Christmas Messages 911! Please Help!

christmas_tree_06.jpgI love everything about Christmas. Almost. I love the music, the season, the decoration. I love cutting down my own Christmas tree with my beautiful family. I love playing Christmas music while we decorate.

I love that my kids ran upstairs, put on Christmas colored clothing, found their old Santa hats, and ran downstairs to announce, “We’re ready to decorate the Christmas tree!” I love how my son clustered all his Star Wars ornaments and announced that the Chicago Bears ornament was the most important of all. I love how my daughter took extra care to hang her mouse ornaments nearby her seat on the sofa, where she could talk to them. I love how my wife decorates the mantle and makes the place look cozy and Norman Rockwelly.

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I love presents. And family get togethers. And presents. And looking at Christmas lights. And getting presents.

I love old movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas In Connecticut, which Margi and I watched the night we got engaged.

headvise.jpegI just don’t love the migraine I get when I try to figure out what to preach. This has been going on for 20 years, since I started preaching.

Every year I get massive preacher’s block heading into Christmas (Easter, too). My trouble is figuring out what to preach on. When I’m preaching though a series, like I am now–The Secrets of a Highly Contented Life–no problem. I’m preaching through the life of Joseph. Genesis 37 through however far I go. I know what the next section of Scripture will be. I can easily figure out my topic. Bada-bing… a sermon. It all flows.

All that comes to a screeching halt when the holidays arrive. I pray. I seek the Lord. I struggle. What can I say this year about the birth of Christ? How should I approach it? A little apologetics (3 years ago)? A little fun (2 years ago)? A little Jesus meets Wild At Heart (last year)?
wreath.jpegWhat’s a pastor to do? How about this…

Will you help me? Whether or not you come to Neighborhood Church, would you be so kind as to list a couple of topics you’d like addressed or questions you’d like answered about the birth of Jesus. Simple. Complex. Doesn’t matter.

If you went to church during the Christmas season, what would you like/need to hear?

Maybe I should also ask a different question. If you were bringing your friends who aren’t so sure about Jesus, what would you want them to hear?

Answer either question or both. Your pick.

I’m being humble. I’m asking for help. I’m looking to you, my faithful friends, to be the voice of the Holy Spirit.

So… watcha got? HELP!

And Merry Christmas.

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P.S. I just finished reading book 2 of the Golden Compass Trilogy (His Dark Materials). It’s controverial stuff, and I’m working on a blog about it. I just put a hold on the other two books from my local library. Blog is coming soon….

P.P.S. I haven’t sent out WISEGUYS! newsletter in a while. Yesterday, I almost finished one, and in one mistaken click, it vanished. The whole thing was lost. It was great too… The best one yet. Bummer. I’ll get back to it soon.

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24 thoughts on “Christmas Messages 911! Please Help!

  1. I will offer three possibilities:

    First, look at the genealogy and birth account of Jesus in Matthew and focus on the names, Immanuel, “God with us,” and Jesus, “God save,” and the implications surrounding it for us today (possible title: “What’s in a name?”).

    Second, look at the birth account of Jesus in Luke and focus on the recipients of the initial good news of the birth of Jesus – the shepherds – those lowliest common people in the first century and its meaning for us today.

    Third, look at the accounts of Matthew and Luke and see how they correspond to the Old Testament prophecies regarding the birth of the Messiah and demonstrate how Jesus’ birth points towards his role as God’s agent to bring about salvation.

  2. My father was a minister and he would always make his christmas sermon completely christ-centered. For example, one anecdote he mentioned.
    A wealthy family that went to church was hosting a christmas party. The parent told their 5 year-ols son that the party was for Jesus because it was His birthday. As people were coming in to the house, the father watched his son standing near the entry. When he asked why his son was at the door, the little boy replied that he was waiting for the birthday boy, Jesus, to come so he can enjoy the party. He also asked why everyone was eating and drinking before Jesus arrived to his party??!!
    I enjoyed the meaning in that.
    I hope to attend your church some day.
    God bless!

  3. As for a Christmas message….

    hmmm…

    I love context. I think context and discussion of what life was like during Biblical times is fascinating. Maybe speak about the cultures of the times, what life was like for the average person, etc. Then somehow tie that in with the arrival of the Messiah during that time period?

