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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- Christmas Eve Edition


by Lucinda Hynett

(from Alive Now, November/December 2004)



Can you hear it?

an expectant silence,

a hushed anticipation,

as if the very galaxy

is holding its breath.


There are some truths

even the stars know,

like darkness,

like loneliness,

and how the night

can be a living thing.


And how once, long ago,

the night waited in wonder

along with the darkness

and the loneliness,

for the sound of a baby’s cry,


for the miraculous

to come down

to the earth mundane.

What are you preaching this Christmas Eve?  Do you preach?

How do you reach out to those who come to church on Christmas Eve but don't feel called or connected to a church community?

Good children's sermons?

What's on tap for this Christmas Eve?

Do tell...



  1. Me first, really? I'm preaching on the incarnation. I'm using a story from Moss Hart's Act One about his father wanting to buy him a Christmas present, but not having enough money and neither parent or child being able to connect out of their loneliness. Then I'll talk about God wanting to help humans learn to live fully throughout history, outline God's attempts which are told us in the Hebrew scriptures and then talk about the new thing God did in the incarnation and finally a challenge to live into the incarnation.

  2. I'm preaching Christmas Eve for a change, since my senior pastor had neck surgery yesterday. Of course the bottom started to fall out as soon as we knew he'd be out: two deaths and sundry crises. Ah well, this is ministry, after all.
    I've got some preliminary thoughts here on the theme of what we are looking for in the coming of Christ. At some point it needs to morph into a communion meditation, so I'll be updating this morning hopefully, or later this evening.

  3. I think I'm planning a sermon about God coming in unexpected ways--not a big-budget broadway musical, but more a way that starts off sounding like a bad joke. I'm not entirely sure where this is going yet, but I have to write it soon so I guess I'll figure it out!!

  4. I wasn't planning on preaching, just doing a series of readings and carols, communion, and offering. But whenever I spend a ton of time on a service, it always seems to come up short, and it takes only 35 minutes. So I figure I should also have a sermon or story or something to add. But where is the time?!?!

  5. I will be telling the children's story about the Three Wisewomen.

  6. since frigid weather cancelled worship last sunday - christmas eve has become a combo of the annunciation and the incarnation... both accounts in which the angels say "do not be afraid"... that is the crux of the christmas eve sermon... since fear will fill the pews even then... fear of medical news; fear of the weather; fear of death; of the recession yadda yadda yadda....

  7. Nutella
    or have some more readings, singing and a time of reflection :) that might work...

    who says church services have to be long anyway ??? (grin)

  8. I'm in Nutella's boat...still waffling over whether to preach or not. We're doing lessons and carols--nine of each. And communion. Is that enough? Or will I want to do a communion meditation? If so, I'd better think about it beforehand. Or do I just let it go...Ugh. Unlike many places, I don't expect to have any folks who only show up for Christmas and Easter--it will be the fraction of the regular crew who drives after dark and who don't have family plans. I guess I'd better decide pretty soon, huh?

  9. I think I have my meditation on fear and change written. Once (if) it passes inspection by my test reader (aha Beloved spouse) I will post it and let y'all know

  10. OK, it passsed. Find it here

    YOu also might want to check out the readings leading in to it:
    Mary's Fear
    The Shepherd's Fear

    They are being read by young people. Actualy the shepherd reader wanted to record his rather than read it live and so that is done. MAry won't get to town until supper time-ish tomorrow

  11. ahhh! I'm not done with eve yet. I preach at the 3:00 family service, and again on Day. On Day I'm preaching an old one, and adapting one section of it, tomorrow .... I want to use Angela and the Baby Jesus and talking about what children see that we don't -- why do we have a family Christmas, anyway?

  12. My sermons have gotten longer at Christmas eve lately, so the challenge is to keep it short!

  13. After Terri posted her great beginning on Saturday, I went into the tv room where my sister, brother-in-law, and daughters were to ask, "How about I start my sermon with: A middle-aged guy, knocked up teenage girl, and a donkey walk into a barn?" They laughed and made comments. The next morning during SS, the SportsQueen told the youth that's how the sermon was starting. Evidently, the whole youth group was quite disappointed with my beginning. After worship, I was informed that Christmas Even had better start that way!

    now I need a sermon to go with my beginning ...

