We get a lot of visitors at our annual Christmas Eve service. Do you have any advice on how to preach to a room of people who only go to church once or twice a year?
For many churches, Christmas is a great opportunity to present the gospel to a lot of new people, and I encourage you to take full advantage.
At the same time, having preached the Christmas story nearly every year for about 16 years now, I know it can be difficult to keep the content new and fresh when you’re teaching some of the most familiar stories in the Bible. Here are a few different approaches you could take:
1. Compare and contrast
Take a look at the beginning of Matthew, Luke, and John. Each offers a unique account of the incarnation of Jesus.
2. Play the songs
3. Honor the women
Mary and Elizabeth are both central characters in the story of Jesus’ birth, and some of the most godly examples in Scripture.
4. Read the phonebook
5. Open the Old Testament
For thousands of years leading up to Jesus’ birth, God made numerous promises that are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. Christmas is a great opportunity to celebrate his faithfulness and the truthfulness of his Word.
6. Spotlight the characters
The birth narratives of Jesus are filled with an interesting cast of characters: Mary, Joseph, the wise men, Herod, Zechariah, Elizabeth, etc. Each responds to Jesus in a different way, which is a great way to contextualize the message for listeners today.
7. Learn from others
Christmas sermons and writings from other great Bible teachers can also provide new insights and ideas. I’ve included a few links at the end of this post.
Whatever you preach, remember that Christmas is about Jesus, and the story continues beyond the manger. This may seem obvious, but it cannot be overstated. Eternal God entered into mortal history. Creator God joined his creation. God who made man became a man, lived a perfect life, died in our place for our sin, rose from the grave to conquer death, and remains with his people today.
Like Christmas, Christianity is a gift exchange: we give Jesus our sin, and he gives us new life. No matter how many times we repeat that message, it never gets old.
Here are a few more resources that may be helpful as you prepare a Christmas sermon:
- The Purpose of Christmas, by Rick Warren. This simple devotional considers the implications of Jesus’ humility in joining humanity.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons, by Edwin H. Robertson. A collection of sermons from a great Christian leader.
- Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, edited by Nancy Guthrie. Each chapter in this daily Advent reading is an excerpt from a different pastor or author, past and present, including John Piper, John MacArthur, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, Joni Eareckson Tada, George Whitefield, Martin Luther, Tim Keller, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and Augustine.
- Incarnation (Truth and the Christian Imagination Series), by Alister McGrath. His devotional features beautiful holiday art and great insights.
- The Virgin Birth of Christ, by J. Gresham Machen. The best apologetic outside of Scripture for defending the virgin conception of Jesus Christ.
- Chapters 1–5 and 11 from my book Vintage Jesus include many themes and topics related to the holiday season.