A sermon preached on Christmas Eve, 2016 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Pawtucket, RI. The Gospel text was Luke 2:1-20.
Please hear “Harry Emerson Fosdick” every time I said “Henry Emerson Fosdick.” Oops. Facepalm. Even as I said it, I sensed it was wrong, but I had lost my place in my notes so couldn’t gracefully check.
In the sermon I paraphrase at length a sermon about the Emperor. My source is here, a sermon titled “Pax Romana, Pax Christi” by James T. Dennison Jr.published in December 1987 in Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary.
My source for Fosdick having originally set his hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” to Regent Square rather than Cwm Rhondda is here.
Not every sermon is the perfect fit for the congregation in which you preach it. This one got decidedly mixed reviews from those in the congregation at Good Shepherd, who were the typical Christmas Eve mix of regular attenders and special-occasion-only folks. Some really liked it; others didn’t. I can think of other congregations where I’ve served or worshiped where it would have been a perfect fit, but maybe not in Pawtucket. And it’s very long by Episcopal standards, if not Presbyterian ones! (Though we still finished the service in just a few minutes past an hour, even with lighting everyone’s candles and singing Silent Night, etc., so ….)
But even though I had some reservations about the sermon going into the pulpit I found it was the only sermon I could preach with integrity on December 24, 2016. In hindsight, maybe reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Advent and Christmas sermons from the 1930s wasn’t the best way to prepare to preach a well-received Christmas Eve sermon? But listening to it now, a few weeks later, I stand by it, though I can see why it wasn’t what most Good Shepherd folks expected for a Christmas Eve sermon.
But then, little about 2016 is what anyone expected.