It can be agonizing — planning your “special” Christmas sermon. Some people are expecting a feel good bit of “ho-ho” sermonizing. Others are expecting a humdinger of a sermon “because all the unsaved people are visiting!” Some people are just anxious to fight the crowds at the mall to finish up their procrastinated Christmas shopping. And some people are truly yearning to meditate upon the incarnation of Christ.
You? You’re just tired from the late-night cantata rehearsal, sick of the commercialization, and just want to stick it to Santa Claus one last time this year. Your Christmas sermon is pretty important. The humdinger crowd is right — a lot of people are sitting in your pews that day that won’t be in a church the other 51 Sundays of the year. Christmas only comes once a year, and that whole incarnation thing — yeah, that’s pretty important to the Christian faith.
Not to make your holiday headache worse, but we have a list of five tips that might help to fend off the frustration as you prep your Christmas sermon.
5 Tips for Preparing for Your Christmas Sermon
1. Say something.
There’s a temptation to make Christmas kind of like a preaching vacation. You may be thinking, howsabout we just do the cantata and all go home? Or maybe a Christmas play? Let the preacher off the hook just once? Nice try.
You deserve a vacation, but that’s a subject for another article. The point here is that you have an opportunity — quite a good one — to say some very important things at a very important time. Don’t miss this opportunity. Say something.
2. Make it about Jesus.
This isn’t about parrotting the “Jesus is the reason for the season” reductionism at the end of your sermon. Everyone listening to your sermon has at least five greeting cards on their mantelpiece that say the same thing. It’s true — Jesus is the reason for the season. Now, explain it!
I’ve heard fastidious lectures on the “Five Purposes of the Incarnation” in place of a Christmas sermon — but some of these sermons totally miss the person of Jesus! Yes, the incarnation is a critical theological truth, but it is not a sterile subject to be examined. It is a personal reality to be enjoyed!
This Christmas, preach Jesus! He is everything. He is life. He is joy. He is hope. He is love. That’s what we need most! Now proclaim it!
3. Give the gospel.
At it’s core, Christmas is about the gospel. You will miss the entire point of Christmas if you don’t explain why Jesus came to earth. Don’t leave Jesus in the manger. Bring your sermon to the glorious climax of his death and resurrection — and the eternal difference that this makes in the lives of those who accept his gift of salvation.
Giving the gospel is the best thing you can ever give on Christmas.
Give hope. Give truth. Give Jesus. Give the gospel.
4. Do something different.
One of the ways to make your Christmas sermon memorable is to do something out of the ordinary. I understand that there are some preachers who live and die by the “sermon series” — the unbroken exposition of the books of the Bible, verse by verse, line by line. precept by precept.
That’s good. Now, take a break from it for Christmas, and do something different. That simple act of breaking your routine makes the occasion a bit more special. Then, go a step beyond and do something different. Here are some examples:
If you’re usually a three-points-and-a-poem kind of preacher, try a storytelling (narrative) approach.
If you’ve never used a short video in your sermon, give it a try.
If you are in the custom of 50-minute sermons, try a 15-minute one for Christmas.
Use an object lesson — a real manger, a replica of a Roman cross, etc. Just be careful with the camels.
Explain tradition. There is a rich Christian tradition that has come to characterize some believers’ celebration of the Christmas holiday. If your church doesn’t typically celebrate such traditions, you may want to try it. Use an Advent wreath during your Christmas sermon, or explain the significance of a Jesse tree.
The point is, make it memorable by making it different.
5. Plan way ahead.
Your Christmas sermon can serve as the pinnacle of a year of preaching — the high point. But you’ve got to plan for it.
I suggest that you plan now — several weeks away — what you’re going to say. Not some vague “Christmas sermon” penciled into your preaching calendar, but rather a detailed explanation of everything you’re going to say or do in that sermon. The better prepared you are for this significant Sunday, the bigger impact it will have. The longer you mull over the truth of your sermon, the deeper an impression it will make in your own heart.
Don’t reuse last Christmas’s sermon. Don’t plan to say “Well, here we are again…Christmas comes around every year.” Instead, plan a fresh approach with a burst of creativity, insight, and joy about the Messiah who has come in the flesh, to bring redemption and hope!
Tell us, what are your plans for the Christmas sermon?