2018-19 RCL-C Christmas Eve
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Christmas Eve: December 24, 2018 • Gospel Text: Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
It’s not even 2019 yet, but we are already gearing up for the United States 2020 Census. Of note, “the goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone once, only once and in the right place.” Sound familiar? It should, as the first census while Quirinius was governor of Syria sought to register the whole world, each in their own towns. The fact of the census, connecting it to the birth of Jesus, accentuates a goal of Luke’s—to tell the gospel of Jesus “in the right place” historically.
Of note, Christmas Eve is one of the moments in our liturgical life when the preacher does best to treat the text as if no one has ever heard it before, all the while knowing most everyone has heard it before. Luke 2’s familiar rhythms can lull listeners into rote complacency, but the best exit from this complacency is not the introduction of additional stories or anecdotes, or a strange surprise perspective on the text, but rather to look right back at it and present it in all its glory.
This text is especially ripe for such a treatment, because it is so perfectly staged. It is as if it is written to be performed (and really, much of Luke-Acts is similarly ready for performance).
The stage is set, Nazareth, at the the census.
Mary is with him.
The baby is born.
In a manger.
Elsewhere, there are shepherds.
An angel appears!
The angel has a speaking part!
Reminder: The baby is born!
Enter a chorus.
All of this is staged in order for the entire community gathering around the story to experience two things: the glory of God, and peace. And it’s one of the rare moments (good art does this) where the presentation of the story accomplishes the very thing it’s for. In order to amplify the glory and the peace, preachers on this night might do nothing more than read over and over again the story and ponder how it introduces glory and peace in their own lives, and then let the re-telling of it allow that glory and peace to shine through.
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Historical Exegetical Resources
Homilies on Luke. Origen. (Cited from muse.jhu.edu.)
From the Geneva Notes. "Whole armies of angels, who compass the majesty of God round about, just as soldiers, as it were."
A Good Read
Casting Crowns "A Christmas Offering"
Free RCL Daily Devotional Calendar
More Reading For You
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Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator, Angel, [Shepherd]
Narrator: In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,
Angel: Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.
Narrator: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
Angel: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!
[Narrator: When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
Shepherd: Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.
Narrator: So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]