It’s Christmas Eve! Or Christmas Day! Maybe both, if you are able to gather a community to worship on these high holy days.
What a feeling of celebration, what a joy that all this anticipation has come to a kind of fruition. True, there will always be the questions about whether anything will change in the world around us because of this event. Transformation always takes longer than we think it should. And it often begins with something small, a new vision, a stronger hope, a baby in a manger. Something small that will change everything.
But for now, we welcome. We welcome the stranger and the family with the same enthusiasm. We welcome the sojourner and the faithful, together with the one who comes with healing in his wings. This is a night for celebration or a day for reflection and joy. Whether that celebration is loud and raucous, or quiet and reflective, there needs to be celebration that God is faithful and that the promised one is with us, Emmanuel.
What texts should you read? Any of them. All of them. Tell the story. Here are the texts assigned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Choose whatever speaks to you. Read them all in a celebration of the living Word.
Some of the classic texts for these days – walking in darkness with Isaiah on Christmas Eve; singing a new song with the psalms; grace has appeared says Paul to Titus, even as he points to Easter; and Luke’s story of angels and shepherds and a babe at the center of it all. Read it all, if you dare, or choose what speaks to your community, what opens them to the guest in your midst. Or on Christmas Day, go with Isaiah to tell it on the mountain; sing with the orchestra of creation the song of victory with the psalmist; preach the sermon of Hebrews about the Son who bears the imprint of God into the midst of the people, a task now given to us; or recite John’s poem of incarnation that describes the indescribable in the only language that works.
Then let the word speak. Read it, perform it, sing it, present it. But don’t explain it. Don’t reduce it by attempting to put it into terms our human minds can easily grasp and then dismiss. Instead stand in wonder at it; let awe be the mode of worship. A joyful awe that sweeps everyone up into one heart and mind is what brings the faithful and the straggler back year after year. Light the lights, knowing that the darkness is still surrounding you, but be amazed at how the little, feeble flame chases away that dark. In the glow of the candles, there are friends to be seen, brothers and sisters, not strangers and enemies. We are one in the light.
This is a night for tradition, for children and for adults turned into children again. Not childish, but childlike so that we can see the kin-dom. Don’t shuttle the children to the side; don’t worry about interruptions on this night, on this day. This celebration is about the interruption to end all interruptions: God tearing open the heavens to reside among us in the body of a child—not a child, an infant, vulnerable, loud, and human.
The colors are white and gold. White encompasses all the colors of the spectrum, including the ones we can’t really see, the ones beyond our vision. Gold is the precious treasure of heaven spilled out on the floor of earth like an accident in the secure vaults of paradise. Except it wasn’t an accident. It was a choice, a plan, a hope poured out that we might know what true riches are, and rejoice. Let everything that breathes, every color, every treasure, proclaim the beauty and the wonder of God, born a child among us. Company has come.
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.