A Hillsong branch in the United Kingdom has removed from YouTube a promotional video for its annual Christmas musical that depicted the wise men arriving at a Bethlehem inn to see the baby Jesus, and upon entering, finding an environment with much drinking and dancing just feet from the Christ child.
The “three kings” video promoted Hillsong’s “London Carols” program, scheduled for Dec. 16. According to a description of the production, the “extravaganza follows the timeless story of the three wise men as they travel through different continents and eras, from the plains of Africa, through to the golden age of rock and roll and a space-aged future on their quest to deliver gifts to the newborn King.”
The YouTube advertisement featured the three wise men arriving at the inn, singing the carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are” to announce their purpose to an eccentric woman who answers the door. As they are pulled inside, they find Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus—as well as much dancing and merrymaking, complete with patrons at the bar holding large mugs of beer and servers on top of tables.
Pulpit & Pen first reported on the matter, noting that there were several issues with the portrayal.
“In reality, Jesus was born in the stable—not in the inn, which had no vacancy for his expectant mother—and laid in a manger, or feeding trough (Luke 2:12),” it said. “The wise men, or Magi (a sect of astronomers and seers going back to the prophet, Daniel—Daniel 2:48 ), whose number is unknown, found Jesus at his home sometime during the first year after his birth (Matthew 2:11), just prior to their midnight flight to Egypt.”
“Inns of the first century in Jerusalem, by the way, were not bars or brothels resembling Old West taverns, but informal guest rooms in larger residential houses,” the report outlined.
Others also expressed objection to the promotional production.
“No only is this heresy, but heart-wrenching that the splendidness of the gospel is trivialized in this manner,” one commenter wrote.
“Not sure I like this. Something has been a little off for a while with Hillsong worship, at least for me. Seemed a little mocking,” another opined.
One woman defended the advertisement, stating in part, “It is a play, not reality. The message is perhaps to show that Jesus loves everyone and also calls us to do the same. We are spread the gospel to those who most likely won’t hear it in a bar, obviously the ones who may not know Him. …. It’s not our job to judge, not even a church play [advertisement set] in a bar. That is God’s job.”
The video has now been removed without explanation. The London Carols event is still on, with one of the shows being sold out.
As previously reported, Hillsong also raised eyebrows in 2015 as its Christmas presentation included the carol “Silent Night” set to a nightclub-like setting with 1920’s-style flappers, as well as the “Little Drummer Boy” featuring shirtless men pounding on drums while a woman in tight gold leather pants belted out the song in thick fog.
The following year, concerns were raised over a tropical Christmas party photo posted by Esther Houston, the wife of Hillsong United’s Joel Houston, in which Hillsong NYC youth leader Diego Simila posed with his shirt completely unbuttoned to bear his chest and short cut-off jean shorts. Houston, a former Brazilian model, stood adjacent to Simila, posing in a manner that exposed up her thigh. The photo was soon deleted.
Hillsong NYC leader Carl Lentz has also been in headlines surrounding his remarks on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday,” “The View” and photos of him slamming shots with pop star Justin Bieber.