As a preacher I often find myself quite constrained at this time of year. There are some brilliant preaching opportunities coming round the corner (Carols, Christingle, Crib service, Midnight, Christmas Day), but they have quite a predictable shape to them. Carols: fifteen minute, punchy and throught-provoking evangelism. Christmas Day: fifteen minutes if I can hold the kids’ attention, big visuals and a single point to the grown ups. The choice of songs is wonderfully rich – but also rather limited in terms of what we can’t sing. The readings are fantastic (especially at the Carol service) but they rush by and I have to choose just one.
And then I rediscover my favourite carol (Joy to the World, since you ask) and wish we could sing it more often.
So let’s shake it up a bit.
Now I don’t recommend you turn into the Sheriff of Nottingham and cancel Christmas. That goes into the file marked #pastoralmistakesImadeonceanddon’tintendtomakeagain.
But what about planning now that next May or June, you’ll have a sermon series on Luke’s account, or the prophecy fulfilment in Matthew, and take people through them slowly, properly, and with their full attention. No tinsel, no thoughts on last minute preparation. Just expounding God’s Word with care and focus. You don’t need to do anything about it now except put it in the diary.
There are spin-offs too. Brits discover that you can think about Christmas and have a barbecue. Aussies can discover that Christmas=cold.
And you could sing one, properly chosen carol each week. Preach about John the Baptist and then sing ‘O Come, O Come Immanuel’. Or Joy to the World perhaps.