Sermons and the message of Christmas

Judging from the web site traffic from the last blog, sermons are a hot topic. I touched on the issue of what a sermon is and what it’s goal is. Over the past few months as part of my desire to improve as a preacher of God’s Word, I have been sampling and paying attention to sermons in other Christian churches – both in print and on podcasts… In my observations, my concerns that preaching has become a very neglected art in Lutheran churches has just been expanded to include even more of Christendom.

At Christmas time usually there are a few sermons that are reported on by the press. The two that usually get mentioned are the sermons of the Pope and then also the Archbishop of Cantebury (the head bishop of the Anglican Church).

Here is what the Associated Press reported about the Pope’s Christmas sermon:
Pope hopes for a way ‘to a just and lasting peace’

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI marked Christmas with a call for an end to violence and urged people everywhere not to lose sight of their need for God in an age of technological marvels.
Wearing shimmering gold vestments and a golden miter, the pontiff delivered his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” speech — Latin for “to the city and to the world” — from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to a cheering crowd in the sunlit square below.
“With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace,” Benedict said, making a special mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

THAT is what the secular press reports concerning the message of the Pope’s sermon. Missing from that report is, of course, what Christmas is all about: Jesus Christ!

But if you want to take the time to read the whole text, it is actually quite a beautiful and Christ centered sermon. You can read it at: http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061226/LOCAL17/612260326

The other sermon of note by Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is quite another story indeed and reflects everything not so good about the Christian sermon these days. Here is a quote of what the BBC reported concerning the sermon:

Archbishop fears for Middle East

Dr Williams recently returned from the Holy Land
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has given a Christmas Day sermon urging people not to forget the tragedies of the Holy Land.
In an address inspired by a recent visit to the region, he said both Israelis and Palestinians feared being ignored as the world looked elsewhere.

He voiced concern over an “almost total absence” of belief in the region that a political solution can be found.

The archbishop delivered his sermon at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.

He said he was inspired by a medical director in Bethlehem – the West Bank town where Christians believe Jesus was born – who told him: “The poorest deserve the best”.

That slogan was underlined by the Christmas message, he said…..

Notice again that the main message of Jesus Christ is completely missed in the report. But unlike the Pope, if you actually read the text of the sermon, you find that the BBC report was correct! The message of Christ and his salvation through the forgiveness of sins is almost completely absent from his sermon. Instead it was basically a standard speech on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict that any politician could have given. You can read the “sermon” in its (short) entirety here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6208653.stm

What is the purpose of a sermon? To bring into focus Jesus Christ for our lives through the preaching of the LAW (that which in the scripture show us our sin and the demands of God) and the GOSPEL (that which in the scripture shows us the salvation won for us by Christ.)

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