The Christmas story is anything but common. What God did in the Incarnation was remarkable! In fact, Christmas has been called both a miracle and mystery. The miracle is what God accomplished by sending Jesus to earth. The mystery is why He sent Jesus. God’s great love for us is the ultimate reason for Christmas.
As remarkable as this story is to us, as a pastor, Christmas can be a difficult time of year to preach. If you pastor the same church for a number of years and preach to mostly the same church members, then it becomes more difficult to find fresh and innovative approaches to the Christmas story. Preaching in December limits you to certain passages and themes. The Christmas narratives of the Gospels and the Incarnation prophecies of the Old Testament prophets are mostly from which you can draw the text of December sermons.
I have served three churches in my ministry and in each of them, I have enjoyed an extended tenure. The congregation heard me preach many sermons on Christmas. I had to work hard to keep the approach to the Christmas story fresh, creative, and meaningful. The story itself is powerful! Yet, preaching four or five messages, or more, each December just on the Christmas story can become challenging.
Here are some possible approaches to preaching the Christmas story. Hopefully, some of these ideas and themes will help you to keep Christmas from becoming common to your congregation.
- Note the characters in the Christmas story and their characteristics (Mary, Joseph, Magi, shepherds, et al)
- Note the persons involved on the periphery of the Christmas story (Caesar Augustus, Simeon, Anna, chief priests and scribes, et al)
- Preach on the persons or beings who spoke during the Christmas story (the angels, magi, the heavenly host, shepherds, yet God spoke the loudest)
- Preach on the statements actually quoted in the Christmas story (by the angels, magi, the heavenly host, shepherds et al)
- Note what others specifically said about Jesus (Isaiah, other OT prophets, God in Luke 1:32–33, the angel, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna, et al)
- Preach on the unexpected of Christmas (a virgin would give birth, the Messiah’s humble beginnings, no room at the inn, the role of stars, etc.)
- Preach on those who believed the Christmas story (Mary, Joseph, Elisabeth, Zechariah, et al)
- Preach on those who did not believe the Christmas story (the innkeeper, Herod)
- Note the preparations made in advance for Christmas (OT prophesies, the magi divinely warned in a dream, census taken so Mary and Joseph would be in Bethlehem, etc.)
- Preach on the keywords of Christmas (highly favored, angry, confused, fear not, great joy, etc.)
- Note what Jesus received for Christmas (Luke 1:32–33)
- Preach on the obedience of Christmas and note those who obeyed God (Mary, Joseph, Magi, shepherds, Jesus)
- Note how John the Baptist reacted to the Christmas story (the babe leaped in his mother’s womb, John always knew his place, “He must increase and I must decrease,” unworthy to untie His sandals)
- Notice the specific details given to us in the Christmas narrative and what they teach (the firstborn Son and the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem means, “house of bread” and Jesus as the Bread of Life, etc.)
- Preach on Evangelism 101 – the shepherds as the first evangelists (Luke 2:17)
- Preach on what happened before Christmas (John 1:1–5)
- Note what persons involved in the Christmas narrative thought but did not say (Mary pondered these things in her heart, Joseph thought on these things and was going to put away Mary privately, what Herod thought at the question of the Magi, etc.)
- What did the Apostle Paul think of Christmas? (Gal. 4:4–5 and other passages from Paul’s writings referring to the Incarnation)
- Preach on those who cried at Christmas (Matthew 2:13–18 and the killing of the innocent babies and how God helps us through suffering and death)
- Note the songs of Christmas (Mary’s, Simeon’s, Zechariah’s, the Angels’)
Greg Ammons is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Garland, Texas, and an Adjunct Professor at Dallas Baptist University.