Friday, December 23, 2011

simple and straightforward advice to preachers on christmas eve

1. Keep it brief. Err on the side of saying less, rather than more, and allow the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of the service to fill in the gaps. So, if it is somehow possible for you, cut out one-fourth to one-third of your sermon prior to the service. I know, this goes against our nature, as preachers, but you will thank me later.

2. Save the judgment for another day. There will likely be a number of folks who have made their way into the sanctuary under duress, or for reasons unknown even to them. They carry a stereotype about Christianity into the service that identifies faith with judgmentalism. In length, err on the side of brevity; in content, err on the side of grace. Jesus often did this--think about the parables of the prodigal son and the good samaritan.

3. Make room for doubt. This is, after all, the mystery of the incarnation, and even Mary "pondered all of this in her heart" (Luke 2). So you do not have to feel the need to tie up every loose end, or place a period where the Bible itself has recorded a question mark.

4. Appeal to the generosity of those present for others. Identify a need in the community or world, and set a big, hairy, audacious goal for a gift that would make a difference. It is likely that you will rarely find yourself preaching to a more generous congregation than Christmas Eve. So go for it!

5. Finally, imagine that Christmas Eve is a beginning and not an ending. Yes, religious professionals do often make their way through a fall gauntlet of church council meetings, stewardship campaigns, servant and leadership recruitment efforts, and fall festivals, and then there is Advent and now it is Christmas Eve. It is easy to perceive that you are crossing the finish line and you are ready to collapse. But this night is a beginning, and for many it can be the first step in the journey of being a disciple. So give those present some guidance about the next step, and the next: a sermon series in January, or an outreach initiative.

The last word after the last word: if you can't bring yourself to follow all five pieces of advice, work on one or two of the points. You will find yourself in a closer alignment with the spirit of the evening, and your people/God's people will be blessed.


Blogger A.J. Thomas said...

thanks, Ken. Light and life to you at this new beginning!

8:03 AM  
Blogger Ashley Randall said...

Thanks, Ken! I especially appreciate the reminder that Christmas is a beginning. I pray that it will be the start of something great for many. Hope you and Pam enjoy the rest of your visit to D.C.

1:46 PM  

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