Christmas can be a challenging time for preachers.
The incarnation is a beautiful and essential aspect of our faith, but there are only 39 Bible verses that directly tell the story, so after preaching about it year after year it can start to feel a bit repetitive. And the last thing we want is for this amazing story to grow stale within us.
So how do you keep the story vibrant as you retell it this year?
If you’re having a hard time as you see the clock ticking ever-closer to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, here’s a little nudge that might help.
Keep it simple, and keep it weird.
Simple And Weird
The Christmas story is so simple. And so weird.
A baby is born. That’s as simple as it gets. It’s so simple it happens hundreds of thousands of times every day.
The baby is Jesus. He’s God, the creator of all things, come to this planet in human form.
That is other-worldly weird. If it wasn’t so clearly written as history in the biblical record, we’d shrug it off as comic-book fodder.
The Truth In The Middle
One of the challenges of preaching for Christmas is holding those two very different truths in tension without falling into one of two traps.
Trap one: Leaning on the natural simplicity of the birth so much that we downplay the weird, supernatural parts.
We can’t present the birth of Jesus as just another birth, or the mere repetition of a familiar story. Certainly, there are wonderful, repeatable traditions that resonate deeply in our lives at this time of the year. But we mustn’t lean so heavily on the familiar that we miss the other half of the story.
Trap two: Emphasizing the supernatural, weird parts so much that we overcomplicate a profoundly simple story. We mustn’t inundate the Christmas congregation with so many complicated theological ideas and ten-dollar words that they leave more confused than when they arrived.
The escape from either trap lies on a path dead-center between them. And there’s only one way to stay on that path.
Tell the story.
The big picture story.
The simple and the weird. The natural and the supernatural. The human and the divine.
It can’t be just one or the other. It must be both.
The Big Picture Story
Every great story needs the dynamic tension of a crisis and a solution we care about.
Thankfully, this story has all that and then some. With one big advantage – it’s completely true.
- Theologically and historically true.
- Naturally and supernaturally true.
- Simply and strangely true.
Don’t leave any part of this amazing, weird, miraculous, but simple story out.
The set-up: God created us.
The crisis: We broke God’s heart (and everything else) through the disobedience of sin.
The journey: Every other path back to life and love is a dead-end.
The climax: God came in the form of Jesus to restore what we had broken.
The dénouement: (Google it. It’s a real thing.) We can accept Jesus ourselves and live in peace with God, and towards each other.
This Christmas, keep it simple and keep it weird.
Tell the story.
(Photo by Steve Snodgrass | Flickr)