I've begun to notice a pattern. Most of the Christmas sermons I've heard (and preached) in the last few years went out of their way to make a connection between Christmas and something else. Christmas and the life of Christ. Christmas and the expectation of Israel. Christmas and the Cross. Christmas and Easter. Christmas and the Holy Spirit. Christmas and the Christian life. Christmas and ...
The great thing about these "Christmas connections" is that it keeps things interesting. New insights are brought in. Deep Biblical themes are interwoven. We avoid repeating the same thing every year. The one sermon heard by the most people in a congregation is probably the Christmas sermon. Attendance is up: the regulars are there, family is in town, the fringe folk come out of the woodwork, and guests abound. Because of this, we preachers are understandably worried about repetition. We don't want to preach the "same old Christmas sermon" every year. So Christmas connections keep everybody on their toes.
However, I am beginning to ask myself whether this habit has an unintended and unfortunate side effect: preaching Christmas connections gives the impression that Christmas is not interesting enough on its own. If we must speak of "Christmas and ...", what does that tell us about the significance of Christmas itself? Why can't we just speak of Christmas ... period? Why can't we just remind ourselves that one day God became human and that in itself is a pretty big deal. Sure, that is not the whole Christian story. But this important part gets its own day, and maybe we should give it proper attention.
I do not wish to reject Christmas connections preaching. I practice them and appreciate hearing them. But I do want to identify this possible danger. Even as we seek to interweave Christmas into the larger tapestry of belief, let us be sure keep the main thing the main thing.
Keeping this possible danger in mind, I would love to hear back from you what Christmas connections you heard or preached this year.
What connections have you heard or made?
Were they fitting or forced?
Did they illumine Christmas or distract from it?