Preaching at Christmas

I haven't posted anything for a while due to the Christmas rush. I wanted to put something up in response to an article by my diocesan bishop in the Church Times. There are good things in the article, but his comment about not preaching at carol services is pretty disappointing.

Ian Paul has written a good response I think. I have written to the Church Times as follows:

Sir,

I was surprised and disappointed to see my Diocesan Bishop encouraging clergy not to preach at carol services (O come, all ye (occasionally) faithful). I would suggest there are a number of good reasons to preach. First, the biblical accounts contain regular explanation - whether in the messages from the angels or the references to the Old Testament. This suggests God intends the Christmas stories to be explained. Second, because we live in a culture which increasingly does not know or understand the Bible, we cannot simply read the story and hope people will understand. Third, the purpose of having preachers and teachers in the church is both to proclaim the good news to people and to explain it to them, which is why, for example, proclamation and teaching are an integral part of the ordinal. Finally, where I minister, what people need most at Christmas is not a candle or a choir (although they might enjoy those things). People need the good news of great joy so that they can experience that joy for themselves. What a shame if we were to miss the opportunity to explain that to them on the occasion when they have come to church.

I'm not sure of the reason for suggesting we do not preach - the article does not elaborate. Perhaps we lack confidence in the good news itself, which suggests some rather serious problems with our faith. Perhaps we lack confidence in the clergy to preach the good news in a meaningful way, which leaves us with some serious questions about our clergy. Perhaps we doubt our visitors' ability to listen to good news, and yet they have come to church looking for something. It seems unlikely to me that, in these days of decline, the missional way forward is to disobey the command to "Preach the word" (2 Timothy 4:2) - especially at Christmas.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Watkinson

Let me take this opportunity to wish you a happy Christmas.

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