Welcome sermon planners. Hits to this blog searching for Christmas Eve related posts sky rocket this time of year. For your planning pleasure, I’ve made easy links below:
- several helpful comments in this post (click on the little number button above)
- full sermon: “Christmas Boots“
- Family service sermon: “Food Trough Festivities“
- Recent reflection, “Does the Manger Matter?“
—— original post from Christmas 2007 ——
I didn’t think it would come this year, or even next, but here it is: I’m preaching on Christmas Eve. The service is the evening family service with lots of loud children, hungry parents, and thirsty grandparents (can’t drink too much sherry or egg nog before worship, you see).
I just surfed the net looking for ideas (remember I don’t have books here), and was disgusted by 90% of what I read. Christmas is not about “the gift of ourselves,” or “peace for our family,” or “Jesus is the best present of all,” or at least, Christmas is much much more than these over-simplified cliched versions.
So what is a young pastor to do for his 5-7 minute sermon?
My Columbia Seminary profs said, over and over again, on Christmas and Easter “just preach the story.” Don’t get too fancy or touchy-feely. Don’t try to impress or get mushy “awws” from the grandparents. Just preach the story.
Well, I’m sorry but I have no idea how to do that. And my impression of the service is they would much rather have something impressive, emotive, or touchy-feely. Now that’s not an indictment of my congregation, it’s a description of what most of us want on Christmas Eve. It’s so nice to sing carols and open presents, to drink wine and sit by the fire, rather than contemplating what we’re really celebrating: the scandal of God becoming human, for our sins, as described by a largely metaphorical story in Luke.
So what do you think? What would you preach? How do you write a 5-7 minute children-parent-grandparent inclusive address that is succinct but covers the Christmas Eve bases? What, indeed, is the Christmas story?
[Update: see the finished sermon here, but do also enjoy the conversation in the comments of this post.]
1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them
Photo credit (by permission): Hilde Vanstraelen