Chapter 3

Play it Again

How and why I abandoned creativity in my Advent preaching.

In Stephen King's novel 11.22.63, Jack Epping, living in 2011, finds a wormhole into 1958. He uses it, eventually, to try to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination of JFK, which means staying around in his alternate universe for over five years. But before he ventures that, he slips in and out of the past and the present. He can spend months, even years, in the past and, returning, find only two minutes has elapsed in the present. But every time he steps from the present back into the past, he always starts at the same moment of the same day: 11:58 AM on September 8, 1958.

After I had been in pastoral ministry for about a decade, Advent started to feel that way to me: stepping into a past I'd already lived through multiple times. It was a time-warp, a Deja-vu, my Groundhog Day. Here we were again, treading ground already much-trodden—singing the same carols, reading the same texts, preaching the same story, probing the same themes, drawing out the same lessons: wise ...

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