Even though 2020 is a unique year, Christmas is still an amazing opportunity to preach to people who normally don’t come to church. Maybe you are meeting, or maybe you are preaching online. But how do you make the most of preaching Christmas at Christmas?
1. Pray lots – there is a massive spiritual battle going on and the enemy wants to keep people looking at anything except the truth of the gospel. As Christmas approaches, he will also try to keep preachers distracted from the wonder of the gospel too. Pray lots, and keep your eyes on Christ!
2. Preach fact – it may seem like a Christmas card cartoon myth, but it is not. Luke launched his gospel with a declaration of the trustworthiness of his message. Let’s follow his lead. Look for any opportunity to underline that the Christmas story actually, literally, historically, physically happened.
3. Correct carefully – in your quest for historical truth, be careful not to over-correct every detail. A critical spirit never communicates well. Jesus wasn’t born in a cattle shed, Mary was not transitioning to hard labour as she arrived in Bethlehem, and the Magi could well have arrived that night after all. Be careful with correcting long-held beliefs, and be careful with your tone when you do correct.
4. Celebrate sensitively – this season comes with its own hype, and we may be tempted to breathe a sigh of nostalgic familiarity as we celebrate another Christmas. But remember that Christmas is bittersweet for many people. There are empty chairs at the table, and Christmas tends to underline the deep ache. Take a moment in your message, or in a prayer, to recognize the difficulties as well as the joys of the season.
5. Proclaim the good news – Christmas is not primarily about sentimentality and pleas for peace. Primarily, it is vertical and not just horizontal. Jesus came into this world to bring us back to God. Don’t miss the moment and just preach a nice message. Be sure to proclaim the best news!
6. Undermine assumptions – People who don’t normally come to church have assumptions (actually, many who do come to church regularly still have some of them too!) This is a great opportunity to undermine some of these assumptions. There is a historical reality to the Incarnation. God’s character is very different than people tend to assume. People think they know what God is like, and what God wants from them. Christmas is a great opportunity to move people from “malevolent majesty” notions of God, to the manger where God’s humility bursts onto our scene with the humble cries of a newborn.
7. Worship personally – as I mentioned the other day, don’t lose the wonder of this season. If you don’t feel it, why will your listeners? Spend some time with God. Let him warm your heart up to the season again. Then go preach Christmas this Christmas!