Preaching Articles

I am tired of preaching about the birth of Jesus. I’m tired of little silly manger statues.  Most of all, I’m sick of blessing trees and cleaning candle wax off the carpet after the Christmas Eve candlelight service. In fact, this year I’d rather skip Advent, forego Christmas altogether, forget about the ascension, and head right for Easter. How many times can one man really breathe life into sermons whose titles are based on the themes from leftover bulletin covers from the back of the church secretary's office?

Why bother? Aren’t those in the pews numb to the birth story anyway? Even most unbelievers know the basics of the story. Year in and year out we sing the same songs and spend countless hours preparing children’s plays and practicing cantatas. Preaching the birth of Jesus can easily become just another part of the routine of doing church. Preachers and church members alike become so familiar with the birth narrative of Jesus that we fail to recall its importance in the life of Christ and the life that Christ gives. We abdicate Advent because we are too familiar with the terms. We muddle the message with a halfhearted attitude.

We’ve got to resurrect Christmas. If we want Christmas preaching to matter, we’ve got to preach like Christmas matters. We’ve got to move beyond sentimentalism, holiday tradition and stockings into proclaiming the glory of God in Christ. Before we can do that, we’ve got to recognize the core of the problem. Preaching at Christmas becomes dull and lifeless because:

1. We are too familiar with the terms.

2. We are too familiar with the story.

3. We have forgotten the importance of the incarnation.

4. We have forgotten the importance of His coming.

It has, of course, been said that familiarity breeds contempt. In this case, it breeds callousness to the message. We must preach the birth of Jesus with insight, passion and vigor, because the very opposite of our calloused assumptions about Christmas is true. We need to preach the Christmas message with passion and vigor because:

1. The terms are preposterous!

We are so familiar with the terms that we forget the claims of the incarnation are outrageous. At Christmas we use terms like "incarnation" and "virgin birth." God becoming man is a ridiculous notion. It can only be understood by the spiritual mind. As such, we have an obligation—no, we are privileged—to stand in front of our people, visitors, friends, family and infrequent attenders and proclaim the biblical truth that God has walked among men ... and His salvation presently beckons them to come.

If a young woman from the Galilee region of northern Israel was found to be pregnant as a virgin, the news media and modern science would explode with interest. Yet we stand in front of people every Christmas season and speak of Mary as though her pregnancy with Jesus is just an appendage to the story, like some kind of footnote to the real story of twelve tiny reindeer. God dwelt in Mary’s womb. How can the ludicrousness of that statement—coupled with the fact that it is true—not rouse passion for preaching Christmas? God, as though He were the ocean, poured Himself into the thimble of a young virgin’s womb.

2. The story is astonishing!

There is really nothing mundane about the biblical account of the incarnation, the virgin birth or the Christ child. Even on a literary level, this is just plain good stuff. From the claim of pregnancy with no father on the part of a betrothed girl, to an angel visiting the skeptical hurting betrothed husband to assure him, to the wise men following the signaling of an astrological phenomenon to come worship the baby, the story is filled with emotion, intrigue, plotting and scandal. Let’s not forget that Herod lied to the wise men and wanted the baby killed. The story has all of the makings for the next great television mini-series drama. If presented on its own terms, there’s nothing here to put people to sleep.  

3. The incarnation is the basis for our entire faith!

We have the audacity to preach the quiet crashing of God into human flesh as though we were talking about a man putting his hand into a glove. Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote, “Filling the world he lies in a manger.” To say that God became Jesus of Nazareth is a bit like saying that Genghis Khan was a fairly influential politician. God crashed into human history through the birth pains of a virgin girl in an obscure village near the Sea of Galilee. But, don’t be mistaken, in that manger the glory of the Creator of the very universe upon which the Sea of Galilee sits like an infinitesimal speck of dust on a space ship was wrapped up in a baby boy.

4. The importance of Christ coming cannot possibly be overstated!

The story of the incarnation isn’t a story. It is the central theme of God’s salvation to humanity and His outworking of making Himself known to His creation. We need Christmas the way flood victims need rescue workers. Christmas is a time for celebration in an infinitely greater manner than the celebration of a dozen trapped mine workers upon being rescued after ten days in the dark. 

The coming of Christ is chief among all doctrines of the Church because it is the foundation of the Church. Speaking to the disciples, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:18b ESV). The incarnation of God the Son means everything to the church. Christ’s coming means that we who are called according to His purpose through faith in the Song of God have a means of present grace, a worthwhile purpose in this life, an eternal hope and a glorious future.

Thank God that He has given us so wondrous a salvation as this, that apart from the gift of faith we could never—would never—be able to believe it. The Gospel is the message that Jesus, a man from the little town of Nazareth who had a mother but no earthly father, is the Savior of the world? That claim is as outrageous as it is true. It’s crazy. Apart from the gift of faith, it takes a fool to believe it. Yet that is how the Architect of the universe has chosen to construct the salvation of mankind.

We who are called to proclaim the truth of that message can’t allow it to become so commonplace that we lose passion for familiarity with the terms and the story. We can’t forget the importance of the incarnation or of His coming or allow the people to whom we preach to do the same.

We’ve got to resurrect Christmas, because the power of the resurrection is only available to those who understand the incarnation.  

In addition to shepherding the flock as Pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church in Suffolk, Virginia. Chris Surber is also Founder and Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. 

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Chuck Patrick

commented on Dec 12, 2012

Wow...I am both stirred and convictd. THANK YOU brother and...Merry CHRISTmas!

Craig West

commented on Dec 12, 2012

What a great article! Thanks for the exhortation!

Craig West

commented on Dec 12, 2012

What a great article! Thanks for the exhortation!

Fred Gurule

commented on Dec 12, 2012

That was good. Glad someone else felt the same way and glad you how you went about dealing with familiarity. I'm plannning on using 2 Cor. 5:21 and 2 Cor. 8:9 for my Christimas story this year. God bless.

Chris Surber

commented on Dec 12, 2012

Thanks. There's surely mundane about the Christmas account but I for one need to remind myself of that in order to wade through the garland and gaiety on my treck to find the savior (Christ) and the worship (mas) in Christmas.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Dec 12, 2012

I for one love preaching messages surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. In fact I preach on this subject from the Sunday after Thanksgiving until Christmas. The story never gets old for me and I believe it doesn't get old for my church. If they see me excited I believe they will be also. It's still the same story but as Peter says, we need to continue to repeat it. 2 Peter 1:12-13 "Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance."

Drew Bernard

commented on Dec 12, 2012

Greetings in HIS name, I thoroughly enjoyed your article as it was so on target I am having a difficult time adjusting to the Christmas atmoshere state-side this year. This my 1st. Christmas home in the last 4yrs. Serving in HIS harvest fields of East central Africa where no mention of Santa Claus occurs and a bag of rice is a gratefully received gift from our Heavenly Father is a blessing to we HIS servants. Your article served as a reminder to me to keep my focus on God's perfect plan for HIS creation and it's inhabitants. Have your self a JOY filled and blessed Christmas.

Andrew Dixon

commented on Dec 13, 2012

Awesome article, thank you for keeping it real and telling it like it is! Might the fire in all of our hearts be rekindled to share this awesome story for what it really is. It is indeed a challenge to preach year after year, but I don't think people ever get tired unless we preach a tired sermon. As was said already, there is so much to consider when you share what actually happened...nothing boring about it! "WORD OF CAUTION" ...don't get fancy because of YOUR boredom. Stick with the story, people really do want to hear it again.

Bobby Bodenhamer

commented on Dec 22, 2014

Great job, Chris. A real "thought provoker" for those of us who stand weekly to proclaim that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself". It really is exciting, isn't it? God grant me the passion to preach it excitingly.

Terry Phillips

commented on Dec 22, 2014

The internet - great rendezvous for isolated preachers! When I worked in the city of London my office was in the shadow of St Pauls. When I went out at lunch time I might walk up Ludgate Hill and there she was - towering above me in all her splendour. But I didn't see her - until I saw tourists taking photos, and I would pinch myself and say to myself, "Look!" Familiarity can be help, or a dead, blinding weight! I plan to speak on Christmas Day on the Luke 2 nativity: the angels and the shepherds - from Proverbs 25.25. (D.V.) Thank you

John Gullick

commented on Dec 22, 2014

Great article I am going to plagarise this blessing john

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