My grand kids have a book called, The Bear Who Slept through Christmas. I have not read it, but when I found it on the bookshelf it made me laugh: that is what most of my preacher friends do beginning Christmas Day and hibernating until Epiphany!
Even though we all plan to find those quiet, holy times during Advent and even though we preach and lecture our congregations against the commercialization of Christmas, we get caught up in the business of the season just as much as the rest of society does. In fact, we might even get more caught up because we are trying to bring meaning and capture the attention of people who would rather be shopping, baking and wrapping gifts than praying and listening to sermons. They are in the pews, but the lists of things they “need” to do are speaking to them louder than the sermon.
This is why I am writing this post now so that you can plan for the twelve days of Christmas. These are the days set aside by the early church to “celebrate” Christmas. They are the twelve days that begin on Christmas day and continue until Epiphany.
Now, I know, you will be tempted to sleep for these days and become the Bear Who slept Through (the 12 days of) Christmas, but please think for a moment about why and how you could use these 12 days for excellent preaching.
Here are three suggestions for preaching during the Twelve Days of Christmas:
1. Preach about the Incarnation
Do not lecture about how we all planned to have a Holy Advent and once again, did not do it. Instead, hold the sacred space of the incarnation for your congregation by preaching about mystery of the One who broke into humanity and is still with us today. People have a hard time seeing what difference the incarnation makes for us. Preach about the God who became one of us, understands our sinfulness, our pain, our temptations and how that One longs for us to be honest and trust in the grace given freely for all of us.
2. Preach Boldly
Remember that the people who actually come to church on the Sunday after Christmas are there because they are serious about being there. They woke up, tired, and considered staying home, but worship and the sermon were so important to them that they dragged themselves to church. These are the “cream of the crop” or “your dedicated core.” We rarely have visitors on the Sunday after Christmas, so this is your opportunity to speak to those who “get it.” Your sermon can be deeper and go places that you might not always want to preach when a broader range of members, visitors, and others are there.
3. Invite People to Rededicate Themselves to Christ
Christmas has become less of a time of a Mass for Christ (Christ-mass) and more of a secular holiday. Nativity sets have been replaced by light up Santas, which is a reflection of the greater theological shift of our society toward being “spiritual but not religious.” Our faith is about Christ, however. He is the center. He is the Light–the only Light. The Sunday after Christmas would be a great time to remind our congregations that we are Christians and, as such, we do not reflect the secular theologies that are emerging. A great sermon would be to invite people to rethink their love of Jesus and rededicate themselves to him. It might even be a good reminder to us that we are called to preach the truth: that Christ is the Truth, the Way and the Life!
Special Note: If you plan to seriously preach during the 12 days of Christmas, remember to write your sermon now! You will be too tired after Christmas morning!
I wish you and your congregation a Christ-centered Christmas this year!
Leanne Hadley is dedicated to helping the Church better the ministries we offer to children and families. More about Leanne’s ministry can be found on her website: leanne-hadley.com or on FB at: Leanne cares about kids.
Image attribution: TomWang112 / Thinkstock