By Jim Tune
In his excellent book simply titled Preaching, Tim Keller commits an entire chapter to the notion and need for preachers to preach Christ to the heart.
“Preaching,” according to Keller, “cannot simply be accurate and sound. It must capture the listeners’ interest and imaginations; it must be compelling and penetrate to their hearts. It is possible merely to assert and confront and feel we have been very ‘valiant for truth,’ but if you are dry or tedious, people will not repent and believe the right doctrine you present.”
Arguing that we should preach “wondrously,” Keller contends that there are “indelible, deep longings in the human heart that realistic fiction cannot satisfy.”
The Christmas story, although true, satisfies those longings. Christmas, in its sacred beauty, bypasses my head and settles more comfortably in my heart. Christmas will always be a “heart thing” for me. I think that’s true for many Christians. Even among the most nontraditional churches a person might comment, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without ‘O Holy Night.’” We even welcome biblically incorrect portrayals of the nativity scene, replete with magi at the manger’s side, even though at his birth they were only just then witnessing Jesus’ cosmic calling card in distant eastern skies. It’s a heart thing.
Christmas quite simply is more than wonderful. It’s a true wonder. How can the eternal be born? How can omnipotence grow? How can omniscience learn?
The incarnation is so sacred, so transcendent, and so otherworldly we will never fully comprehend it. I just can’t get my head around it. Even John, the apostle of apocalyptic vigor and psychedelic visions, labors for words in the prologue to his Gospel proclaiming “the Word became flesh.” Ultimately it comes down to this: Jesus is the full revelation of God. Jesus is the eternal Word of God made human flesh.
In 1995 Joan Osborne recorded the hit song “One of Us.” A secular chart-topper, the song offers a serious meditation on what it would be like if God was one of us. It ponders a picture of God as a stranger, riding on a bus, blending into the crowd, and the implications of believing in a God who became so utterly human that he could be overlooked and ignored. What if God was one of us? What a fantastic question! As Christians, we confess that God has become one of us—this is the wonder of the incarnation.
This month we will bustle off to shopping centers and holiday parties as the strains of a familiar hymn fill the air. “O come let us adore him,” we sing. Sing it heartily. Meditate on the mystery. Have a wonderful Christmas and a full, filled-to-bursting heart!