By Scott Keith –
Merry Christmas! “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) He is the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us; God who redeems us, God who delivers us, God who frees us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He was born, died, and rose thirty years later, and still works in us daily to kill, make alive, and set us free. That is a merry Christmas message!
When you get up to preach this Christmas Eve and Morn, please remember that there is a difference between preaching about Christ and preaching Christ. Under the category of preaching about Christ, you will preach a history or biography of Mary, Joseph, and the babe as he is laid in a manger. Under the category of preaching about Christ, your congregation will be told that this story shows the importance of charity and kindness. Under the category of preaching about Christ, they will learn that this baby grew to be a good man. If they follow His precepts, He may help them become a better, kinder person. Under the category of preaching about Christ, I may even hear that this babe would one day die to take away the sins of the world. This is sometimes referred to as second order proclamation, and, unfortunately, it is what I expect to hear at Christmas.
On the other hand, when Christ is preached, sins are forgiven; my sins are forgiven, directly. This is in turn sometimes referred to as first order proclamation. First order proclamation occurs when the preacher proclaims Christ not as a paragon of historical virtue, but as my savior because He is God incarnate then and God now. He is the God that loves and forgives this Christmas season, this day, on account of the great mercy He has shown and is showing on me. At Christmas, we celebrate the incarnation of our Savior. He is the Christ, and through you the preacher, He reaches His hands out to the congregation and places them on my head proclaiming that my sins are forgiven in Him. This is Christmas proclamation; that is the celebration of the Christ. This proclamation is personal, and it brings every individual person and me in the congregation forgiveness and salvation. It is the Gospel! Not just some good news but the good news that Christ came to save sinners among whom I am the chief.
God delivers salvation to me this Christmas season on the lips of another. When the preacher preaches Christ, an explosion of faith occurs. That Explosion is Christ Himself coming to me in that Gospel and changing the reality of the world: my world. At Christmas we are told that our world is changed because all that is old, dirty, rotten, decaying, and corroded in me is made new when the Messiah is brought to me personally forgiving through the preaching of the Gospel that is Christ. This is what it means to hand over the goods.
Preach Christ, not about Christ this Christmas season. It is the difference between a history lesson about a baby and his parents, which may contain the details of the Gospel message, and handing over the Messiah to me. Remember it is now you who proclaims: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”