A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is
greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:24-27
In my limited experience of writing sermons, I have really enjoyed the process of studying and thinking about the message I want to communicate to the congregation. Inspiration comes from many different sources. I often realize that what I am writing is just as much for myself as for a person in the pews. I hear the difficult words that come with a gospel text. And the weight can be overwhelming. I’m supposed to get up in front and to talk about the reading while struggling to actually live out the message in my own life.
One clear example was when I read Luke’s account of the Last Supper. (This comes right before Christ’s crucifixion, which I preached on for Christ the King Sunday.) At this meal, Christ begins a new covenant. He tells the disciples to be servants of all. Then Jesus models how he wants us to be servants of all as he lays down his life for all people on the cross.
As I read through this passage, I was struck by how powerless I felt. Powerless to be a servant like Jesus would want. Powerless to effectively live out what I was just about to preach. Every sermon I give is preached knowing I fall very short of the very words that I am charged to bring. This is also why I write the sermon for myself. But I am also called to proclaim the grace that has come precisely because we aren’t able to practice what we preach. The message of grace says that we can’t do this on our own and we need help! This is why we bring every sermon back to the greater message of the cross and what Jesus has already done for us. This is also what Advent is saying to us: Jesus has come (Advent means “the arrival”) in the flesh for our sake because we have failed at living as Christ would.
In our powerlessness, Emmanuel has become like us in order to save us and to redeem the world. God took on the messiness of humanity in order to save it. If we could have done this on our own we wouldn’t have needed Christ. But we couldn’t and we can’t. Our message of hope is not in what we can do but in what God has done for us.
This is what Advent is all about. This is where our Advent journey will take us, but it’s not where we will stop. The grace we have received propels us forward to practice and preach grace into a world that needs God desperately. So as you celebrate the Christmas season by decorating a tree, buying presents and putting up Christmas lights, make sure to return to the promises that we hear this season: That Christ has come to us and practiced what he preached for us.
Intern Pastor Jake Schumacher