For Your Christmas Eve/Day Preparation – Danger Close

‘Danger close’ is what a solider radios to the fire control center if he is calling in artillery or an air strike on a position close to friendly troops. One of the items I share below can get a pastor blown up if used ill-advisedly.

First, both Concordia Publishing House and Isaac Asimov agree: Christmas Eve is a real celebration. Lutheran Witness several years – maybe 25 now – had an article comparing Christmas Eve services to going to a baseball park the day before the game. I had been teaching likewise long before that saying, “It’s a made up holiday.”  It’s nice to know that I can be wrong all by myself and ahead of others.

This is what Asimov said in a 1979 book: Jews and early Christians started the day at sunset. Christmas Eve is the first part of Christmas. It was only later that it came to be considered the evening before Christmas (Book of Facts, 376-7). Personally, I think the 1823 ‘Twas the Night before Christmas also played a role. And this is what the CPH book from 2011 says, “In the Near East, where the Christian Church had its origin, days were reckoned from sunset to sunset, with the Sabbath beginning on Friday evening. Other holy days followed the same principle” (Church from Age to Age, 128).

And here is the part that can get you blown up. Augustine said on one Christmas Day that the church was thronged with such crowds that he chose not to waste his time teaching profound doctrinal truths to those who were indifferent to the faith. He only preached an introduction to the real Christmas sermon the following week. He said this in the second sermon: “’You will recall my dear people, that on Christmas morning we postponed the question which we had proposed to solve; because many, even those who find the Word of God burdensome, were with us to celebrate the festivities usual on that day. But now, I suppose, only such have come here as desire to hear a sermon. We are not therefore speaking to hearts that are dead, nor to minds that are bored” (Volz, Pastoral Life and Practice, 135).

I used the above illustration in 1997 and 2003 and lived to tell about it. Danger close.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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