Posted by: Titus Presler | December 10, 2011

Carols of Incarnation: Meditation for Advent II Saturday

A fond memory from growing up in India is Christmas caroling in Jabalpur with students of the seminary where my parents taught.  We piled into a bus on chilly nights and visited isolated Christian communities around the city, singing carols in Hindi and English.  Surrounded as they were by Hindus and Muslims, Jains and Sikhs, these communities were grateful for musical visits from their fellow Christians.

More recently in Amritsar, in an entirely different part of India, I was heartened to see that Christmas caroling has, if anything, grown since years ago, even as it has tapered off in North America.  Groups visit in homes, where they sing Punjabi carols, offer prayers and eat a few sweets before hastening off to the next house, singing in the streets as they go – and this during a time of inter-religious tension.  Christmas parties feature large bonfires, more carols and, of course, lots of food.  A service at one party included readings from the Bhagavad Gita, the Quran and the Sikhs’ Granth Sahib before the luminous nativity story from the Gospel according to St. Luke.

This month there will be the Service of Nine Carols at Edwardes College in Peshawar, a major annual observance and celebration at the college, obviously in an inter-religious environment.  The Student Christian Movement (SCM) group on campus is excited about it and busy with preparations.

As the Word became flesh and lived among us in Jesus, God entered a Jewish and Hellenistic culture of the Roman Empire, a culture as peculiar as any other.  On the model of that translation into a particular culture, the Christian gospel has spread through cultural translation to myriad peoples on all continents.

In a major transition of the 20th century, there are today more Christians in Africa, Asia and Latin America than there are in Europe and North America.  A great sign of our times is the blooming: the vital and visionary faith of Christians in the Global South, where new ways of being Christian have emerged from the gospel’s interaction with local cultures.

Nowhere is Christian expression perfect, neither in North nor South, so there is no need to idealize either.  Yet alert for signs, we have much to learn from Christians in other cultures among whom Christ has been born anew, just as Christ has been born in our own culture, whatever that may be.

Is there someone in your community who is Christian in a language, culture, ethnicity or nationality that is different from yours?  As you anticipate the Incarnation, this Advent may be a good time to meet.  And listen.  And celebrate.  And share.

This meditation is adapted from Titus Presler’s “Alert for Signs: Seeing and Praying through Advent” (Forward Movement Publications).



  1. […] Carols of Incarnation: Meditation for Advent II Saturday ( […]

  2. I was at a concert a couple years ago, in which the prologue to the gospel of John was chanted in a melodic Islamic style. I understood none of the words, but the meaning, if anything, was elevated.

    • Thanks for this reflection, David. I would be interested in more about the concert and if the music is available on recording. Other readers: David is a gifted composer of many fine hymn descants, among other things.

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