Well, it is Saturday, a day of preparation for me as I get into the sermon for Sunday. Happens every week. And a part of what happens is I write this Bible Study. This gets me thinking about the passage in all kinds of ways and helps me be ready to preach the next day. Even when the sermon sounds nothing like the bible study. I also spend a lot of time before the weekend, reading and studying and formulating sermons. I don't wait until Saturday. Because what if something happened on that Saturday and I didn't have the time? I would be unprepared on Sunday. And that wouldn't be being faithful to my call. So the sermon is "done" before Saturday. Done? Preachable. I could climb in the pulpit or stand before the congregation and proclaim.
But on Saturday, I am living in it. I am examining it again, rethinking, reworking, playing with the ideas and images. I am paying attention to the world, listening to the voices of my people, and weaving that together with the Voice of God. Sometimes Saturday confirms my planned sermon, sometimes it changes it completely. But it is a day I cherish for the process as I have developed it over 35 years of preaching regularly. This isn't what I recommend, it isn't what I teach. And it isn't what I did for most of the 35 years, but it works well for me.
Until now. Yes, it is Saturday. But not just any Saturday. It is Christmas Eve. I have always loved Christmas Eve. I have told churches I would do hourly services on Christmas eve if anyone would come. I would do them morning and night. I would do loud fun family ones, designed to make children laugh and families giggle. I would do quiet reflective peaceful ones, designed to make you glad to be alive and filled with hope. Musicals and dramas, lessons and carols, even full scale holiday parties wrapped up in profound worship. I love Christmas Eve.
And! I love Christmas Day on Sunday. I've mentioned this before. I think it should always be on a Sunday. I think it would be easier to hold on to the real meaning of Christmas if it was on a Sunday and the day began not with the frenzy of presents under the tree, but with worship in the family of God. I think that is the way it ought to be.
Now, that being said, I don't like losing my Saturday. I know, it's a selfish gripe. But I'm not quite sure how to approach this day of preparation. With three services tonight and two tomorrow morning, I'm lost in the busyness. With some questions about my place in this congregation and an uncertain future in my calling, I'm a bit lost in the mood of the season. So, I'm here thinking about tonight and tomorrow and not sure I have anything to say for either. Which is a terrible admission, I know. It's kinda my job to have something to say. And I know myself well enough to know that I will have some words for all those services. Words that might even be meaningful for some. Words that will allow me to fulfill my role and surrender to my obedience to the church and to God.
But I also know those words won't be enough. Not nearly enough. I've been doing this a long time. And I've never had the words I really wanted to have. I've never been able to really capture the power and glory of this event. I've never really been able to articulate the wonder and the promise that Christmas is. I've never had the words that become the Word, and live in the hearts and minds of those who come to hear, so that Christ is again incarnated among us.
See, that's how I define this job, this preaching thing. Incarnation. I have told my students and fellow preachers that above all else, preaching is about putting flesh on the idea of Christ. Making Him real again in our experience, in our imagination, in our hearts and souls. That's what I'm always trying to do, Sunday in and Sunday out, sermon in and sermon out, incarnation. So when faced with the Incarnation itself, I stumble over the words. Because it matters so much. To me, for one. But to the church, to you. To everyone. To the world, it matters so much, it is needed -- He is needed so much. And I'm simply not up to the task.
Which means, in the end, I'm surrendering my Saturday to the One who speaks more clearly that I do. I'm surrendering this day, this night, this O Holy Night to the Word made flesh. And will hope and pray that those who come this weekend will hear beyond my inadequate words to embrace the living Word. And to know and be known by the Presence who loves them as they are. Every year I fail to capture the depth of this event with my words. Yet every year I am rescued by the Word made flesh who speaks into my inadequacy and becomes flesh among us again. Thanks be to God!
John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.