Dear Working Preacher,
Almost game day!
A beloved parishioner used to say to me right before Christmas or Holy Week, “It’s almost game day for you!” I liked the metaphor then and I like it now—game day for an athlete is the moment for which you have prepared. For everyone involved in making the game happen—from parents, to staff, to fans—game day is the moment toward which they have longed for and worked for.
Working Preacher, it’s almost game day for you! From the 19th through the 26th, you will be logging long hours (even longer hours than usual) and working hard. With Christmas Eve falling on a Friday, and some congregations also holding worship on Saturday for Christmas Day, and then regular Sabbath worship on Sunday the 26th, you might be preaching a great deal over those eight days.
Thank you for all that you do to preach the gospel. It is a great deal of work—especially this year. We are very grateful for the work you do. It is important, godly work. Please know that all of us hear at Working Preacher (including Karoline, Matt, Joy, Craig, Kathryn, Ben, and Lara) are praying for you at this holy time of year.
I’m bursting with God-news
Depending on which option from the Revised Common Lectionary that congregations choose, either the Psalm or the Gospel reading for this Sunday includes Mary’s Magnificat, so named after the first word of the psalm in Latin. I love Eugene Peterson’s creative translation of Mary’s psalm, especially the first verse: “I’m bursting with God-news, I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.”
It is a wonderful image—the pregnant Mary absolutely bursting with the good news: mercy for the faithful who revere God, strength for the weak who rely on God, honor for those who have been shamed but look to God, food for the hungry who turn to God, and help for Israel and those who have trusted God’s ancient promises.
The gospel is good news precisely because it both promises and delivers the sort of transformative newness that broken-hearted people need: mercy, forgiveness, strength, honor, food, help, salvation, redemption, reconciliation, holiness, light, guidance, knowledge of God and on and on.
The image of one who is absolutely bursting with good news suits the task of the Christian preacher to a tee.1
When I was a fairly young child, my mother had taken me shopping so that I could buy my older sister Karen a birthday present. It was the first gift that I got to pick out for anyone. My mother strictly admonished me not to tell Karen what the gift was. I was so excited to give the gift that when I got home, I ran straight to my other older sister, Anne, and I burst out, “Anne, Anne! I got Karen a Kewpie Doll for her birthday.”
Karen, who was in the room, deliberately turned away and calmly stated, “I didn’t hear a thing.”
I share that story as an example of one who is so bursting with good news that it simply must be shouted out. To give a gift to a loved one is such a wonderful experience.
That is how I think of you, Working Preacher. Of all of us.
We are bursting with good news. And we get to give the gift of Jesus away every week. We get to give away to good news that Christ is born, that God is with us! The power of death has been broken, the grave cannot hold us! I imagine all of us simply bursting with this good news this week and next, as we get to proclaim that “A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us!”
Dancing the song of my savior God
It is important to remember that the Magnificat is a song, a psalm. Like Miriam, Deborah, and Hannah before her, Mary bursts into song with the good news.
We are a people who do not just speak the good news, we sing it. There is something wonderful about singing the good news of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. There are times in life when we burst into song. My father has often told me about a time when he was in the army and he received unexpected orders that signaled a positive change of destination and a new role. As he fell out and moved to obey, he describes how a Baroque cantata exploded in his head—a song of salvation and praise.
In Advent and Christmas, we burst into praise as we sing the songs of the faith, dancing the songs of our savior God. As another famous hymn has it, with the good news that a son is born to us who is Immanuel, how can we keep from singing?
Thanks for preaching the Good News, Working Preacher. It’s almost game day for you!
- Here is a fun bit of trivia for the Working Preacher. The idiom “fits to a tee” (originally “to a T”), was recorded in 1771 as “fits to a tittle.” The tittle, of course, is a reference to Jesus’ utterance that he did not come to change even “a jot nor a tittle” of the Law. A tittle is a small mark on a Hebrew consonant that distinguishes similar-looking letters from each other. So “fits to a T(ittle)” has a bit of a biblical ring to it. And now you know. So Merry Christmas from us at Working Preacher.