A staple conversation of my church planter friends is whether or not you should have unbelievering singers leading worship. Most agree they'll let potential pre-Christians play instruments but some get squeamish at the thought of talented vocalists leading songs they don't believe. Me? I encourage it. I see it as proleptic fulfillment of Isaiah 60.
Proleptic has become one of my new favorite adjectives. I find a ton of prolepsis in the Bible. (Go ahead, don't be embarrassed, click on the links for the definition. I've done it many times.) In the Bible history moves in all kinds of different directions. The day of the LORD that came when Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians, when the Northern Kingdom was dismantled by the Assyrians, when the Romans destroyed Herod's temple in 70AD, when Rome itself was sacked and Augustine had to explain it, when airplanes struck the twin towers, were all pre-echoes of the great day of the LORD that is yet to come. That is prolepsis. The Lord's supper, inviting in the poor and homeless for a meal in your home or at church, writing that check for the hungry on the other side of the world, are all pre-enactments of the great Banquet of the Lamb that is yet to come. That is prolepsis.
I love Christmas music and I like playing it all year long. This is the first Christmas that I've had a Zune pass. I know most of you out there have your iPods or play your mp3s on your computer or your cell phones, but I love my Zune and my Zune pass. This year I'm downloading Christmas music like a jolly fool. What I'm discovering is that everyone seems to do a Christmas album no matter what genre they record in or what their spiritual predilections are.
Christmas is one of the last vestiges of Christendom. Overtly Christian songs get shamelessly played by merchants who simply want to juice people up enough to relieve them of their spending inhibitions. Maybe they'll try to show some sensitivity with a PC "happy holidays" but "Hark the Herald Angel's Sing", "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" get pipped through and hummed. I love hearing the most talented musical artists across the religious spectrum sing out "Joy to the World, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king!"
Is this inauthentic or disingenuous? Hardly. It's absolutely proleptic!
One of my favorite Biblical teachings comes from Richard Mouw's "When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem". Mouw highlights Isaiah 60 where the kings of the earth bring their cultural riches to Jerusalem to lay at the feet of the King of kings and Lord of lords. What's so exciting is that in this renewal of all things passage time and extinction are not obstacles. At the banquet of the lamb (described in Isaiah 25) we will feast on the rich diversity of foods from all of human history, even cultures that are distant or dead to us now. We will enjoy the best music the cultures of the world have produced from instruments that have been forgotten and have not yet been invented. It will be an extravaganza like nothing anyone you've met has ever seen. All of this is not as far away from you as you imagine and is rushing at you from the future. The Christmas albums today produced by talented skeptics, seekers, agnostics, pagans, atheists are but pre-echoes of Philippians 2:11.
So get out there and find that Christmas album done by some debauched, godless artists and play it loud, enjoying it thoroughly! Revel in the prolepsis.