If you need some help injecting some energy and fresh ideas into your Christmas sermon planning this webinar is for you! Matt Woodley, Anthony Delaney, and Ken Shigematsu talked about how to prepare for the unique challenges of our Christmas preaching in 2020.
They discussed how we can:
-Recapture (or rekindle) our own sense of wonder for Christ's Incarnation
-How to clarify goals and expectations for Christmas preaching in your context
-Gathering fresh ideas for Christmas sermon themes and texts
-Discover spiritual rhythms to prepare your own soul for this Christmas
-And even if it is okay to re-use Christmas sermons from the past
Whether you need some Christmas sermon series ideas, encouragement for your soul, or to get into the Christmas mood, you'll want to watch!
The following ideas were taken from the Chat transcript during the Webinar.
Balancing Fresh Ideas with the Familiar Story
Nithin Thompson: Bill, we learned that at our church. We did a themed Christmas one year on a pop culture topic which was fun and really engaged a lot of visitors, but what we found is that most people just want to hear the old story and light a candle afterward and sing silent night.
Catherine Miller: FRESHNESS. If the challenge though the Holy Spirit is always refreshing and inspiring, then it's the humanness block with all the responsibilities at holiday time.
Christmas Sermon Series Ideas
David Wright: I'm playing with the classic Advent emphasis of "waiting," which I think may especially resonate this year. Dave Wright
John McCallum: This is my 40th Advent/Christmas as a pastor. Doing something very different this year. I began a 13 sermon series through Revelation and will finish it with the Advent season. Different but some familiar Advent themes only through Revelation. With so much in flux this year, refocusing on the familiar story might stir peace in our people.
-One year I preached an Advent series using Isaiah 9: His Name Is Wonderful or A Name for Every Need. Those names Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Those names speak to needs in this COVID season.
-Love the idea of preaching hope this year. What about also adding a lament sermon like the slaughter of the innocents to tap people's ongoing sorrow?
-I once preached a series taking a Christmas movie: Christmas Vacation and the fruitless search for the perfect Christmas; Surviving Christmas on the slaughter of the innocents; It's a Wonderful Life - what if Jesus had never been born; Christmas Carol - John the Baptist, repentance and Jesus can change anyone. That was fun.
Cory Somers: This year, I'm using the phase "Home Alone" to connect to the upheaval of 2020—feelings of isolation, challenges to relationships, hurt, and, most importantly, how coming home to God is the ultimate healing of our hearts and our world. Silly, I know, but I'll also reference the movie, playfully.
Catherine Miller: Last year my theme for Advent was “When God Interrupts" (I was being facetious) and I looked closely at Joseph as a young religious man whose marriage and life dreams and plans were interrupted and then brought other players in the Christmas "story" in from Joseph's struggle but also show how Joseph embraced God's interruption and who Joseph became as a man, husband, father as a result of embracing God's "interruption"
Nithin Thompson: We did a series one year called Family Tree where we went through the family tree of Jesus and we also had our children’s ministry do Christmas family trees.
Dan McKnight: Nithin, I love that family tree idea, too. I’m gonna go out on a limb here … and say I’m definitely gonna use that!
John Foley: Last year went very well to talk about all the people in Jesus’ blood line that had made mistakes. People like Judah. It was pretty encouraging. Also did one on the Grinch that Stole Christmas. The things that steal the joy of Christmas. Things like greed.
Continuing Church Christmas Traditions (Especially During COVID)
Neil Parker: We're already grieving the loss of the Christmas pageant … and we are shifting now to creating a video. That means I'm storyboarding now, assigning "scenes," and asking people to be creative in sending clips for the Nativity story as well as musical offerings. Then the massive behind-the-scenes job of editing will happen! But the goal will be for everybody to see themselves on the big or small screen, telling the story to themselves.
John McCallum: Yes, COVID radically impacts the kind of music we are able to do with no choral stuff this year.
Catherine Miller: We do Carols & Candles Service Christmas eve topping off the advent weeks
Nithin Thompson: Neil, that’s a cool idea. It sounds like you’re doing more of a narrative approach to the service, more experiential. I like that.
Neil Parker: Nithin: Thanks for that. We have a tradition of Candles and Carols, and we live in the musical centre of the universe (my congregation is full of professional singers). But congregational singing has been locked down for a number of weeks, with new restrictions coming, so we need to find some new ways (while grieving what has been).
Catherine Miller: Yes, I'm planning on a pre-recorded Carol set for our Carols & Candles Christmas Eve ... humming, meditating, clapping.
Ingo Bröckel: The tradition of caroling in the outdoors & public places: Easy to do, simple, heart reaching/touching.
Dan McKnight: Yeah, that’s a great idea, Neil Parker—and a great way to engage children (and then get their grandparents to engage). We’re preparing Christmas in a Box option for folks to use at home if they don’t want to risk the socially-distanced services in our building, or to create an outdoor evening mini-service with their neighbors (Christmas in the Cul-de-Sac?!)
Patricia James: We are continuing to do our Tree of Remembrance this year. Those who come to church can hang their decoration; for those who feel safer joining online, we will hang their decoration in memory of someone for them.
Outreach Events Coupled with Christmas Series
John McCallum: We have caroled our immediate neighborhood the last few years. Doubt we will do that this year. We encourage people to give homemade gifts to neighbors. We are providing a booklet our folks can give to their unchurched friends and neighbors.
Nithin Thompson: I like how you make it personal John. And how your equipping your people to do that.
Catherine Miller: Last year we designated additional December local mission support outside of ABCUSA. Speaking specifically to financial giving as far as in-person we plan to partner with our local senior independent living facility during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to add lobby flowers, a possible story time where I go in weekly, and we are waiting to hear what a goodie box or supermarket cards for more independent seniors including one of my members. The kinds of things that go in the goodie box are new canes, T-passes for those who are independent enough to take transportation to appointments, support socks/stockings for leg support, waiting for some more ideas from the building manager, maybe reading glasses. It’s a mixed religious group catholic and protestant and none
Nithin Thompson: That’s interesting Catherine. We just did encouragement boxes for teachers that we delivered to teachers.
How Long Is Your Christmas Eve/Day Sermon?
Nithin Thompson: Wow! Ken is only going to preach for 8-10 minutes!
Catherine Miller: Pre-Covid - I'm 30 minutes max; plan to stay same for Advent and Christmas but Christmas Eve short devotional/reflections amid Carols and lighting our candles and accepting the Lord's gift of Peace with him.
Patricia James: I agree with Ken. Shorter is necessary for online focus especially for small country churches like mine.
John McCallum: I'm a 20-25 minute preacher but only about 15-18 on Christmas Eve.
Sue Thompson: Our church, Northern Lights Church Halifax, keeps sermons to 20 minutes, COVID or not, online or in person.
Is It Okay to Repeat/Recycle Our Christmas Sermons?
John McCallum: As Fred Craddock said, "If a sermon isn't worth preaching twice, it probably wasn't worth preaching once. :) I've been in the same church for more than 25 years. I agree with Ken. Every time I've repeated, I preach it better than the first time.
Catherine Miller: I'll be repeating a number of COVID-19 sermons that went out by audio blast while we kept the building closed. Looking forward to reviewing our COVID year sermons to take a closer look at what God was saying to our vineyard and using for mini-studies.
Some of Preaching Today’s resources on Advent and Christmas: