The glory of “God with us” shines brightest when lit beneath the things most seemingly God-abandoned.
That is why I love Advent. Advent has the power to turn over the inconceivable to discover the unimaginable. I especially love preaching Advent. No literary work explains my passion for preaching Advent like W.H. Auden’s For the Time Being. A New York Times reporter captured the aim of the great poet in his review:
“[Auden’s] verses undercut grandiloquence with the mundane and the conversational. In ‘For the Time Being’ he brought this gift to the Christmas theme of the Incarnation, God’s taking on the humblest of forms, power and vulnerability fused, the sacredness of the mundane.”— “Beliefs,” By Peter Steinfels (New York Times, Dec. 22, 1990; for the award-winning book-length poem, see For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio” (1942), which can be read in full in W.H. Auden: Collected Poems).
Auden’s insights help me to look for clues to the Incarnation in the most unlikely places. And this is precisely what I want to accomplish for the flock of Jesus before me. I have always felt that those who have grown tired of Christmas are those most in need of the Preacher’s art.
Pastors, it’s time now to begin preparations for Advent and Christmas . . . 2020!
That’s right. Your sermon and service planning should be done with the year before. But it is time, now, for sermon preparation for this year. Remember:
- Sermon Planning is an essential pastoral duty wth a long-term viewer (EE.gg., the coming year, three years, I.e., lectionary selections).
- Sermon Preparation is an essential pastoral duty with a more immediate view (e.g., the coming week).
There is no greater time for you as a pastor:
- To teach the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures in their prophetic accuracy.
- To preach the glory of Christ anticipated in the Old Testament.
- To reach hearts with the compelling Story of stories.
- To preach through the doctrines of Christ’s Person and Work.
- To preach on how common things (livestock, innkeepers, shepherds or laborers, stars, or nobility) become uncommon instruments for bringing Christ to others.
- To preach the reason that Jesus came.
- To preach on His Second Coming.
- Shine this Advent. Shine with joy, love, and an eagerness to bring Jesus Christ to your community in Word—preached, prayed, sung—Sacrament, and Prayer.
There is no time like the time being.
Advent Readings and Lightings: Pastoral Preparations for the Season of Incarnation and Second Coming by Michael A. Milton: https://michaelmilton.org/2016/11/12/advent-readings-and-lighting/
Pick up a copy of “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio” (1942), which can be read in full in W.H. Auden: Collected Poems.
Dr. Milton is the Provost and James Ragsdale Chair of Missions and Evangelism at Erskine Theological Seminary where he also serves as the Director of Chaplain Ministries, and President of the D. James Kennedy Institute of Reformed Leadership.
Milton’s life verse is from Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Jesus Christ.” Or, as Milton puts it in the title of his autobiography, “What God starts, God Completes.”