This service was a disappointment. A heinous disappointment. I cannot adequately explain why this service has such a high reputation; perhaps those who recommend it are wacked out on what the church serves as "wine." Or maybe they're just stupid. One thing is clear; my wife and I will not attend another service at Saint Luke's, and neither should you. From now on, my son's family will come to visit us at Christmas time, and we will attend services that we know to be good. Saint Luke's service might be the most highly-anticipated and heavily-hyped venue of the holiday season, but unfortunately, it's also the biggest disappointment.


The above article is rife with paedophilia (5.00 / 1) (#2)
by Slobodan Milosevic on Tue Dec 25th, 2001 at 12:58:11 AM PST
The way the author talks with lustful yearning about the children's choir was enough to turn my stomach.

Not the kind of holiday reading that I expected from this fine site.

Troll Policy (1.00 / 1) (#7)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 25th, 2001 at 08:44:56 PM PST
Trolling is not tolerated here. Any comment may be deleted by a site admin, and all trolls will be deleted. This is your fair warning.

you mean pedophelia? (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 27th, 2001 at 05:29:45 AM PST
I am disturbed that your first thought is that this man wanted to sleep with the young boys, as that means that that was the first thing to come into YOUR mind. Secondly, if you are going to accuse someone of least spell the condition right.
--Gandalf The White

Pedophilia is not a crime! (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 28th, 2001 at 08:02:59 AM PST
Mr White,
I can not find a reference to pedophilia in the start of this thread. Not once does the poster try to imply the dear Author as having an obsession with toes, nails, heels or even arches.
It is this kind of prejudice that creates a stigma surrounding the perfectly acceptable love of the foot.
I bid you good day.

He's already on that road... (none / 0) (#25)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Dec 30th, 2001 at 09:00:08 AM PST
For crying out loud - this man STOLE $20 from a church. Not from some multibillion dollar corporation, from a CHURCH. Anyone who steals from the church offerring plate is enough of a lowlife to make pedophilia well within the realms of possibility. Troll? Yeah, call it that if you want, but the man that steals $20 from a church is a lowlife.

Stick it to the Saint! (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by pim on Tue Dec 25th, 2001 at 08:23:45 PM PST
I took twenty dollars out of [the collection plate]

You may take some heat for this, but I'm 100% behind you. It sounds harsh, but history shows that it's the only way those lazy, clueless church administrators will learn. The religion industry won't take its entertainment responsibility seriously unless good Samaritans like you make them pay for their "time-to-sermon" driven shortcuts.

It may prove enlightening to compare this courageous act to that of the oft-maligned (occasionally on this very site) hacker (sometimes incorrectly called a "cracker", a term invented by the media to discredit hackers). Small-minded prudes and jurists condemn him for acts that, in the absense of a larger context, may appear invasive and destructive. But thoughtful observers applaud his port maps, buffer-overwhelm exploits, and password snifters, in the name of better security in the far-distant future. (Admittedly, the recently discovered "cross-site scripting" exploits remain controversial, because they can automatically cross to sites that don't have security problems.)

That the hacker takes direct advantage of security lapses in order to make his statement against them demonstrates that he is not only upright, but enjoys a heightened appreciation of irony (in the Morisette sense, which I believe is generally considered the standard).

hey gdb (none / 0) (#12)
by Husaria on Wed Dec 26th, 2001 at 07:08:09 AM PST
why didnt you shovel the driveway...that way you would have left faster, I don't expect women to shovel snow..
also a snow blower might help
Sig sigger

on the contrary (none / 0) (#13)
by nathan on Wed Dec 26th, 2001 at 07:22:15 AM PST
Women should shovel the driveway. Men often work at more physically-demanding jobs, and as a result, suffer a lower life expectancy. As well, men are much more likely to have injured backs and to suffer from heart disease. All this means that any woman concerned about the man in her life should shovel the driveway to relieve him of that burden, at least.

Just think, women live seven years longer than men, on average. Remember that next time you hear about the glass ceiling or how women make 75 cents on the male dollar.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Conscription. (none / 0) (#14)
by tkatchev on Wed Dec 26th, 2001 at 07:25:12 AM PST
"Nuff said", as our g**k brethren might utter.

Peace and much love...

Yes, but... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by doofus on Thu Dec 27th, 2001 at 09:34:19 AM PST
While I agree that women should in fact shoulder more repsonsibility at home, the problem with assigning them such tasks as snow shoveling means that not just one, but two people are required; the woman to shovel the snow and the man to oversee (aka "supervise") her to ensure proper execution of the task. Thus, a cost/benefit ratio analysis must be performed first, which of course adds additional time required to successfully complete the task. In the end, it may simply be more cost efficient (better ROI) for the man to simply sigh loudly, shake his head disgustedly and make the sacrifice of shoveling the snow himself.

Women should shovel the driveway... (none / 0) (#21)
by hauntedattics on Thu Dec 27th, 2001 at 03:13:16 PM PST
even when they're pregnant or have heart problems themselves? Whoa. Way harsh, dood.

Waaaaaaait just a cotton-picking minute (none / 0) (#23)
by seventypercent on Fri Dec 28th, 2001 at 12:34:15 AM PST
Just think, women live seven years longer than men, on average. Remember that next time you hear about the glass ceiling or how women make 75 cents on the male dollar.

So what you're saying is that the longer tenure in the Earthbound plane that the average woman experiences is an excuse to pay her less? And just how do you think she's going to finance her way through those seven extra years? Lottery tickets? Bingo?

If anything, the statistical fact that women live longer than men is an argument that they should be paid more than men, not less. This would be an ideal and controversial topic for an article. Anne Marie, are you out there?

Red-blooded patriots do not use Linux.

FLOOBISH! (none / 0) (#15)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 26th, 2001 at 07:49:38 AM PST
I really don't know where to begin. The fact that you actually knew how bad the Sally Struthers infomercials are means that you've actually watched them. Probably more than once. How horrifying! Other than that the sheer satire of the thing! The sheer nylons I've seen! The sheer nylons I want to wear! Oh you get the picture. I know you live somewhere near here, and the local St Luke's police have been notified.

WTF (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by rjd on Wed Dec 26th, 2001 at 05:23:34 PM PST
It's xmas boxaing day,

How the hell I can post this I dont know, just been out with the boys for boxing day.

The bit abuot hte hardy boys amused me, as did the chewing tinfoil. Most amusing. Id mod this up if it was some fagoty slash. system but it aint. 8 pints of stella artois and a chaser later and Im fucked if I know jesus from George Bush (and Im UKian).

Hell, funny but now its time to go to bed. +1 offtopic.



I'm Outraged (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 27th, 2001 at 04:37:22 PM PST
Sincerely outraged at your lack of respect for not just Pastor Seth but the adorable children who where brave enough to preform for us on Christmas Eve. Yes gbd I attended the St. Luke Christmas Eve Candle-light Service as well. I am pleased to say that I had a wonderful time and was truly blessed by Pastor Seth's message. If you ask me, you need a few visits to your prayer closet and a whole lot of repentance you scrooge.


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