Preaching Christmas

Posted: December 15, 2008 in Christmas, church, life

A lot of ministers love preaching during Advent. For those of us in free church traditions, this is a time of year we can unapologetically turn to the lectionary and no one will give us grief about it. People also like preaching Advent sermons because words like peace and hope are easy to grab ahold of. Plus, the folks in the pew are typically glad to be worshipping together, congregations are filled with visitors, and sanctuaries are decorated in red and green. There are lots of good feelings around Christmas, and there should be.

At the same time, though, I fear that some of the preaching done during Advent is selective in it’s approach (a temptation even when it’s not Christmas). This year as I’ve re-read the birth narratives within the gospels, I’m shocked again by the scandal of the story; a story that is truly unbelievable without the asset of faith. It doesn’t stop at the scandal though. Just think about all those mothers clutching their little boys as King Herod’s minions draw knife and sword. And then, like in this past week’s lectionary reading, there’s John the Baptist, this wild man of the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord, while looking like the last person you want to be around. John also reminds us that life in the service of Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean a happy ending.

Christmas, I’m reminded, is a scary holiday.

It’s not kid’s stuff.

The birth of Jesus presents a threat to power; a revolution of hope bought with the blood of someone’s son — both God’s and many others; it’s about a pregnant teenaged mother; and a earthly father given an offer he couldn’t refuse. The birth of Jesus is about lives turned upside down. It’s about one kingdom’s clash with another and the cold, hard truth that our personal and professional kingdom’s cannot be aloud to stand either. 

In my house are several Nativity scenes. When I’m not thinking, these pieces of wood and marble are quaint, almost sentimental tellings of a wonderful tale. But when I am thinking, the scenes strip away the armor of my heart and remind me that when Jesus was born nobody wanted him. And I have to ask myself again, Do I want him? Do I want to invite in this man who’s birth causes such upheaval into my well manicured life (even though my life is not that well manicured). Christmas tells me that I am not the center of the universe, though so many other people want to tell me that I am. Christmas tells me that in some ways, from last year to this year, I have tried to leave the King out in the cold, and because of it, I’ve missed the angels rejoicing.

So, Christmas for me has a double-edge. While I love watching my daughters get excited about Santa and trees and decorating the house, there is a King coming, and he’s coming to turn the world upside-down.

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Comments
  1. Joe says:

    For the record, I’m not so sure I like preaching Advent sermons. The lectionary texts are brutal, to be sure. Preparing for the coming of our Savior is no small thing and the selected texts scream this at the top of their lungs. John the Baptist, a guy we only come across a couple of times of year in the lectionary, is a guy would we avoid if we were to encounter him today. I doubt we’ll see “You brood of vipers!” on any Christmas cards this season.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Great thoughts. Thanks Sean.

  3. Sean,
    Great post. I’m a little late but I love preaching those Christmas sermons though it seems to get harder every year to get variety in the preaching. You have some great thoughts about it.
    Thanks,
    Mark

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