LONDON — Hillsong London’s two advertised Xmas services that are said to be all “about Jesus,” but feature clips of Santa Claus, dancing elves, mini-skirt-wearing flappers and other concerning aspects, have both sold out.
“#HillsongCarols is now at capacity for both services at 3pm & 7:30pm,” the congregation posted on Dec. 9. “There will be no tickets on the door.”
Hillsong London had advertised the upcoming services, to be held at the SSE Arena in Wembley on Sunday, with clips from last year’s event. The snippets capture a packed house of cheering attendees being showered in ticker tape and the various high-energy performances that include an appearance by a man dressed as Santa with his host of elves.
“Carols at The SSE Arena is a night that is focused on celebrating what Christmas is really about – JESUS!” reads a description under the promotional video.
Video footage of various full performances at the 2014 show were also posted online by Hillsong London, which is arguably the largest congregation in the London area.
One performance features the carol “Silent Night” set to a nightclub-like setting with 1920’s-style flappers. The jazzy rendition features a woman in a short two-piece outfit that is cut low in the back and reveals her midsection when her arms are raised. A flapper is defined as “a young woman of the 1920’s who rebelled against conventional ideas of ladylike behavior and dress.”
Another video of the “Little Drummer Boy” featuring shirtless men pounding on drums while a woman in tight gold leather pants belts out the song as she stands in thick fog.
Other footage online shows a beatbox rap rendition of “Silent Night” and a woman dressed in a spaceman-type outfit.
Last year, Hillsong originally offered just one service, but because it sold out quickly, a second was scheduled. This year, both services sold out within days.
In an interview with the England Evangelical Alliance, Hillsong London leader Gary Clarke said that “[t]he aim for Hillsong Carols is to have a church event where people easily could bring their friends and family to, in the hope they encounter Jesus and His message of grace.”
“The main difference [between the event and a Sunday service] is that Hillsong Carols is more of a production, with focus on different items that tell the story of God sending His son Jesus to earth, rather than an actual service,” he explained. “There are still elements of a normal service though, such as praise, worship and a short message.”
But some have expressed concern over the nature of the event, with one man writing under the promotional video, “How do you justify the use of worldly music, erotic stage dancers which is nothing short of a Vegas act, and call it Christian? It’s a fair question.”
Geoffrey Grider of Now the End Begins likewise expressed dismay at the presentation.
“Because after all, it’s just not a proper celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ without roaring 20’s flappers, rock bands, hoochie coochie dancers, laser light shows and lots and lots of leg in a nightclub setting,” he wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. “Happy Birthday, Jesus, hope you like it.”