Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Day: 25 December 2011

The last time Christmas Day fell on a Sunday was 2008. In that year, John H. Barden suggested to readers of Homily Service that they should take a minimalist approach to the sermon.

With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, those of us who come from traditions that don’t normally have Christmas Day services have both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to celebrate in a creative way a day that is normally given over to family gatherings, unwrapping of presents, and television watching. The challenge is to hold the attention of a congregation that is unaccustomed to attending worship on what is often, strangely, considered a family holiday, rather than a religious holiday. With that said, this is not the time to make some theological point or reveal the insights of your latest research on Christology... It is a time for playfulness and awe and wonder and poetry. Instead of reading the Isaiah text, have a soloist sing the aria “How Beautiful Are the Feet,” from Handel’s Messiah, or have the choir sing the Bach hymn “Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light” (found in most hymnals)... If you are in a tradition that doesn’t require a homily, read the Hebrews text and the prologue to John and proceed directly with the powerful liturgy of the Lord’s table.

Are you planning to preach on Christmas Day?

Homily Service vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 49-50.

John H. Barden is a Presbyterian pastor serving as the director of admissions at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas. He is the author of ‘Postle Jack Tales.

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