I was also keenly aware of the diversity of emotions present on Christmas Eve. Young children, for the most part, were pumped up on adrenaline and Christmas cookies, excited to open their presents. Many people who gathered were filled with thanks to be together as a family, though some family members sat on the edge of resentment because they really didn't want to go to church. For many, Christmas Eve was a time when their longing for absent loved ones was strong. Families were separated by miles, and often by death. I felt a particular tenderness for those who were going through their first Christmas without a beloved parent, grandparent, spouse, or child. They needed to feel God's presence in a special way.
I responded to the challenge of familiarity by seeking to offer mature Christians something new to consider. I did this not by searching for some profound quotation or conjuring up some deep insight of my own. Rather, I labored with particular care over the text from which I was preaching. I yearned to let the Scripture teach me something new, some truth I had missed before, and therefore something I could share with my congregation. Near as I can remember, this happened every single year if I devoted sufficient time to the prayerful, careful interpretation of the text. Thus, every year I was able to preach the same basic good news of Christmas, seasoning it with new insights from Scripture.
Conclusion for Christmas Preachers
If I were to sum up what I'd like to say to one who will be preaching on Christmas, it would go something like this: Pay close attention to the people to whom you'll be preaching, noting especially their diversity as well as the longing of their hearts. But, above all, pay close attention to the Word of God, so that you might preach the good news of Christmas with truth and insight. Then, preach what you have learned with freedom and joy, knowing that the Holy Spirit is present to inspire, teach, convict, save, and transform.