Soon many of our churches will be filled. People will gather from different places and find time to sing Silent Night and light candles. Some there are family members that are visiting for the holiday, but most are “members” of your congregation that you only see at Christmas and Easter.
Last night in a conversation with a colleague this topic came up. We were discussing the difficulties of preaching on a night like Christmas Eve. Both of us felt committed to the important theological message of the incarnation, yet were aware that most who gather on that day have no compass point that helps them understand this message and many do not even care. Should the preacher take this into consideration?
I am aware that during this time of the year the people that gather are in different places. Some come rejoicing, others grieving; some come willingly, others unwillingly; some come to hear the great story, others to sing the traditional songs; some come with high expectations others with no expectations.
So in the end my task is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ! Trusting the Spirit’s work in the community of faith, trusting that those who are willing will experience Christ’s birth in their lives once more.
This year I’ll be thankful that these Christmas Christians have gathered. God has called them once more and they have responded (even if they do not know it; prevenient grace) Maybe this will be the year, maybe this will be the new beginning they need. I’ll resist the urge to make a point, to take a count, to try to convince. Instead I will provide hospitality, tell the great story of salvation, and gather the community around table.
They might come just to accompany grandma, appease the spouse, to do their Christian duty, or just to hear the songs. We know that God has called us to gather and as we do this will be our prayer:
Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”