We have partnered with TryTank – the experimental laboratory for church growth and innovation – to produce a new preaching resource aimed particularly at smaller congregations (those with an average Sunday attendance of 29 or fewer). That said, any congregation can use it. We have also paired it with an adult forum curriculum. From Christ the King Sunday to Christmas Day, we have six sermons each about 12 minutes long. They are based on the Sunday lectionary. The video sermons will be available on the web and can be played as a sermon during the service.
More information and to watch the video: https://www.trytank.org/vpmdec12.html
Several years ago, one of my favourite newspaper columnists wrote about how she loved going to Church on Christmas Eve, especially if there was a light snowfall that night. She wrote about how she loved to hear the nativity story and sing the Christmas carols familiar from her childhood. She wrote about how she would line up with the other members of the congregation, and kneel before the altar, decorated with poinsettias, and receive Holy Communion. She wrote about all this, and then ended her column wondering why she bothered, because even though she had grown up in the Church, she had long ago stopped going to Church, because she didn’t believe a word of what was said in Church on Christmas Eve, or any other day for that matter.
What she loved was the ritual, the familiarity of the story, and the picture-perfect Christmas card scene of a moonlight night, with lots of bright stars and snow. For her, there was no sense that the ritual, or the story, could mean any more than a reminder of a simpler time in her life. What she loved, and these I hasten to add are my words and not hers, what she loved was the nostalgia of Christmases long ago.
Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing. Certainly, I often get lost in daydreams of other, simpler times and places in my life. I have great fun remembering how things once were, or at least how I remember they once were. But nostalgia, as is clear from my newspaper columnist, and my own experience, is not the same as faith, and faith isn’t about being nostalgic. As people of faith, we are not longing for some imagined time when life was simpler, when the ritual was comforting, when the story was familiar, and you didn’t need a book or a leaflet to sing the hymns. No, as people of faith, what we are longing for is not some imagined time when life will be simpler, but a promised time when God’s reign of peace and judgement, salvation and light will be fulfilled.