Monday, December 18, 2006

Third Time Through

Believe it or not, I've been thinking about Lent and Easter this week. Yes, I know Christmas Eve is on Sunday. Yes, I know it's not 2007 yet.

Preaching has really been a struggle this season. The familiar themes of Advent are so familiar to me that I've already talked about them twice. How do I present them in new, creative, refreshing ways? Again?

I freaking love the purple seasons. I usually find them to be so stimulating. This Advent, I just haven't felt like I've found my groove.

It'll get easier from here on out...Sunday morning I become Joseph's advocate and talk about his important yet largely forgotten role in the popular rendering of the Christmas story. Matthew doesn't forget him, I say, but everyone else has. We don't sing "Joseph Did You Know?" (I'd actually prefer not to sing the original version either...that and "Breath of Heaven"...they complete the Unholy Trinity with "Feliz Navidad") Half our Christmas carols talk about the shepherds and angels and if they mention the family it's just that...a mention. So that'll be fun. And then my Christmas Eve reflection (which is already written, Ithankyou) has Schleiermacher and Jimmy Buffet in it. Oh yeah, it's possible.

So why am I thinking about Lent and Easter? Well, I'm worried that I'm going to run into the same creative wall. It'll be my third time through, and I wonder if I'll have to struggle through it the way I have this Advent season.

The struggle has come with mixed results. Yesterday's sermon felt like it couldn't have been more than seven minutes long, although the message wound up being pretty decent. We have a nativity scene on our altar, just below the regular feature of our chancel: a large metal cross. So I talked about this incidental placement. Still, it took every free moment last week to come up with that and write it all out. The week before that I talked for what felt like 25 minutes about what Blue Christmas means. I just don't think that my third time has gone very smoothly so far.

I dunno...maybe I'm focused on the struggle more than the result. I'll watch Mrs. Jeff paint over what I thought was a good colorful rendering--two or three times, no less--before she's satisfied. And, of course, the finished result is taken in by those around her with admiration. I still get plenty of "Good sermon, pastor"s when I think I've just dropped a turd, and it's because they heard something that I didn't...or they're being nice. But I'll go with "heard something that I didn't." The Holy Spirit does that sort of thing.

So maybe I should hold off on fretting about my third time through. And maybe it hasn't little to do with my third time through anyway. Maybe I've just had to work harder or listen better or be more patient with the process.