If you’ve been preaching for a number of years you know how difficult it is to come up with a fresh idea for a Christmas eve message. If you are a pastor looking for message for Christmas Eve Service, consider this as an option:
I think sometimes pastors overly burden themselves to come up with fresh ways to tell the Christmas story. Here’s what I’d like to suggest to all pastors. Develop one dy-no-mite, killer message for Christmas Eve and preach it every year. Now, it would have to be so good that it could be considered a “classic.” Screen-writer Robert McKee tells us that a “classic” book, story, or novel is something that you can hear, read, or see time and time again without every tiring of it. Each time you you read it, hear it or see it you discover something new. The Bible is the archtypical “classic.” If you don’t currently have a classic sermon, start with Rick Warren’s purpose of Christmas as announced by the angel. (Remember Rick says, “If my bullet fits your gun, use it”.) Here are his 3-bullet outline:
Purpose of Christmas
I. Good news of great joy-CELEBRATION
II. Today is born a Savior-SALVATION
- Apply (perhaps an invitation to respond and receive Christ)
III Peace on earth, good will towards men-RECONCILIATION
This 12-18 minute message would be so good, so simple, so compelling, so classic, that everyone in town would want to hear it again as much as they’d want to re-watch It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, The Grinch who Stole Christmas, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Christmas Vacation, or Earnest Saves Christmas. With anticipation and with participation every person could nearly repeat every line. Church people could joyfully invite their friends, co-workers, neighbors and inlaws to the service knowing exactly what their friends would experience-“Grandma, you are going to love the story Pastor ends his sermon with. It reminds me so much of the way you’ve lived your life. I can’t wait for Christmas Eve!” This is not to say that the service would be totally predictable. The Christmas Eve service would be (in Aristotle’s words, “give the [audience] what they want…but not what they expect.” Each year a different “delight factor” could be thrown in…which again would lead to squirming anticipation. One year it might be a chidren’s choir, another year a violin solo of “O Come Emmanuel,” another year St. Nick himself might show up with candy canes for everyone. So what would my ideal service look like?
I. An appropriately sized ensemble that plays a prelude of Christmas tunes as people filed in and find their spots.
II. Welcome to all
III. The first two verses of as many Christmas carols that you could sing in 15 minutes. (Guiding principle on song selection: If you sing it any other week of the year, it cannot be sung tonight)
IV.Three children (under 7) dressed as angels reading from Luke 2 (the text of the sermon)
VI. Offering that will be divided into three equal portions that reflect the points of the message. All monies will be given away to things outside the church. After all Christmas was God’s gift to the world. It’s Jesus’ birthday…not our birthday. Ask people to give generously then divide the monies equally among the following related causes:
- Celebration-monies given to to families in the community to help them celebrate Christmas
- Salvation-monies given to (particular organization) that is introducing people to Jesus
- Reconciliation-doing something for the human family-digging a well…something like Imago Dei’s water project, or monies given to help families of prisoners, or AIDS patients, or to end sex trafficking in Thailand, or to build a Habitat House, etc.
VII. Candle-lighting sung to Silent Night
VIII. Pastor’s prayer of blessing
50-55 minute service which would allow for several services (since it will be so good, it will grow exponentially every year). Now think of what a service like this would do for church people. First, everyone wants / expects to sing Christmas carols. People who come to church 1-2 times a year don’t want to learn a new song on Christmas Eve (no matter how gifted your worship leader is)! Church folks have been praying about who they can invite to come with them on Christmas Eve. Let them invite people with confidence to a great service. Christmas Eve should represent the best we have to offer for those who are coming to check things out. It would be a pecado indeed to have neighbors and friends leave feeling like they fulfilled their obligation rather than feeling like they had worshiped and experienced Christmas. As a pastor you could spend more time with your family rather than in message preparation. As Lincoln and Reagan quipped, “It’s easier to change my audience than to change my message.”
P.S. If this message sounds familiar I posted the same message in 2010 but I thought it would be good to repost at this time of year.