It’s Christmas Eve. You don’t need me to tell you what to do. Do what you’ve always done. I know, there is something in you, in the faithful worship team, that says you’ve got to do something new, you’ve got to come up with a different way of telling this story. That sentiment is understandable. Week by week, that is the task of the team, the worship leader. How can we repackage this text, this message, this theme so that it will break through the dull ears and hearts of the worshipers? That is understandable, but it is not necessary tonight. See, the new thing has been done. Tonight is about the tradition, about the familiar, about feeling at home in this space. Even if people are there for the first time, there is a familiarity to this night. It speaks to something deep within us, a yearning, a longing, a hunger. And this hunger is best fed by the familiar. Sing the songs you always sing. Tell the story you always tell. Light the candles and hold them up as you sing “Silent Night,” just like you did when you were a kid. Just like that.
Oh, I don’t mean to be harsh or to draw too hard a line. Maybe there is a new song to sing, a new image to share. Do what seems right in this moment, on this night. But remember that there is an expectation of tradition. It isn’t a bad thing on this night; it is a reaffirmation of the promise. It is hearing the story again because, over the course of the year, one has lost one’s grip on it. Or the world that speaks denial of the presence of the incarnate one has been so loud that we’ve begun to doubt, or we have forgotten that this night was the promise made flesh.
Just don’t neglect the story. Don’t neglect the hope and the promise and the joy in the one who was born into this world of pain with a message of love. Let the story speak this night; it will do the work the word is sent to do. Trust in it.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.