The story behind the sermon (from Steve Mathewson)
Pastors who stay at the same church long enough will eventually wonder what to preach during the Christmas season! After going through the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, and after working through some of the classic Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah's birth, what is left to preach? One idea is to take the little book of Ruth and preach on the story behind Christmas. After all, Ruth, the wife of Boaz, appears in Jesus' family tree in Matthew 1:5.
The sermon I preached on Ruth 2 was the second in a four-part series on The Story Behind Christmas. I preached a sermon on each of the four chapters in Ruth on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each sermon worked through the story of Ruth and showed how the story points forward to Ruth's most famous descendent—the one who was born in Bethlehem a thousand years or so after she moved there.
One of the challenges I faced was preaching the story in four sermons rather than in one. Previously, I had always preached the entire book in one sermon. Preaching the story in four sermons works great for creating preaching units which are just about the right size. But I felt a bit uncomfortable preaching the earlier chapters by themselves, knowing that the story had not yet been resolved. Until the story is resolved, the theological message communicated by the story has not been fully revealed.
I had two specific worries. One was that I would have to give away the ending in order to share a legitimate message. The second worry was that my sermon ideas and application might sound the same for every sermon. Yet I found that even before the story was fully resolved, major theological constructs appeared. So, even though the ...
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Steve Mathewson is pastor of the Evangelical Free Church of Libertyville, Illinois, and teaches preaching for the doctoral programs at Denver Seminary and Western Seminary, and the Master of Divinity program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.