  14. Early service Christmas Eve, no formal readings and no sermon; the younger lot are doing a Nativity Pageant accompanied by the Huron Carol, so we have heaps of bits of fur, feathers, bows and arrows, trade blankets -- even a buffalo robe -- dotted about the premises.
    Late service Christmas Eve the Gospel is always John 1, and I used to try to "preach up to it" is pointed out...we have great quantities of total strangers in the church, so last year I just read John Terpstra's poem "The Little Towns of Bethlehem"...they seem to connect to it. And Christmas morning the Gospel will be Luke 2, and the sermon will be so slight as to be practically non-existent...

  15. I'm preaching with one of my favorite Christian themes: you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd. Because the birth of Jesus is quite odd. And the events that unfold after the birth continue to be quite odd. I think it's also quite odd that this gospel lesson is about peace that passes all understanding, and yet we fill the Advent season with everything BUT peace in our lives. Christmas is the most hectic time in the year. And I want us all to be 'odd' so that we can listen to the lesson, and stop following cultural standards. We'll see what comes of it...

  16. I'm thinking about doing something with unusual nativity the skit on Leno with guys with leaf-blowers coming to the manger, or the great idea in Fidelia's Sisters to have kids bring their toys to place in the creche scene.

    All of this leading up to the point that if we can't see ourselves in this story, there at the manger, then it might as well be nothing but a Christmas card...pretty, but flat.

    But I love Teri's joke idea too.

  17. 4 p.m. service, I'll have a Word with the Children which combines all the various Matthew and Luke elements with an emphasis on the star shining brighter throughout (we'll be putting the figures in the manger, or at least the baby), ending on how we can make the star shine brighter. I wrote it five years ago for a church where we had a lot of restless grandchildren who never came except on Christmas Eve. It worked well with them because it had a repeated line that kept their attention.
    At 11, I'll offer a brief meditation on how angels shake us up!

  18. I think I'm editing the opening a little, but I've tested it out on several people (including the entire staff) and they've said it's great. So the current opening will be:

    "So a middle aged man, a pregnant teenager, and a donkey walk into a barn....sounds like the beginning of the world's worst joke, but it's actually the beginning of the greatest story ever told." (never mind the part where it's the beginning of a new chapter in the greatest story ever told...hopefully there's time for that sermon later...)

    The rest of the sermon will, hopefully, be written tonight. It's going to probably be about how strange it is that the God who created the entire world with a word, who inspired people to write such glories as the creation story and Isaiah and the Psalms, who gave people the courage and aesthetic sense to build the Temple not once but strange it is that this God would choose to come into the world to show us what love looks like, and would choose to come in the most helpless, most outcast, most strange possible way, greeted by weirdo outsiders, etc. Not a big-budget broadway musical, but instead something that sounds like a bad joke.

    But first I have to deal with the leaking roof--because of COURSE it's leaking right between the elevator and the sanctuary entrance, complete with fallen soggy roof tiles and sodden carpet, and of course it started doing that this afternoon when no one was here. Then I have to get home (waiting for my road to be plowed--I tried to go home but couldn't because of the 4 foot snow drift in front of my garage). Then eat something. Then write. (sigh)

    Do we have a Christmas Eve preacher party? I sort of need that.

  19. I'm having a bit of a crisis...and I hope some of you are still hanging around and willing to help out a non-blogger.

    I have a matriarch in my church who I have had a difficult relationship with. She came up to me on Sunday all smiles and sweetness and offered to read a poem on Christmas Eve that "we really need to hear."

    Just got said poem via email and it is a take on Twas the Night Before Christmas only it is the night before Jesus returns and the subject of the poem is not in the Book of Life. So he and family do not get to go to heaven.

    I've been a UM all my life and just realized that I don't know what to believe about the Book of Life. Yes, it is biblical. But where it fits with my understanding of who God is...I have challenges with it.

    I would so welcome your insights on this...

  20. YIKES RevSis. That is a tough one!

    It doesn't sound like the poem actually has anything to do with Christmas, apart from being a take-off (some would say a parody) of the famous poem. Could you oh-so-kindly and sweetly refuse her on those grounds?

    Or, if you're a chicken like me, maybe tell her the bulletins have already been printed and there's no spot for the poem to be added?

    I hope others out there have some ideas.

  21. Thanks, semfem - I appreciate your response very much. Yes,I'm a chicken! She could really do some damage in the church if I say no.

