Christmas Services

Okay, so first I want to say that my sermon on Sunday 23rd was pretty cool, and it’s a shame it wasn’t recorded. It came out even better when I preached it than it looked on paper index card. Basically, I talked about what it meant to be delivered (or ‘saved’), and said that in Isaiah’s time it meant deliverance form the Assyrian siege, and in Jesus’ time it meant deliverance from the Roman occupation (in part). In hindsight, we view both of these understandings of salvation as narrow, limited. And yet, understanding salvation to mean deliverance from sins so that the bad things I do are forgiven and I can go to heaven is all about me, and is equally narrow and limited. Rather, Christ delivers us by transforming us in this life, delivering us not only from sin (however vaguely we define that!) but from fear and wrong priorities and oppression and our role in oppressing others and violence and destruction of the planet.

That was the ecclesiastical highlight of the week.

I just want to say for the record that Christmas Eve service 2006 was, I think, not only the best Christmas Eve service I have officiated, but I think the best I have ever attended. You can’t win em all.

In addition to some musical difficulties (no technical ones, though!), the congregation was unlike any I’ve ever seen. The congregation talked through the entire service.


This group of people, at least 2/3 of which are not my congregation, but strictly Christmas/Easter types talked during the service. I don’t mean the children. The kids were well-behaved. A few giggles and a few cries, but nothing too distracting. No, it was the grown ups who were using the service to catch up with people they hadn’t seen since last Christmas Eve. They talked during prayers. They talked during scripture readings. They talked while our soloist sang “O Holy Night” beautifully. They talked during the offertory, while the choir sang again. They talked during my sermon. I didn’t know what to do. I’m not prepared to be librarian!pastor: “excuse me, but could we use our church manners now please?” or “don’t talk while people are reading the gospel, please.” or “Kindly silence your yapper while folks are singing.” Not even the common courtesy you’d show in a movie theater. Speaking of which, we did have a video clip of nature scenes set to inspirational music, which was part of the sermon. What d’ya know, I turned on the movie and they were silent. When the clip ended, you could hear a pin drop. I quickly re-summarized my sermon while I had everyone’s attention (a good sermon by the way, in which I said that Christmas is not a culmination, but a beginning, and it means nothing unless we let it change us, start something new in us, in our lives with God, with God’s children the world over, and with the earth itself), and invited them to stand for the closing hymn, “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” which people got into with lots of clapping and stuff.

So next year, we tape the whole service in advance and then just play the recording back.

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