In August, as I began to contemplate what I would preach for Christmas, I got an idea. Like the Grinch, it may have been ‘a wonderful, awful’ idea, but it’s about to bear fruit. For years I’ve wanted to write a novel in which I fictionalize some of the fascinating people and stories I’ve been involved with in ministry. For a long time I thought to set these stories in a Huguenot church in France (in the late 1500’s). But I was daunted by the amount of research that would have had to be done to make that setting realistic.
The idea I got in August had two parts. First, to move this church and its people to early World War II England, a setting that I have gotten very familiar with through reading lots of history and historical novels. Second, to use a series of stories from this setting to illustrate and apply the ‘I Am’ passages of the Gospel of John – and to include them in this year’s Christmas series. The underlying thought was that I would never get the stories, or the novel, written without some kind of deadline and pressure. But if I included them in a Christmas series I would be able to give them some of my series prep time.
And, somewhat painfully, that has worked. I took part of a week in October to start, and a few more days in November when Jim Dutton preached. I’ve been tucking the rest of the writing in around the edges. The stories have been shaped by both the ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John, and by the prolog to that Gospel, where John says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” In fact the working title of the book is ‘His Dwelling Among Us” and I hope to communicate the elusive truth that Jesus is really involved with his people on a day to day basis.
So this week we will start a series that will be quite a change from our regular church services. We will open each week with worship, and then we’ll have an extended Scripture reading, 12-15 minutes during which I will not only read that week’s text, but give a brief exposition of its meaning. Then, during the time normally devoted to the message, I will share one of the stories that illustrates and applies the truth of the text, not only to the lives of people in England, but hopefully to our lives as well.
I would appreciate your prayers for this process, which is way more complicated than a normal preaching series, especially when you factor in two communion Sundays and a Cantata. Please pray that all the pieces would come together, that the stories themselves would be good and that the interconnection of Scripture texts, stories and worship would fit.