Wake Up! A Christmas Sermon Series

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Sooner or later in preaching you struggle with the issue of how to keep Christmas sermons fresh. The selection of Christmas texts seems limited to Matthew and Luke, unless you get a bit more creative. How many times can you tell the same story over and over again?

It turns out you can do it a lot, actually. It helps, though, to find fresh approaches and new themes rather than simply retell and rehash the same old stories over and over again.

This year I received an email from Sermons.com offering several different Christmas and Advent series for the coming season. I found an intriguing title that I thought would be fun to explore this year. It was a series by a user who goes by “King Duncan” (apparently a Macbeth fan) called “Wake Up!” I’m not one to spend money on a sermon series, but based on the title and the passages highlighted I was able to put together a decent Christmas series. Continue reading

Peace Within Ourselves

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If Christmas means “Peace on Earth” then it should also mean peace within ourselves. Peace in our heart and minds. Peace in our relationships. Even peace with God. In Philippians 4, Paul bring peace on earth down to some very personal needs in our lives.

This was where I had been wanting to take these Christmas messages. I wanted to bring them down to peace within ourselves. We’ve got a lot of people dealing with depression in our community and we’ve got some very stressed relationships. I felt that addressing those needs in the context of Christmas would help drive them home better.

I love how the ESV translates verse five as, “let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” I had some fun with that and it seemed to help. Since the sermon I’ve had a few people tell me about their attempts to be “reasonable” with family members.

This sermon also built on a few of my sermons from the past. I referenced my Thanksgiving series during the sermon but I also took them back to an overwhelming realization about grace that I had this past summer. “If I’m not showing grace to everyone then I’m not actually showing grace to anyone.”

That thought continues to astound and frighten me.


The Christmas Truce

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luke2There are more people who haven’t made a commitment to Christ yet in churches during the Christmas season than any other time of the year. The Pew Research Center tells us that the number of Google searches for “church” skyrockets before Christmas and Easter each year. People are open to the idea of being with us. Are we prepared to give them a message they need to hear?

A friend of mine challenged me this year to concentrate on peace for Christmas. With all the noise of the holidays and the business and tension, people are desperately aware of the need for peace. Considering the Prince of Peace is at the heart of the Christmas story, it seemed like a natural theme for the season.

Here is the “Christmas Truce” video that starts 52 seconds into the sermon:

 When I first saw that video on YouTube I knew I had to use it this year. It made a huge impact on me in my preparation and on the crowd as it was presented. At the end of the sermon I played Bryan Duncan’s rendition of “Grown Up Christmas List” in a video I put together. During the children’s chorus in the song I went back to clips from the Christmas Truce video to tie it all together. That went over well.

Honestly my big concern with this sermon was whether or not I was overloading the extras. I used a lot more Bible in this sermon than usual and two videos. However, the majority of the verses I used were all in Luke and tied directly to the main text. The videos were connected and sandwiched the message well. I really couldn’t be more pleased with how this one went.

Next week I want to talk about peace in our relationships. I want to build a bridge between Isaiah’s promise of the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6-7 and “He is our peace” in Ephesians 2:11-18. I’m excited about where this one might go.

A Very Columbo Christmas

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I have a certain fondness for old TV shows. I love the way they feel familiar, the way they told great stories without huge budgets and special-effects, and I sort of love that I’m getting to the age where they all feel new again because I can’t remember how they ended.

columboColumbo has always been a favorite. Do you remember Peter Faulk’s shabby detective with his trademark cigar and raincoat? The character was unforgettable, but what really made Columbo stand out was the structure of the stories. Each episode began with the murder. As the viewers, we knew exactly whodunit and how. The thrill of the show was watching Columbo put the pieces together and solve the mystery for himself. During the whole episode we would be wondering, “What clues will he find that will give the murderer away?”

Columbo came to mind the other day as I was starting to think about Christmas. I find myself being envious of the Old Testament prophets and those who lived at the time of Christ’s birth. To them, it was all about the mystery. Isaiah had prophesied a virgin giving birth, Micah had told where it would happen, and Daniel had narrowed down the time. They lived in a time when they had to piece the puzzle together to arrive at the identity of the child. But what was mystery for them is history for us. Where is the joy of discovery in a 2000-year-old story?

I couldn’t help noticing something I hadn’t seen before. You see, the Christmas story isn’t just about something that happened 2000 years ago. It’s about my own story of discovery. Daniel’s timing reminds us that, at just the right time God’s grace entered my life to change me, to redeem me from my sin (Galatians 4:4-5). Micah’s prophecy of his humble birth reminds me that no matter how small or insignificant I feel, I have God’s attention (Romans 8:31). And Isaiah’s promise of a miraculous birth lets me know that through his power I have been born again (John 3:3).

Oh, and one more thing, The story of the Advent, of God entering this world through the incarnation of His Son, continues to be played out in the homes and hearts of all of those who call on his name. And in every life, we continue to live out “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).”

That hope is the greatest mystery you will ever solve.