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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Welcome 2 Christmas…Again?

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Violet just stared at the pathetic little tree. “Boy, are you stupid Charlie Brown. Can’t you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?”

Patty gave a long sigh and shook her head, “You’re hopeless Charlie Brown.”

Then Lucy chimed in, “You’ve been dumb before, Charlie Brown. But this time you really did it.”

We’ve been through this before. Year after year! Christmas program after Christmas program! And each year preachers feel the weight of that challenge to say something fresh and original and relevant. But, what new and fresh sermon ideas can be generated from such a well-covered story? How many ways can we retell the same story without becoming boring?

Some sermons have more to do with our ability to be creative than they do with the glorious treasure of the timeless story. We fail to realize that for many people, hearing the old, old story (again) can be more delightful than hearing it the first time.

Dr. Martin Luther King found a wealth of sermon power rested in weaving phrases and stanzas that were widely known and anticipated.

The ancient church was able to learn large segments of the oral stories and teachings of Jesus because they were repeated frequently. Hearing accounts of Jesus multiple times, repeated word for word, was a powerful way to learn great truths.

The greatest stories do not really need us to change them. To change them would be to cheapen them. The same Babe in a manger that spoke to us as children can speak again to us as adults. Angels and shepherds can still thrill us. There are still surprises to be discovered, maybe not so much in the old, old story, but in how God will use the story to transform us more.

There is power in deciding for this Christmas season we will tell the church what they already know. We can give up trying to come up with new angles to replace the familiar. We can stop searching for nativity texts in Obadiah and go back and read the well-worn words of Matthew and Luke.

Charlie Brown stared at the pathetic little tree and said, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

 Linus, blanket in tow, walks over to the center of the stage. “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” A spotlight comes up on Linus as he begins to recite, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. (We have heard all this before.)

And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (And this is precisely why it is so powerful.)

And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” (Thank you, Saint Linus.)

[Ron Otto, Lincoln Christian Church]


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