Coming Up With Something New to Say at Christmas
At this time of year, preachers the world over are faced with the daunting task of finding something new to say about Christmas. The details of Christ's birth are repeated in Christmas story-books, television specials, and Peanuts cartoons, so everyone in your congregation—even that guy who can only be expected to show up again next Easter—is at least somewhat familiar with the story. It's true that a preacher might focus on exploring the poetic paradoxes and profound implications of the incarnation, but how can he say anything that hasn't already been given eloquent expression in some Christmas carol?
One way to get a fresh perspective on the Christmas story is not to look for novel interpretations, but to look back to the perspectives of past interpreters. It may be true that there is "nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9), but the astute preacher can draw on ancient perspectives which have all but been forgotten by modern students of the Bible.
IVP's Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) can provide just this kind of help. Look up different parts of the Christmas story and you'll find various church fathers offering ancient perspectives on the text which can be surprisingly fresh and relevant. For example, Origen reflects on the angels' message to the shepherds that "a Savior is born for you," by pointing out how the church's "shepherds" (that is, its pastors and overseers) must depend on the "good Shepherd" who was born for them. The Venerable Bede hones in on the fact that the angels said, "born today" rather than born "this night." He then reflects on how Christ's birth signified the inbreaking of eternal day into a fallen world of darkness. Augustine, who seems to have a penchant for paradox, contrasts the eternal generation of the Son by the Father with his temporal birth by a virgin mother. Those are just three of the many interesting perspectives on this one passage. The ACCS offers just as many interesting perspectives on the other Christmas passages (as well as the Bible as a whole), so that the harried preacher who needs a jolt of inspiration will find plenty and to spare.
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