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'Christmas Time Is Here'

3 tips to present the Christmas story fresh every year.
'Christmas Time Is Here'
Image: Chad Madden / Unsplash

Here it comes again, Christmas. In my opinion, it’s the best time of year. As a preacher of God’s Word, Christmas can be a challenging time of year for sermon development. This challenge is not because there is a lack of information to preach, but because it’s the same text we preach every Christmas. The important thing to remember at Christmas is not what we think our people want to hear, it’s what they need to hear. Therefore, we must heed Paul’s word to Timothy, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).

The Christmas season sets the table for people to hear and interact once again with the Christmas story. I believe that we can still use this very familiar story and present it fresh every year. I want to give three points to ponder as you approach the season with a goal of preaching fresh sermons at Christmas.

Ignite Your Creativity

First, allow the Holy Spirit to ignite your creativity. You might think you are not creative. There are times when I think the same thing. The truth is, you might not be creative, but the Holy Spirit can birth a sense of creativity in you.

As we seek the Spirit’s guidance in understanding a text of Scripture, seek his guidance to spark a creative way to communicate the truth discovered. Since the Christmas story is well known, much of what you say will be a reminder, but the way you package the reminder can have a powerful impact in the lives of your listeners as the Holy Spirit empowers your creativity.

One quick warning—do not allow your creativity to distract from the text. You don’t want people to remember the object lesson you employed, but to remember the message you delivered. For example, I know a pastor who wore a Krispy Kreme t-shirt to preach in a traditional, jacket-and-tie church. When I came to the church as the new pastor, all I heard about was this Krispy Kreme t-shirt. When I met the man, who wore the t-shirt, I asked him what the shirt was all about, he said he used it as an object lesson. Sadly, people only remembered the t-shirt and not the truth he was teaching.

As you seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in accurately exposing the idea and content of the text, ask him to help you to creatively package the sermon in a way that is consistent with text.

Stay True to the Genre

Second, stay true to the genre of literature. Creatively packaging the sermon in a way consistent with the text means that we allow the genre of Scripture to dictate the sermon.

God has given us a record of Christ’s birth packaging it in narrative literature. Narrative literature is a powerful mechanism used by God to help us understand, remember, and connect with a truth. Narrative literature is not about points and poems, its about movement, characters, and conversation. Narrative literature contains a beginning, middle, and an end. The plot is about the setting, conflict, resolution, and conclusion. The characters bring the plot alive and we find ourselves connecting with them as they resolve the conflict.

For example, in the Christmas story angels appear to different people with a message from God. We watch as they hear those words and respond. Therefore, we can relate in a similar way as God speaks to us today and how we respond to his message. This truth is consistent throughout the Christmas story as we live in the lives of the people who were called of God.

A story is fun to preach when we understand its components and preach the movement as we identify them in the text. Narrative preaching and study are a critical tool to sharpen since two-thirds of God’s Word is packaged in a story. Because this is true, we must be willing to adjust our format of preaching to reflect the narrative genre.

Adjust the Format of Your Preaching

Third, be open to adjusting your format of preaching. We all know the saying, “it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” This may be true for those of us who have been preaching for a long time. We are comfortable in our format of preaching. When we are challenged to step outside of our comfortable format, we find ourselves unwilling.

Here is what I mean. Since narrative literature moves along a dedicated path dictated by the plot, narrative preaching must capture the movement as the text is preached. What often happens is that a story is changed to infuse three points and poem. No story is ever written with points to be extracted, but instead teach a point packaged in a story. Our job as preachers is to capture that point without changing the story to fit what we are comfortable with which will have a profound impact on our audience keeping them engaged.

Expository preaching is not about style, but about the communication of the idea in the text. We need to learn how to study and communicate the genre God gave us in his Word. When I preach a narrative text of Scripture, I will employ points in my narrative sermon to help the audience navigate the movement of the story to accomplish the idea communicated in the text so the audience can remember and apply the truth. I will often take the position of a narrator re-telling the story in third person emphasizing the conflict, showing the movement, focusing on characters involved in the conflict, and highlighting the resolve in the story which leads to the truth being communicated. This approach will cause you to adjust your style of preaching so it is consistent with the narrative genre of literature found in God’s Word.

One Idea: Preach on the Characters of Christmas

Perhaps you are sitting in your study contemplating what to preach this coming Christmas season. You can probably reach into your file and dust off a sermon you preached many years ago, if you have such a library established. Since we understand the power of characters in a story, consider preaching the characters of Christmas. Look at the Christmas story through the eyes of those God called for this very purpose. Take the people you teach every week and plunge them into the lives of the people central to the story. Allow the text to direct your sermons but stay grounded in the truth the story is teaching as the characters of Christmas engage with a very powerful message concerning the Messiah.

David Karn is the Senior Pastor at Grace Community Church in Goldsboro, NC.

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