There is a certain creativity that many pastors and leaders have in their churches. God uses our skills and abilities to cultivate new life in our congregations. The desire for normalcy can sometimes be overshadowed by new and innovative ideas. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re trying to find something “new” and “creative” about the Christmas story as you prepare to preach Sunday, I have a word of encouragement for you: just preach the Christmas Story.
No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, you’ve probably studied it sideways, gleaning new information each time. You’ve exegeted Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1:1-14, the fulfillment of prophecies in Isaiah and Micah, and probably some others. You’ve preached it from the shepherd’s perspective, Mary’s perspective, the angel’s perspective, and maybe even the donkey’s perspective. You’ve focused on characters like Zechariah and Simeon. You’ve pulled out historical context, made parallels to the wise men’s gifts, and had several different titles over the years. You have preached on different biblical topics we find in the story: worship, promises, the gifts, etc.
You may be tempted to think outside the box: “What can I preach this year that my congregation has NEVER heard before?” But the danger in our creativity is when we feel like the Christmas story has “gotten old.” Much of your congregation has been well versed in the Christmas story from scripture, hymns, and culture during this season. So, for fear of boredom, we might think, “I’m going to do something totally new this year.”
Here is my encouragement to you, dear friend. Don’t let your fear of boredom keep you from seeing the simple miracle of Christmas that never gets old: The Messiah was born of a virgin in a lowly manger in Bethlehem, in fulfillment of age-old prophecies, making salvation possible for all people. There are several aspects of the Christmas story that give fresh beauty to God’s word in light of the gospel.
This is simply incredible! Biology always fascinated me as a student in school. When we think about the way our bodies reproduce through sexual intercourse, and the miracle of life that develops for 9 months in a protective encasing in the mother’s womb, it all starts with the meeting of sperm and egg. Miraculously, this did not happen with Mary. Jesus truly was the son of God, and Mary was a pure vessel that God miraculously and graciously used to carry the Messiah.
The virgin birth made possible the salvation of mankind. Without the virgin birth, Jesus would not have been sinless, he would have been born into a sinful nature like the rest of the world. Without Jesus’ being sinless, he could have never died a sacrificial death on the cross. Without his sacrificial death, he couldn’t have provided salvation to all who would trust in him. The virgin birth teaches us to trust in God, because it was no human initiative that brought Jesus. It was a work of God alone.
There are hundreds of prophecies that point to the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of these are in relation to the Christmas story. Here are just a few that were fulfilled: the manner of his birth, the location of his birth, his name, the meaning of his name, the role of Mary, the blessing he would bring to Abraham’s descendants (and the earth), his genealogy and descendants, the role of John as a companion and messenger, and even allusions to Herod and the wise magi.
The fulfillment of these prophecies hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth show us that God’s hand was guiding and leading this entire narrative for His great glory! It also proves to us that God is reliable, He is trustworthy, and He is faithful.
Here is one of the most beautiful truths we find in scripture. God did not create us and then step back to watch creation unfold and the world disperse into chaos. At first, He partook in His creation by leading us, guiding us, speaking to us in shadows and images. But when the gospels open up, we find, in my opinion, the best thing about Jesus’ birth: God came to be with us.
He did not speak to his people from a voice from heaven, but in the voice of a human. Jesus left heaven to enter our realm and dwell among us. He grew up, walked, and lived just as we did, yet without sin. Jesus was able to sympathize with our weaknesses by living life in the likeness of human flesh. The angel told Mary that one of the names of Jesus would be Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
No other religion, no other “god,” or religious leader can say the same. The difference between Christianity and every other religion in the world is the deep love that God had for us, that He did not leave us alone to suffer, but He came and dwelt among us so that we could have a restored relationship with Him: not from any righteous works we perform, but by the one righteous act that Jesus performed.
If you are wondering what to preach, how to lead during this Christmas season, or trying to come up with something “new” and “exciting,” take a moment. Pause. Reflect on this truth: the Christmas Story NEVER gets old. Let’s not forget the wonder of this season and all that it means.