Worst Christmas sermon. Ever.
The worst Christmas sermon I ever heard was a brilliant piece of oratory.
It was a stinking hot Christmas Eve at Tammworth. This old church (which will remain nameless) was packed beyond the rafters - the aisles were filled with kids and a crowd spilled out into the grounds where a creaky P.A. was set up.
Town and country were there. Many were overdressed for the event and seemed ill at ease in a church. Kids fuelled by Christmas lollies, the visit of cousins, and the prospect of presents tore around the dusty car park. The number and state of Akubras spoke to the many farmers who were there.
There were the predictable but heartily sung Christmas carols and a cheesy kids spot with props that failed. The preacher didn't get up till half an hour in and the stifling heat meant he already faced a wilting congregation. It was clear this was going to be the one shot he'd have with many of the congregation there that day.
He was brilliant. Warm, welcoming, and only about seven minutes. Funny, self deprecating, thoughtful without being highbrow. His words were sharp and to the point. His message stuck with us all: 'the shepherds came in from their work in the fields to see the glory of the little baby Jesus. They then returned to the fields. You too have come in from your work in the fields to see the glory of the little baby Jesus. You too need to return to your fields.' He may or may not have actually said the words 'well done, see you next Christmas' but that was certainly the gist of where he went.
It was awful. Here was someone really nice giving a nice message to nice people. He clearly knew how to connect really really well with us. Our take home message? Being Christian is about doing the religious thing once a year where we think about Jesus as a little baby, but real life is out in the fields and away from the church. Be good, be back next Christmas, all will be well.
I think the memory of it riles me up because each year I feel the temptation to preach just as he did. I want to find ways to justify it for myself - 'you can't say everything every year so just say a little', 'if you challenge nominalism then you will only drive people further away', 'shouldn't we be positive wherever we can', 'people need to belong before they can believe so just shoot for a positive community event.' But these temptations are just that - and they would take us away from the kind of announcement that the Shepherds made that very first Christmas. A saviour has been born. He is the Lord. He saves from real sin. He demands real obedience. That's a message worth telling well.Feature photo: Tyrone Warner