So I have spent a long time reflecting on Christmas this year and trying to write what seems like a million sermons which all bring something inspiring and fresh this Christmas Season…a foolish thing to attempt I know!
But one thing that has been a constant theme throughout all my sermons and talks this year, has been the encouragement to stick at Christmas rather than jump straight to Easter - at least for now. I think this shows that I have been at Regents Park College for too long!
One thing I have noticed over the years of going to church Christmas services (which is now half my life!) is the the temptation for many, including myself, is to jump from Christmas to Easter in one swoop. To celebrate the joy of Jesus being born and then in the next sentence to say something like: ‘So he can grow up and die for your sins.’ The poor boy is only just been born! One of the joys of being Baptist is that I can jump into tradition and back out of it when the mood takes me. However, I do think there is something for structuring the church year around the traditional Church Calender, not rigidly and inflexibly, but so that we can pause and reflect on the different aspects of the life of Jesus and where we find ourselves in this big God story.
Of course we cannot artificially separate the two stories of Christmas and Easter, for they are actually one story and intrinsically linked. Nor am I saying that we should only preach Easter after Easter Sunday and then leading up to Advent when we cannot preach it. But I am suggesting that just for a short while, we stick at Christmas. There is so much in the Christmas Story to be in awe of. The Christmas Story shows us a God who is willing to risk a whole lot by being born as a baby in 1st Century Palestine. It shows us a God who draws near and wants to be near not a god who is far off and distant and angry. It shows us that God chooses to use the poorest and humblest of people and settings in which to do his work, not just through Kings, Queens and the wealthiest. It shows us a God who knows what it is like to be us, to face the same temptations, the same money problems, and the same family dynamics and yet who shows us how to be in those times.
This Story, which of course I think is a true story, is one that is rich and full of beauty. So this Christmas, I urge you, stick with Christmas…for now anyway.