My Christmas Eve and Day sermons are just about done for this year. Writing a sermon for a celebration like Christmas is different than weekly Sunday sermon preparation. The story is so familiar that it seems there’s nothing left to say. The story is so real, that it’s hard to add anything to it. At the same time, the incarnation is big. It must be preached.
Here’s how I approach my message for one of the best attended (Christmas Eve) and worst attended (Christmas Day) worship services.
First, I read through the Matthew and Luke texts of Christ’s birth a number of times, until something jumps out at me or a question occurs to me. (Why did God announce the Savior’s birth to shepherds? Wasn’t it risky for the life of the Messiah to be entrusted to the care of two first-time human parents? Why was the Savior born at this time in the history of the world?)
Next, I link that thought or question to some aspect of our celebration of Christmas. (Who’s hearing the message of the Savior’s birth for the first time this year? Into what culture would the Savior be born in our world?)
Third, I take the idea and run with it, making some applications and offering some challenges. (Where do we need to take the message of the Savior? Why have we been entrusted with this good news? Who will we go and tell?)
This year for Christmas Eve, my “angle” is the birth itself in Luke 2:7. When a child is born, many look to see if he or she has his mother’s eyes or her father’s nose. What did Jesus look like? He’s just like us in every way, yet he’s so much different: sinless, obedient, holy. He looks most like us on the cross, for there he takes our sin and is punished as if he were us. So his birth makes our birth special, too, for we become holy, blameless children of God with a mission.
Christmas Day I’ll talk about expectations. For Christmas, we don’t get what we expect, we don’t get God’s punishment. We get a Savior, and God’s forgiveness. So a Christmas that doesn’t live up to your expectations is a very good Christmas.