Lee Eclov tells this story: “People came early one Christmas Eve for the 11:00 pm service at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, in New York City. Among them was a recovering alcoholic, six months sober, who slipped into the eleventh row. This was his first Christmas since having lost his family. A family of four sat down two rows in front of him. Seeing them together was crushing. He decided he couldn’t handle it — he had to have a drink.

As he moved from the sanctuary to the narthex, he ran into Pastor Thomas Tewell. ‘Jim, where are you going?’ the pastor asked. ‘Oh, I’m just going out for a Scotch,’ Jim replied. ‘Jim, you can’t do that,’ the pastor responded. He knew that Jim was a recovering alcoholic. ‘Is your sponsor available?’ Jim replied, ‘It’s Christmas Eve. My sponsor is in Minnesota. There’s nobody who can help me. I just came tonight for a word of hope, and I ended up sitting behind this family. If I had my life together, I’d be here with my wife and kids too.’

Pastor Tewell took Jim into the vestry to talk with a couple of other pastors. Then he slipped into the auditorium, having no idea what to do. He whispered a prayer: ‘O God, could you give me a word of hope for Jim?’ He welcomed everyone and made a few announcements. Then he said, ‘I have one final announcement. If anyone here tonight is a friend of Bill Wilson — and if you are, you’ll know it — could you step out for a moment and meet me in the vestry?’ Bill Wilson, better known as Bill W., was a cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous. From all over the sanctuary, women, men, and college students arose and made their way out.

‘And there while I was preaching in the sanctuary about incarnation,’ said Pastor Tewell, ‘the Word was becoming flesh in the vestry. Someone was experiencing hope.’” Jim experienced the friendship of Jesus Christ through the people who had been touched by him and in whom he lived.”

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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