  4. Do we win something if you use our idea? So far James is winning with multiple audience votes. And Donny’s taking the highbrow intellectual route. (Nice!) Shaku is tugging on the heartstrings. (Sweet!) Here are my humble submissions:
    1: I always feel like we can use a service that would resonate well with Catholics. Get some excuse to bring ’em in an give them the gospel in a way that make sense to them.
    2: I always like the image of a bunch of 3rd shift sheep herders, hopped up on coffee, bored out of their skulls, seeing angels, hearing the message, and running to town to tell everybody about it. Then everybody converges on a Bethelehem barn, where an unmarried couple had a baby. It was like God was saying “I could do this redemption thing with one arm tied behind my back.” Blue collar Christmas.
    3: Or, if the blue collar Christmas doesn’t float your boat, go with the Norman Rockwell/Peanuts thing: Kids Christmas pageant! Full costume drama. Get the grandparents, aunts and uncles through the door.

    I want to be the Marie Osmond of this competition…so vote for Bob!

  5. I’m with Donny on this one, the context of the nativity story. I just watched the film “The Nativity” and thought it was fascinating to actually visualize how the times were when Jesus was born. Just how did the Jews live under Roman rule; how evil was Herod (VERY); imagine what Mary felt and Joseph thought when she comes back home from her visit with Elizabeth visibly pregnant; what was the trip like for Mary and Joseph to get to Bethlehem; why the lowly shepherds privileged to hear the news first; just when, chronologically, did the wise men visit the Christ child…just to name a few thoughts.

    It seems to me we old-time Christians have grown accustomed to the story and the miracle of the story has dimmed some. I treasure a book we read every Christmas which tells the story from the view point of one particular person involved: Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Elizabeth, Zechariah, the Innkeeper…It’s “The Indescribable Gift” by Richard Exley and might be difficult to get now. We read and cry together at the beauty of the story and the realness of the humans involved.

    A reality check just might be the difference for a lot of CE “Christians” (Christmas/Easter) – an honest, down-to-earth description of just how miraculous is the birth of our Saviour!! He miraculously came to be born, to die, and to rise again to restore humans’ relationship to Creator God. WOW!

  6. If I brought a guest I would want them to hear a sermon on God’s grace.

    The baby Jesus … the greatest gift.
    Undeserved. Value beyond measure. Given to us because we need a savior. A testament to God’s grace.

    The miracle of Christmas.
    The creator of the universe, the all mighty, unfathomable, infinite God comes to us as a fragile baby that poops in it’s diapers. He could have come in power and judgment, but instead came in the most humble way to win us, to woo us with his love and grace.

    The Shift from Law to Grace
    How the birth/death of Jesus changed man’s relationship to God. What changed and what didn’t change? How did we change from being under the law to being under grace if God never changes? What was the purpose of the law and how was it fulfilled by Jesus? So, we’re under grace … now what?

    Ok, so that last one isn’t very Christmassy but I just couldn’t ignore the rule of threes. Whatever angle you choose to approach your Christmas sermon from I’m sure it will be great. It always is.

  7. I like all the other ideas too – and was about to vote for one of them (yes, Bob, it was you). 🙂 But then, this idea jumped in:

    How about taking some of the main points of secularized Christmas values (like: generosity, family/community, philanthropy) and ‘shining light’ at them so people see what TRUE things those ‘good values’ are meant to reflect? Why do those things ‘feel’ right (even to ‘the world’) at Christmas time? How is Christ’s birth both the ultimate source, and the ultimate fulfillment of those values?

    Lots of creative room for good stories and illustrations (for people averse or unaccustomed to typical sermons), and most importantly, people would take it with them. They wouldn’t be able to hear Salvation Army bells without remembering the Source of true philanthropy. They wouldn’t be able to gift-shop or gift-open without thinking of the tie-back to His ultimate Gift. As Jeff said, whatever angle you choose, it’s bound to be good – but I can see you doing this one particularly well…. 🙂

  8. This idea is a little like the last post. But, how about the “geneology” of Christmas. E.G., the words and traditions we so frequently use and the history as it relates either to the Birth of Christ, or to how earlier Christians celebrated the Birth of Christ.

    Possibly tying in some of the more common seemingly secular terms into the original non-secular meanings.

  9. How about Jesus as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and King so I can get more material for my papers? No huh? Isn’t one of the comforting factors about Christmas that things don’t change or have to be different? Hills covered in snow, smoke curling from chimneys, bells, hot chocolate and the greatest love story of all, God incarnate humbling himself to come to earth to save his children. I never get tired of that story.

  10. I have a friend that went from atheist to christian to a “free thinker”. He said here is no scientific proof there is a God. Even though he knows the story, what could be preached or taught that would open up those stuck eyes and heart? How could you “prove” who Jesus is to someone who doesn’t believe the bible is true?

  11. Ok, so since you posted on mine, I’ll dare to place my thoughts out there. So I was thinking a bit about this and I have three thoughts

    1. “Heart idea”-i agree with Jean when it comes to the idea of christmas has “dimmed”, I miss the mystery, the magic, the excitement of when I was a kid, granted all that involved around presents but I desperately want to be reminded at the grandness and down right unbelievable parts of this story and why they matter
    2. “Head Idea”- why does it matter that christ became human,that the word became flesh: High priest, example of what truly human is etc. might be too specific for a series
    3. “Humor Idea”- I love Bob’s Idea: Blue Collar Christmas! Brilliant! those picked by God to be in the christmas story are a bunch of dirty po-dunk shepherds, a teenage girl who everyone thought had sex out of marriage, and oh yah He was born in a shelter for animals. This really could be a lot of fun. So where’s the main point: God includes us in this story, us that are po-dunk and have a bad reputation. he turns the human idea of who’s important upside down. besides you’d have a reason to park a rusted out chevy pick-up in the lobby.

  12. Bob’s humor idea reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas books. It’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”. We used to read it out loud to our kids every year at Christmas time. I never could make it through the end where they describe the town tough kid’s reaction to the Christmas story without crying. The rest of the story is hilarious. Makes you look at Christmas through new eyes, kinda like being with someone when they see snow for the first time. Reminds you how wonderful it really is. Maybe you could dress up as one of the Herdmans and tell the story. You’re good at dressing up!

  13. An embarrassment of riches! How can I not get an idea from this incredible list! Where have you been all my life? Thank you so much… you have no idea how much you’ve helped me.
    Thanks! Bill

  14. Hi there,

    I’m not sure if it was you or another pastor who preached these sermons I’ve heard over the years on Christmas, but I never forgot the central message. GRACE!
    The sundays leading up to Christmas all focused on the genealogy of Christ from Matthew 1. Not every name was done, but some of the major ones. I remember the sermon on “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, “. There was a ton of Grace teaching in that one.

    I also think this would flow perfectly from your sermons series right now. AND, I know of no other pastor who could preach the grace of God like the inventor of this blog.

    thanks!

  15. In my humble opinion I believe what will be the most important message this christmas for people is the assurance of the Christ in Christmas and what is Christian about Christmas and what is not. Were gonna get slammed at the box office this year with the “Golden Compass” movie and the movie “Zeitgeist”. For people that do not have the personal relationship with Jesus that we are priviledged to have, there is going to be the “movie goer theologians” who will mix in just enough fiction and truth together to create a whole new “Christianity is not great” athiests. Kind of like the sudden doctors who go on the internet and diagnose themselves of medical conditions. The movie Zeitgeist is not for the faint at heart the guy that narrates it is just plain creepy or I should say has a creepy voice and be forwarned with the themes of “New world order” and “one world currency” all that stuff coupled in with what is going on with globalization, I mean this thing started out on you tube and was so popular they are turning it into a two hour movie. I don’t know this would probably be too controversial for the Christmas message maybe? However I would love to be able to go to a website that factually refuted each claim with the real historical Jesus and have a place to refer to and also maybe refer the people to like my family of already free thinkers like the blogger who commented on the family member that went from athiest to christian to freethinker. I am all for free speech but say I KNOW the truth because it has set ME free, how do I explain the non tangible when I am a newbie myself to something so secular and what they will say is historical? I am talking about the latter of the two movies as I have only read the reviews of the compass movie. Well thats my over explained opinion of the day.

  16. Hi S,

    I picked up The Best Christmas Pageant Ever based on your advice and read it. Loved it. Quick, sweet, funny read. Thanks for the pointer.

  17. thanks so much for the “Countdown to Christmas Sermon!
    Our computer is in our kitchen, so this morning Johnny and I had “breakfast with Bill”. What a difference it made today, to start off the day hearing about the Grace of God!
    God is so gooooood!

  18. Presume that there are many people attending who never otherwise attend, and lay out the Good News in the clearest way you can. Don’t let the holiday make you choke up. You have a wonderful gift for making the Gospel understandable. Lay out for people what God was up to when he sent Jesus into the world. Maybe touch on a few OT passages that predict the Coming of the One, and explain that these passages are waaaaay old. This fact alone is a compelling argument that the Bible can be trusted. You’ll do great.

  19. Bill,
    Thank you for your message tonight. This message will be “forwarded” to my free thinker friend. I was in tears by the end. If my friend doesn’t “get it” by the end of hearing your message, then like you said, he wouldn’t believe if it he saw someone raised from the dead. May the Lord bless yours words on Sunday.

  20. Bill, My husband and I are really enjoying your/our “countdown to Christmas”. Thanks so much for what you do to make it all understandable. We are blessed to have you!
    Can I ask how your Dad is doing? I think and pray for him alot!

    Angie

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