First off, let me say that some congregations and some pastors love Christmas Day. I served such a group for 10 years. The 20-30 people who gathered on the morning of the 25 wanted to be there. They craved the lights up, coffee brewing, less-frequently sung hymns, and reading of John 1. I loved it for them and with them, but I don’t miss it. You may be one of those pastors and/or serving one of those congregations.
If you are serving a congregation that regularly worships on Christmas morning (or afternoon). Embrace your usual vibe. Is it typically a laid-back service or does it feature something special (that is replicable or easily mimicked in your present circumstances)? If it is typically music-based or features something that really requires being physically together, do what you can to manage your own and the congregation’s expectations. Simplicity is more than okay.
The usual Christmas Day texts (RCL) are: Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12], John 1:1-14
Where would I go preaching-wise?
- I might play with the concept of logos. The Word has always been is more than logic and reason. It is different from wisdom. This Word embraces and embodies the very nature and knowledge of God. In a time when very little makes sense, it could be a relief to know that God is bigger than our understanding. Transrational thought is a real thing. It is only with the gift of faith that we are able to make the leap past rational/irrational to trust a Word that has brought us and all we know into being.
- Read a book: Jesus, The Word by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones is a gorgeous telling of John 1. The paintings by Shelly Hehenberger are mesmerizing. This book completely speaks for itself and won’t need you to say anything else.
- Ask a few people in the congregation to send you photos of their nativity sets. Make a slide show of those sets, noting the different ways that we embrace the nativity in our homes. None of the sets are “wrong”. Each reflects the love, joy, and understanding (in some way) of God and of the Holy Family. How can we carry Christmas forward by learning to embrace differences?
- If you have a “live” service in a format that invites input (like Zoom), could you set up a few people to share stories of their best Christmases or favorite presents (current or past)? Sometimes the meaning of the season becomes deeper and more obvious in listening to one another.
- Give someone else the credit- Christmas poem by C.S. Lewis or Jan Richardson, a quote for reflection from G.K. Chesterton or Madeleine L’Engle, two different paintings of the nativity. It is okay to let stillness be your homily. To be invited to be still and accompanied in doing so is a gift.
Dear Christmas Morning preacher,
I thank our God for you- for your persistence, your courage, and your hope. Maybe the Eternal Word be present to you in clear and tangible ways, providing you with strength and inspiration. And may you have a glorious nap when it is all done. Amen.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Big Timber Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Big Timber, MT. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit and is President of the board of RevGalBlogPals, Inc.
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