Dear Working Preachers,
Why preach on Christmas? Why indeed? I mean, you’ve got the carols and the candles; the special music and the story itself; the festive attire and the good cheer. What could a sermon add to the merry? So, the point of this column is less about what to preach on Christmas and more about why you preach on Christmas. I am suggesting seven reasons for the need of Christmas preaching — because the Bible likes the number seven. Or, let’s assume there could have been seven kings and not just three to coincidently coincide with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Why preach on Christmas? Because people need to hear that witnessing to God’s revelation can still happen. Like the shepherds, like the angels, like Elizabeth, like Mary, you stand up and testify to the glory of God and share the good news that is for all. People need to experience what witness looks like and sounds like — and to be invited to offer testimony to others about God’s good news in their lives.
Why preach on Christmas? Because you are modeling that the meaning of Christmas keeps changing. The meaning of Christmas cannot only be situated in its historical context. The meaning of Christmas has to reside in the truth of the incarnation — that what it means to be human grows, changes, moves, embodies, lives. The meaning of Christmas cannot only be located in that it happened — the meaning of Christmas needs also to be found in the promise of God’s commitment to the evolution and dynamism of humanity. Why? Because the Word became flesh.
Why preach on Christmas? Because you are demonstrating that we still need to hear the promises of Christmas. As much as we think we know the story of Christmas, its promises sound different each year. You are giving voice to the contextuality of Christmas and that it can be recontextualized again and again.
Why preach on Christmas? Because you are proclaiming that the world can indeed be a different kind of place — a place of peace and justice. A place of welcome and wonder. A place of mystery and surprise. People need to hear that life is not just about answers and dichotomies; about certitude and decision. The world can indeed be changed by God’s activity and God’s love.
Why preach on Christmas? To let the story preach itself. Like Easter — where our tendency is to preach the resurrection to death — Christmas preaching has the potential to be apologetic instead of proclamatory. The incarnation cannot be explained or understood or exposition. It is, in the end, an invitation to wonder.
Why preach on Christmas? To demonstrate that preaching still matters. The purpose of preaching has many opponents these days. Why preach indeed? What is preaching exactly? Why do we keep on doing it? Is it a medium for God’s word that is archaic and irrelevant? What’s the point? Why sit and listen to you for 10-20 minutes — on Christmas? Places to go, people to see, presents to open. It is likely that many in your pews will think this, that the sermon is just a part of the whole “church” thing that they have to endure. They anticipate that this will be part of the service, but they would much rather just sing the carols and light the candles. To preach on Christmas makes preaching make a difference.
Why preach on Christmas? Because you need to as a preacher. You need to give voice, for yourself, to the meaning of Christmas, to hear your own voice’s testimony. You need to embody the meaning of Christmas and not just assume its importance. You need to feel, completely, in every aspect of your body, your mind, your senses, and who you are that if there is any sermon that could make a difference this could be it. People may not remember what you said. But know that your presence in the pulpit says so very much — it communicates that this is significant. It says that it is important to take the time to think about what Christmas means for our daily lives. It reveals that you think preaching makes a difference. That interpreting this story at this time, in this place, at this moment, for these people, matters.
God needs you to incarnate the love that was the incarnation. That, dear Working Preachers, is the true meaning of Christmas preaching.