If you are anything like me, by this time in mid-December you have almost completed the pulling out of all of your hair, leaving your scalp bare and an ulcer or two in your stomach just in time for the eggnog and neighborhood caroling. Add the fact that you are responsible for telling the story of Jesus’ birth and preparing for your church’s joyous Christmas service in the midst of all the hustle and bustle can leave any pastor with the need for routine deep breaths and a shoulder to cry on.
So, how do you tell the most powerful, exciting, unique account of the birth of a little baby named Jesus for the tenth or thirtieth time? And how do you do so in such a way that the remarkable account of our Savior will not be diminished or routinized as if it’s another version of Frosty the Snowman or the 12 Days of Christmas?
Here are some suggestions that will hopefully guide you along the way as you prepare for your Christmas sermon and service:
Make a point to reread (and reread again) the accounts of Jesus’ birth.
Although you may have Matthew 1, Luke 2, John 1, and Isaiah 9 memorized verbatim, never forget the importance of refreshing yourself and your spirit in what the scriptures say. Look them over and look closely. Let Scripture become alive to you. Read what Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Calvin, Luther, and other church fathers have written before you. Read what your contemporaries have written. Let the Incarnation and all of its splendor become alive to you again (and it will). And then pass that same awe and wonder onto your congregation as you communicate what you know, what you have learned, and what has been brought back to life in you and your studies.
Be open to out-of-the-box ideas.
Your Christmas service need not always include the same songs, or even the same scriptures. If the Incarnation has been brought back to life in you, allow it to be brought back to life in your congregation as well. When studying, consider other perspectives or topics as you read and study. Research topics on hope, salvation, joy, miracles, and human life in order to garner further inspiration for your sermon. Christmas is more than the Bethlehem story itself; do not forget that. When it comes to worship, then, follow the same mantra. Even though it may be good to include some Christmas choruses, do not limit the worship team to that. Instead, allow them to utilize songs on similar topics like the Holy Spirit, creation, and new life.
Remember your audience.
In the spirit of Christ who gave all for all, make sure that your Christmas service is welcoming to all who attend. Recognize that there are many people who will attend your service, people who may never have heard of such a Savior, people who have grown cold to the knowledge of God, and people who are desperate for a glimpse of hope, love, and newness of life. While your Christmas service is definitely not about how many individuals you can fit into your sanctuary, never forget the importance and life significance of every single person that fills those chairs or pews. Make sure your team is prepared to welcome these individuals. Gird them with the passion and desire to welcome them there. And lead them all, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the baby who came to pay it all, to bring them life, joy, peace, salvation, and truth. Oh, what a Savior! Oh, what a gift!
Lord, we ask that your grace and mercy would be upon us all as we once again take up the task of telling one of the greatest stories of all.