christmas eve preaching

After thirty-five years of preaching on Christmas Eve I am not spending the days before Christmas sweating over a sermon. It was always a struggle, one that I enjoyed even as I fell short of the challenge. The challenge included a packed house, many young and excited children, much music and little time for a sermon. In fact, some wondered if a sermon was really needed or desired. Yet on the occasion when the church gathers to wonder that the Word became flesh it seemed strange not to name the Incarnation of the Word with some honest words. So I imagined the sermon as a short form offering in the midst of the children dressed as angels and shepherds around Mary, Joseph and the infant (always the youngest baby in the congregation that year). The results were mixed, given the noise levels of the children and my capacity to find words fit to host the Word.

Looking back I see that the Christmas Eve sermons preached after my diagnosis with myeloma seemed more crucial to me. Perhaps because I knew that my time as a preacher was now limited. I dared not leave the message unspoken even if the kids were noisy and the evening was filled with carols. The Word needed to be proclaimed.  Here are five of those Christmas Eve sermons ...

"The Message" is from 2006. It follows the text in Luke 2:1-20 through the lens of the Message that travels through time to this night.

"A Heavenly Host" is from 2011. Every year I would host the text anew, expecting a fresh word to emerge from this very familiar story. It was a delight and surprise to notice these three variations on the word 'host' at Christmas.

"The Sign" is from 2012. It focuses on the shepherds and imagines those among us who stand with them in the story.

"Good News of Great Joy" is from 2013. Each of the three scenes announces the reason that the news is greeted with joy ...

"A Sign: Sing" is from 2014. It was my last attempt before retirement to preach the Word in the midst of the energy and chaos of Christmas Eve. The cues were real. The first asked the children costumed as angels to gather around the creche. The second cue invited the shepherds to join us. This is the shortest of these Christmas Eve sermons.

Now I am grateful to be on the annual pilgrimage to Christmas without the anxious struggle of seeking language to point to the mystery that is, ultimately, beyond words. I thank God for all those preachers who this week are sweating out their Christmas sermons and I hold them in my prayers. 

1 comment:

  1. It has been sometime since I have checked out your blog Ed. Perhaps it is good to enter your story a bit late in time.
    God's love for us, through Christ, is love denying itself. A hard act to follow.