Skeptical Christmas Overview and Thanks
Personally, I could not have asked for a better Christmas here at church. Our three services were in numerous ways, full of meaning. Moreover, we were able to celebrate Christmas as one big family. Even more, since we titled this a Skeptical Christmas, I was happy to meet and hear of skeptics joining our ranks through the Christmas weekend. Finally, we were able to serve nearly 400 people in our three services this weekend. As a point of comparison, this is a lot more than last year. We can be grateful to God.
Church needs to be a place of growth. John Wesley once said “The world is my parish.” His point was that the world is who he is called to serve. Therefore, having a “skeptical Christmas” can be seen as part of a larger evangelization project. It can also be seen as a larger project to challenge our thinking and develop our faith. Giving non-believers a chance to come and chat after the service or doing question and answer days, or even having messages tailored to get the mind thinking, are all beneficial for humanity in general.
Now…on to two quick corrections and then a word of thanks.
My morning message I did what is all too common among preachers, and that is a little ‘over reach.’ Many preachers over reach in their positions to make their case seem stronger. Frankly I do not like this, but for my more ‘point by point’ messages, rather than word for word, it can happen.
And, even though I try to avoid this, I made two missteps in my morning Christmas message. At one point I implied, although it was not my intent, that the Virgin Birth had documentation in all four Gospels. My point was a generic one about Gospel consistency in general, but since I was talking about the Virgin Birth, it seems like I was saying that all four Gospels are accurate on the Virgin Birth. This is clearly false. Matthew and Luke have the focus on the virginal conception, but Mark and John do not.
The second point that I should have been clear on, was when I was weighing in to Joseph being Jesus’ dad. At one point I used the word “never” to say that never was Joseph referred to as his father. My larger point was that sometimes Jesus is referred to as the child of Mary and not Joseph, which was an insult in those days. I never should have used the word “never” because clearly there are instances where Joseph is referred to as Jesus’ earthly father in the narratives. Albeit, in the context that he took Jesus as his son, not that this was his son by biology.
At some level, especially on a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas morning, these things are certainly not large matters, because my points, or where I was going with the message stays the same. If someone leaves with the point, which is likely the case, then communication was clear enough. However, my reason for writing about these two missteps, is that the Church needs to always be cautious on stating their case in too certain terms.
I have never had an issue with the slight differences in the Gospels, because I have understood the kinds of early documentation methods and rhetorical differences between the authors. But sometimes, people build their faith on the supposedly “absolute” certain pronouncements of a given preacher. Then, as someone gets older or they learn more and realize that there is some “give room” on interpretation, their faith ends up hurt at some level.
It is important for our churches to be places of intellectual honesty. Honesty matters both for the believer who is building their faith, but also for the non-believer who is examining the faith.
Now, let me take the time to thank everyone who was able to help out throughout the Christmas season. This includes those who were just able to come to the services or bring family and friends. This includes ushering, prepping and passing out candles. This includes all the wonderful music from our worship teams and instrumentalists and sound and video. Let’s not forget about all of the cleaning, decorating, drama writing and practicing, and office volunteering that went into this special weekend. We should not forget all of the set up and take down of chairs and more.
In a real way, this service has been being mentally planned for the last 12 months. In a practical way this service has been in the works the last two or so months. I just want to say thank you to everyone for being there, serving, and worshiping our great God on the day of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Merry Christmas and thanks for making this year’s services meaningful!