While I wait for my wife and in-laws to wake up so we can open our stockings and presents, I want to just share briefly about something that I find myself doing during services. Last night, I went to my usual Christmas Eve service at the local Lutheran church. I’ve been going here for three or four years and I’ve started recognizing people; the kids in the choir and bell choir are all growing up it seems. I don’t particularly like the service all that much (the sermons tend to be boring, the organ isn’t loud enough, they intinct the host for you, the reading of scripture is never that good) but they sing a lot of hymns, the choir is good, and it is easy to get to at 11 pm at night. I thought about trying another church nearby but I stumbled onto their worship assistant schedule and it seemed they have “trayholders.” Ew.
Anyways, so I went to my usual Christmas Eve service and was surprised that the wife of the pastor (who is also ordained) was scheduled to preach! I was curious to hear her. So, with the readings done and the gospel read, I sat down, ready to be met with the Word. Now, it is possible that seminary has ruined sermons for me because I spend most of my time deconstructing what is being presented. And in that deconstruction, I’ve developed a habit where I mentally end the sermon when I think it should end. I catch myself going “Amen” when the preacher gets to a good spot to end. But they never seem to end when I think they should end. They keep going. Part of this might be because I don’t believe that every little detail needs to be explained or that I think giving the assembly something to chew on isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I know that is my hang-up and not theirs. But when I’ve mentally said “Amen” fifteen times and the pastor is still talking, I kind of get annoyed.
The sermon wasn’t bad, per se. It was a little low on the Cross but I can’t fault that too much since it is Christmas. It just bored me. The delievey was too slow, the words too…quiet for Christmas. We were there to celebrate the incarnation! How can that event be explored in a monotone that would put an entire lecture hall to sleep? There needs to be energy there; the “for you” needs to be screamed out explicitly; and forgiveness needs to take center stage. Bring on the Gospel and let the monotone that passes for “sermons” in too many places slide off into oblivion. And this should happen every Sunday – not just Christmas but if you can only muster it once a year, Christmas is a good a time as any to bust it out. Take a chance, explore your dramatic muscle, and see what happens. The sermon doesn’t need to be loud but it does need to be emotional. It needs to feel “real.” If not, then what’s the point in preaching that sermon on the day when the Incarnation is celebrated? Take a chance people!
Anyways, I know that this will be the last Christmas that I probably don’t end up working on. Next Christmas, I’ll be on internship and I’ll have things to do. If it just so happens that I end up preaching, I hope it doesn’t end up falling on its face. If it does, just email me a link to this post. I’ll understand.
2 thoughts on “Christmas Midnight Service or how I mentally ended the pastor’s sermon fifteen times but she just kept going and going”
Ouch! I know I’m a violator of this principle too often as a preacher. And I was also LOL since I had this feeling myself for the few years as a pew sitter. One thing I thought about myself of my sermon yesterday, that while it was shorter timewise than I’ve been preaching lately, it was HUGE in terms of the number of big topics I thought people should entertain in the prolog! (LAM – laughing at myself, and if you add something with an e it could also be LAME!) All I can say, is remember this when you’re the one up there… and maybe even get a “test listener” who can tell you in run thru where they think it needs to end! And then make yourself end it there. It’s harder to be disciplined about this than you might imagine when someone gives you the pulpit!! Merry Christmas. Thanks again for these reflections.
I remember when I first preached, standing up there in the pulpit, and realizing that I could just keep going. Honestly, it was like a little high. I had the people there, looking at me, and I could do what I wanted! I could say more! I could explain things even more!
But I’m starting to think that restraint isn’t such a horrible thing. Everything doesn’t need to be explained. And I’m guessing that, once I get out of my twenties, I’ll understand that even more.
Thanks for reading!
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