I once remarked to somebody that I am not a natural writer and that I often find it difficult to think of something new to write for church newsletters and magazines. Their reply was well why not use one you’ve done before, probably no one will notice even if one or two things do seem vaguely familiar. I have to admit that is very tempting. I do keep many of the articles I have written, it helps me not to repeat what I wrote the previous year, and I do occasionally use bits of them again, although on the whole I try to keep it fresh and use anything I repeat in a new way or a new context
It reminded me however of the joke about the new vicar of a large church preaching his first sermon there. It was a brilliant sermon, well thought out and delivered, very much to the point, with good illustrations, and just the right length. Everyone congratulated him on it and said how much they were looking forward to the service next week. Next week came and it was another good sermon, although some people thought it sounded vaguely familiar. The following week many more people were sure they’d heard it somewhere before and by the fourth week most of them realised they’d had the same sermon each week since the new vicar came. Each week the vicar preached the same sermon until finally one of the church wardens was given the unenviable task of tackling the vicar about it. The warden went to the vicar and said, ‘We’ve appreciated your sermon very much, it’s a good sermon and we really like it but could we ask you when you are going to preach a new one?’ the vicar replied, ‘I’ll preach a new sermon when you’ve acted on the things in this one!’
Jesus himself was not averse to repeats. Most of the time he was probably speaking to relatively small groups of people rather than the 5000 gathered on the hillside overlooking Lake Galilee. He didn’t have a newsletter or pamphlets to spread his word to those who couldn’t be there to hear him in person or to summarize in bullet points for those who had been there. He probably told the same stories in different places to different audiences many times over. The Gospels were not written down until many years later after the stories had been circulating for some time by word of mouth. Reading the Gospels we often come across the same, or very similar, stories told at a different time or place with a slightly different emphasis to suit the audience. It may even be that some people who followed Jesus from place to place had their favourite stories which they wanted to hear over and over again.
We will soon be telling one of the best stories again ourselves, a story that has been told for over 2000 years, a story of God coming to earth as a human baby. It’s a story that can’t be told too often. And even if we think that Christmas in the secular world begins far too early with shops stocking Christmas items and TV adverts appearing from the beginning of November, if not sooner, in the Church too we have to start early to be ready to spread the true message of Christmas. A few years ago a popular church advertising campaign ran the message ‘Christmas begins with Christ’. For God the Christmas preparations began with creation. John’s gospel tells us ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God…’ and goes on to identify ‘the word’ as Jesus Christ. So it is not only Christmas that begins with Christ, but the whole of creation. As we get caught up in our Christmas preparations let us not lose sight of all that God put into making Christmas and celebrate his love and incredible gift to humankind.
As we enter the season of Advent now is an especially good time to talk about God, his love for us shown in his son, Jesus Christ, and our own faith in him. The Good News of Jesus Christ is always worth repeating.
May you have a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year, Janet.