The beauty and the challenge for pastors, Bible teachers, and all others who proclaim the message of Christ lies in the reality that The Bible, like the God it speaks of, is unchanging. This is beautiful in that it is fantastic to have something steadfast, true and consistent in a world that seeps with so much that is fleeting, false and inconsistent.
It is challenging in that its the same words, the same stories, the same texts every year. Christmas is here again and Jesus is still born in a manger to a virgin. There's still no room in the inn, still magi who worship and shepherds who do the same.
And for the most part, the people who show up in the churches around Christmas know these things. The great and hard task of the communicator is to hear from God and convey the message in such a way that it shocks the hearer's system. Our brains want to take the message they've already heard and file it into the "Been there Done That" File and then allow the mind and the heart to disengage from any new encounter with the age old tune.
So, maybe these 5 tips might help produce new fruit in your people this Christmas.
1. New Vocabulary...If you follow the Traditional Advent Calendar, you're going to encounter familiar words like Hope, Peace, Joy and Love...These are timeless words that embody the season, but I can file them away. If I engage these words strategically, they can be heard anew. When we talk about a scandalous love that risks everything on a people who will remain stiffnecked and stubborn or an innebriating joy that puts us 'under the influence' of the God who gives us delight and fulfillment...suddenly the conversation has a little more pungency. We need to use words that artistically tickle ears, while all the while remaining authentic to the message.
2. New Perspectives...Haven't heard the Christmas message from Satan or from King Herod...Jump in the story from different vantage points...Creatively convey the surprise of the shepherds or the regret of the innkeeper. New perspective makes the message un-file-away-able.
3. New Texts...Christmas is conveyed in more places than Luke! Do Christmas from the unique prologue of John 1 or from the Genaeology of Matthew 1. This year we are looking at Christmas through the lens of Isaiah, a prophet 700 years before the incarnation. Love it!
4. New Twists on Old Traditions...We have the lighting of the Advent candles each week leading up to Christmas Eve. I am not saying that this is a meaningless, rote deal. But sometimes repetition leads to staleness. How can you tweak a tradition to make it 'sticky' for the long time attendee and the first time attendee?
5. New Creativity...My conviction is that the Church, with the Presence of the Holy Spirit has no excuse to not be the most creative place on the planet. So dream bigger and dream further out...Guess what! Christmas comes every December...It shouldn't be a crisis of unpreparedness when November ends...Start thinking about Christmas 2011 now.