Tumbling in the Sand
Christmas morning—thanks to inspiration from Nadia Bolz-Weber, the House For All Sinners and Saints, and Clayfire, as well as the texts themselves: “The Word became flesh…”—I didn’t preach a traditional sermon. Instead, I introduced the Gospel by restating exactly that quote from the gospel and then reflected that it seemed to me that the best way to preach about that was to show it, not to speak about it. I mean, wouldn’t speaking about the Word become Flesh involve putting the flesh back into words?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a very embodied theology of preaching—which includes some thinking about how the very sound of the words spoken resonate through the body of the preacher and the congregation and that resonation amongst different people in different places actually makes meaning, transforms meaning, recreates meaning … but sometimes, maybe using other mediums to “speak” can give new meaning and new insight.
So, instead of preaching, I set up twelve stations, in a similar spirit to the stations of the cross, that I named (so that I could have some way to talk about this) “Reflections of the Manger.” Each station had a title and then pictures depicting the scene: a few pictures that were more “traditional” looking and a few more modern reflections of the scene. At many of the stations were candles. At the Magi’s station, there were incense sticks of myrrh and frankincense for people to smell (and to take if they liked). People were asked to reflect on the images around the space and to take some time to respond by composing prayers that we read for “the prayers of the people.” The prayers were beautiful. The stations are pictured in the slideshow below, with a few of the more striking images highlighted.
I really liked this exercise, as did those who came to worship that day. It was so nice to be able to interact with the text and each other surrounded by images that captured us in new ways. I especially loved the way that the prayers gave room for reflective response to everyone—empowering them to lift up what struck them or what was already on their minds.
I think we will be doing this again.