Christmas is coming! Hard to believe it’s only a couple of months away. But first, there is Advent. Don’t get me wrong I love celebrating Jesus’ birth, spending time with my family and friends, a day or two off work. But Advent means preparing and preaching four more sermons preparing for Jesus birth. After 26 years in ministry, it is hard to come up with something new, but the pressure is on!
While the message is the same, there are different ways to structure a four-week Advent series that can present these truths in a fresh way. Here are some suggestions:
First, you can never get it wrong if you focus on the original story– Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, Herod, Elizabeth, Zachariah, the star, the manger. They are the story. Sometimes we simply need to be reminded. Let the story speak for itself.
Secondly, if you want to put a twist on the ‘old story’ pick four of the characters and tell the story through their eyes. One Advent season we entitled the series, “Christmas through the eyes of…” Each Sunday I shared the story through a different character’s point of view. I concluded the series on Christmas Eve by sharing Christmas through my eyes.
A third suggestion is to use the movies. We chose some of the classics, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Scrooge, and It’s a Wonderful Life. We used a small clip from the movie chosen to illustrate a scriptural point we wanted to make each Sunday. Make sure you have a license to show clips from these movies in worship.
Fourth is a combination of old and new. Using an Advent candle you could focus on the gifts of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love. This year our pastoral team will focus on hope, which is definitely needed in today’s world.
Finally, you can work through a lectionary. These resources provide you with a well- rounded view of the birth of Christ. Through the four weeks choose a different genre as the main preaching text. One week a Psalm, then Old Testament, Gospel, and a New Testament passage.
Each Advent season, I focus on what my pastor, Phil Warren told me when I was preparing to preach my first message at 19 years of age. I was worried about what I would say to Orville Pratt, the elder statesman of the church who sat on the third row pew. What could I say to him that he did not already know?
Pastor Phil responded to me with a question of his own. “Jim, when you were three did your mom tell you to pick up your toys? What about when you were 12? How about now that you are 19 years old, does she still tell you to pick up your toys?” The answer of course, was yes! I got the lesson. Repetition is a good thing, whether it’s being reminded of the rules or being reminded of timeless truths.
You may be trying to come up with something new this Advent, but remember that the old, old story still preaches!