Philipps Brooks, the author of the celebrated Christmas Carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” once wrote that preaching is the communication of truth through personality. The preacher has a personality, a life, and so does every member of the congregation. Each should connect with and inspire the others. With that understanding as background, I offer you a very personal set of Christmas memories, in hopes that they may evoke memories of your own.
Several years before my dad’s death we drove down to eastern North Carolina to attend a family funeral. It was one of the last road trips I made with my dad, just the two of us. We left Winston-Salem a little before lunch, made the drive, attended the funeral, greeted the few family members dad still remembered, and ate a sandwich. Then, as darkness fell, we pointed the car back up the road to Winston-Salem. The road was completely different after dark. On the way down, we drove through one little town that was so plain we hardly noticed it. On the way back, the same little town was resplendent with light, and totally transformed. As I drove, my dad kept up a running commentary on all the color. He commented on elves dressed in red and green, and on Frosty the Snowman, and the reindeer that leapt from corner to corner. He absolutely effused over Santa Claus, whose full-figured likeness dominated the town square. Then, with no warning at all, dad stopped in mid-sentence, and said:
“Wait a minute, Worth! There is no nativity! I have not seen a single angel, shepherd or wiseman, and the Holy Family has been left completely out. It is as if Jesus had never been born! I am afraid that the leaders of this town have lost the true gift of Christmas in the wrappings.”
Then, looking over at me across the darkened automobile, he said, “Worth, that would make a good idea for a sermon,‘Don’t Loose the True Gift of Christmas in the Wrappings!’” Continue reading