Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Watered-Down Christmas Eve Sermons

It's that time of year again when millions of Christians and non-Christians flock to Christmas Eve services around the world.  Some come to celebrate Jesus' incarnation.  Some come to maintain a veneer of religiosity.  Others are simply there to appease their "fundamentalist" family members who actually think that Christmas is more than a mere holiday.
Whatever the reason for attendance, it is obvious that these services are filled to capacity.  Not all, but some CEO/Pastors seize this opportunity not to preach the fullness of the Gospel, but to fill the seats for the coming year.  They do this by making the Gospel more palatable to non-regenerate ears, by watering it down.  It must be said that there is nothing wrong with contextualizing a message to better communicate a point.  After all, it would be prudent to take advantage of an event with large attendance.  But this must not be done in a way that distorts the message of the Gospel.  For instance, it is okay to preach that Jesus brings peace with God.  But the statement "peace with God" assumes something.  It assumes that until the knee is bowed to Christ, one is at enmity with God.  There is something in the way between man and God and that something is sin.  To preach only part of the Gospel, and leave out this all-important fact does a disservice to the people of God, and to those who need to hear the Gospel.
Someone might respond "we are just trying to get them to come back so they can hear deeper teaching."  However, someone said "what you win them with, is what you win them to."  Is it not dishonest to preach a certain way all year long, only to change for Christmas and Easter?  Is not the intention to make it seem like the Christmas Eve service characterizes all the services? When the non-believer comes back, he doesn't get the same message, he gets something he didn't sign up for.  Why not preach the fullness of the Gospel in the first place?  That includes sin and judgment as well as peace with God.  Paul said in Romans 2:16, "on that day, according to my Gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (English Standard Version).  The Gospel is emptied of its meaning if what one is saved from is not even mentioned.
Watered-down Christmas Eve sermons distort the message of the Gospel.  The people of God leave these services with stomach pangs, and non-believers leave more comfortable than ever.  If the non-believer can sit through the sermon - all nice and cozy - there is a problem.