It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent, and the tug of war is over. Christmas now takes center stage. Families who have come home and may not join you for Christmas Eve services are expecting a Christmas message. It won’t do to keep to the Advent theme of anticipation of the second coming of Christ. We need to relive the first. We need to live into the first. We are on the threshold of a new world. Never mind the fact that we’ve been on this threshold for over two thousand years. We are standing on the brink. We need to proclaim what is on the other side. What does it mean for Christ to take up residence in our world? What did it mean then, and what does it mean now? Those are the questions that even the casual attender has come to ask today.
The problem is, they’ve come with their answers too. And their answer is “not much.” It doesn’t mean much, except in romantic holiday movies and sappy cards in the mail. But this is your chance to tell a different story. This is your chance to tell the story of a life with Christ that changes everything.
It is important to remember, however, that this is an invitation, not a one-upmanship. We don’t design a worship experience that announces how great we are. But we celebrate what God is doing in our midst and how our lives are being transformed. That’s the key, that “being” word. We are in process and just as liable to mess up as anyone. We are not perfect people, but we love a perfect Lord, and we are trying to live into a perfect love.
The focus, of course, is not on us, but on Christ. So we tell the story of the unimaginable love of God that causes the incarnation to happen in history. The God who was and is other, is also one of us, Emmanuel. We sing the songs of the Christ who comes among us. We celebrate the wonder of incarnation, God in flesh among us. So, sing the Christmas carols we love so much, but keep in mind that we are not simply remembering a long time ago, but living in the presence of Emmanuel today.
We also find ways to share the presence. It isn’t something we keep to ourselves. The one who comes to us comes to all, and our privilege is that we can announce this invitation, this good news to everyone. The lights we light in our sanctuaries and our homes is not just so we can enjoy them, but so that they can serve as beacons to a hurting world. How are we spreading the Word; how are we inviting the community? These are the questions that guide our worship this Sunday. Because we are the ones who know that company is coming.
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.