For 11 months of the year, I love teaching our adult discipleship class. The month of December, however, I’d sometimes like to take a sabbatical.
It isn’t that I don’t love the season of Advent and the message of Christmas, because I do love them. I love them A LOT. What I don’t love is the challenge of taking what’s arguably the most familiar story in Christendom and developing messages that are fresh and interesting.
As I worked on my lesson outlines for the month, researching nuances of Middle Eastern culture and tracking down scholarly tidbits, the words of Paul rang in my head:
Dear brothers and sisters, when I first came to you
I didn’t use lofty words and brilliant ideas to tell you God’s message …
my message and my preaching were very plain.
I did not use wise and persuasive speeches,
but the Holy Spirit was powerful among you.
I did this so that you might trust the power of God
rather than human wisdom.
~1 Corinthians 2:1, 4-5 (nlt)
Paul, brilliant scholar that he was, had a vast knowledge of the ancient texts. He also had spiritual insight and discernment he could’ve used to dazzle the erudite Greeks.
But he felt no need to impress them with persuasive speech and wisdom. He chose instead to deliver a simple message and let the Holy Spirit move.
Paul knew the importance of studying to show yourself an approved workman who’s not ashamed and can rightly divide God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). Research, exegesis and homiletics are all essential in developing a sound biblical message, but those tools should lay a foundation for one purpose:
to allow the Holy Spirit to move.
Sometimes “less is more,” and the beautiful message of the Christmas story needs no “fresh spin” or enhancement:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
~John 1:14 (esv)
May our words be simple and few as we trust the power of God to reveal his glory this Christmas.