    And, you're right it doesn't have anything to do with the Christmas message. I did get to speak with my DS (who was also my first mentor and is a good friend) and he was helpful.

    Per his suggestion, I'll let her speak first in worship then through prayer time, the sermon, and celebration of communion, I can move us toward a more grace-filled understanding of who God is and who we are before God. At least, I hope I can...

    I knew ministry would have its personality challenges. It's just that you can't prepare for it and I've had a tough time not taking it personally. This is one of the reasons I've enjoyed this site as so many of you share your challenges.

    Many blessings on each of you as you prepare for worship and await the wonder of Christmas.

  22. RevSis: good advice from both semfem and your DS. These things will come up, and my approach tends to be to let them be aired and then gently redirect the conversation/service/whatever in a more grace-filled direction. Tends to be end-times stuff here, and I've developed a couple of deflecting lines that seem to work when offered with a smile.
    Honestly, if it's stuff you hear often, practice a few simple answers that don't insult the person you're talking to. That way you don't have to think of something profound or witty on the spot, and you'll be less likely to offend.
    Grace and peace to you, and Merry Christmas!

  23. I'm not doing a sermon for Christmas eve - but have been working hard on the liturgy for both services all day long - fine tuning.

    Our 5pm service focuses on the story w/ a skit/retelling of the Christmas story, complete with kids dressed up as sheep and shepherds and wise men. Our church is small enough that we don't have a formal Christmas pageant - but this is close enough!

    Then our 11:30 service is more of a lessons and carols with communion. I think people will appreciate being done in less than an hour at 11:30, so I'm not sweating the length.

    I'm borrowing heavily from Kathrine Hawker's Alternative Lessons and Carols but it's adapted a bit to fit our context and to change a few hymns/readings, including our wreath litany etc.

    This is my FIRST Christmas worship experience and I'm REALLY nervous and excited. (Not going to worship... but planning, leading, etc.) I can't wait for tomorrow!!!

  24. I have something that sort of resembles a brief meditation (about 8-9 minutes-ish) that uses the joke AND the word "hippo" (yet another challenge, an old unfulfilled one that actually works!) and may also say something, sort of, maybe. I'm not sure, actually. I think I'll edit after sleeping and eating and then maybe I'll be able to figure that out. It might be all fluff. (sigh)

    This is why being an Associate ROCKS--no high pressure preaching usually. Emphasis on *usually*... anxiety dreams, here I come.

  25. So here i sit, baking communion bread. I helped my folks get ready for family arrival until almost 11 and then home to work on my own stuff.
    I have to get up early tomorrow! Why even go to sleep?
    So, anyhow. I am workign on the Do Not Be Afraid idea of Luke 2...said to Mary, said to shepherds, etc
    Maybe mary said it to Jesus when he was a toddler and was scared of somethign.
    Hopefully tying in the idea that we need not be afraid either, no matter what we face.
    And so, this is why i am so late posting...hope to see other stuff tomorrow.
    Loving the joke and hippo ideas Terri.
    No Kids sermon, one child will palce Baby Jesus in the nativity set after I read to Luke 2:7, then one soloist will sing Still, Still, Still...hopign this ties in as Mary signs a lullaby to Jesus to get him to sleep.
    Maybe this will work out.
    Ugh...pressure and anxiety for first ever Christmas Eve....short homily, needs to cover it all....yeah, no sleep tonight!

  26. 1-4 Grace, I'm still up writing too. I guess this is turning into the impromptu preacher party!

    I think I'm almost done, though. I just need some really pithy and gracious way to end this paragraph. Hint, hint, Holy Spirit!

  27. Okay, I fell back on what is usually pithy and gracious: hymnody. O Little Town of Bethlehem saved my butt and the draft is finished, whew!

    May the Spirit be with all of us preparing to preach in the next few days.

  28. Oh, the old "quote a hymn at the end of the sermon" trick huh?
    Good one. I have done that with prayers befroe too. Works quite well as an into or out of.
    I keep havign to clear my throat up. I am reminded of SJP in Family Stone! Anyhow, hope it goes well for all of you.
    Blessings to all.

  29. I'm preaching on what happened to the sheep. I've been tossing it around as a joke... but I finally realized... it would be a good Christmas Eve sermon. I posted it here.


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