WINDSOR, ONTARIO – A few years ago, I read an article on The Gospel Coalition website. It was about preaching at Christmas, and I was in crisis mode in mid-October without a plan for the annual Christmas series.
Christmas comes around every year. The same songs. The same texts. The same old, old, old story. Most of the time I love the familiar rhythm and routine, but that particular year, I just panicked.
“How many more Christmas sermons and holiday talks can I possibly come up with?” I was in the habit of preaching four weeks of Christmas messages. We love Christmas at our church, but if I do a Christmas series every year for 40 years, that is going to be 160 sermons just on Christmas. It’s tempting to play with innovation, invention, novelty.
“But don’t do it, pastor. Don’t get cute at Christmas,” advised Kevin DeYoung (Pastor, Don’t Get Cute this Christmas). “Your people need regular meat and potatoes, not the newest eggnog recipe. Stay away from props and video clips. Put to death the Star Wars tie-in you’ve been really excited about. Don’t worry about preaching the same truths and the same themes. They don’t remember last year’s sermon anyway. Go ahead and tell them the old, old story one more time.”
That set me free. Maybe it will do the same for you.
“That means the Christmas Eve service should not be about the evils of shopping or the dangers of busyness. We can leave behind clever cliches like Wise Men Still Seek Him or Have Yourself a Mary Christmas. There’s no need to focus for 40 minutes on what exactly was the Star of Bethlehem, and if you are going to talk about the Magi, don’t make it an academic lecture on Persian astrology…” Good advice. Thank you, Kevin.
Let’s just keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s tell the familiar Christmas story the way it was told to us from the Bible.
There may or may not be unbelievers in your Christmas services. But I’m sure there will be saints struggling with sin, and weary and wounded seniors, and exhausted mothers, and fathers who work too much for the good of their family. They need to hear about Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace who came from heaven to be our Savior. He was born in a manger to die on a Cross, and he is the only way to the Father.
DeYoung is right. “Our people don’t need us to find something new. They don’t need empty spiritual bromides… Our people need the gospel.” They need to hear the extraordinary, miraculous story of Christmas and experience the majesty and glory of God in the Word proclaimed afresh as their pastor exalts the name and power of Jesus to save. Just preach Jesus. Don’t be cute or clever or charming or cool or complicated or cheeky. Just preach Jesus.
“Hunker down in Matthew 1 or Luke 2 or Isaiah 9 or Micah 5 or John 1 or in any text that will lead you to lift high the name of Jesus. Don’t be cute or clever. Just preach Jesus,” writes Kevin DeYoung.
I agree. And your congregation, however big or small it might be, will be glad you did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Garth Leno is the Pastor/Planter Care Specialist with the BSCM. He serves in a similar role with the Canadian National Baptist Convention, and he is the founding pastor of The Gathering Church in Windsor, Ontario, a church he planted with his wife, Patty, and a few of their friends.