You can imagine the scene.
Mulled wine and mince pies have been merrily consumed. A smattering of Santa hats and reindeer ears litter the congregation as fairy lights flicker above them. The dulcet tones of ‘Joy to the World’ die down; the talk is about to begin.
This might well be the only time they hear the name of Jesus as more than an exclamation of surprise or anger.
You stand up to speak with trepidation, aware of the magnitude of the situation. It seems that to many in the room, you’re just the filler act before they can sing ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and head home. But you know that it’s more than that: you have a chance to see people hear the real good news of Christmas.
Many of these people will likely not enter a church building until this time next year and this might well be the only time they hear the name of Jesus as more than an exclamation of surprise or anger. It’s understandably a daunting prospect. But the story behind Christmas is also deservedly the greatest story ever told: the God of the universe stepping down to save humanity. It’s a undeniable privilege to tell the Christmas story.
So how we can present this story well when we have but a few minutes of captive attention to try and win the hearts of those in the room? Here’s some ideas for how to do it:
It is an amazing gift to be able to share this message at Christmas, whether at a carol service, on Christmas morning, or even over a Christmas meal.
- Remind yourself of the beauty of the nativity. What part of the story of Christmas captivates you the most? When you behold Jesus for yourself first, your presentation of him will then resonate far more.
- Make it personal. Talk about your favourite Christmas, the greatest gift you’ve been given, your favourite part of the Christmas meal (mine is the gravy), or just share an anecdote. When people see a glimpse of you, they will be more able to see not just the baby in the manger, but how Jesus has changed your life today.
- Focus on one aspect of the nativity. It’s true that the Christmas story is rich, so don’t neglect the narrative, but choose one main focal point. There is so much that you can talk about: the king born in a stable, the light coming into the darkness, God becoming flesh, the lowly shepherds watching their flocks.
- Don’t be ashamed of the Bible. It can be tempting to try and make the story more palatable by just referencing things that happen in the story. The Word of God is powerful so make sure you read it aloud, and allow the Spirit to do its work.
- Try to use imagery to help people understand. Consider the reality of a baby being born in a stable: the messy, dependent, crying, pooing reality. Imagery allows a concept to become more real for the congregation.
- Don’t talk for very long. Though we’re used to a lengthier sermon at church on a Sunday morning, this really isn’t the case for many that will come to a Christmas service. Try and keep it brief and focused – I’d aim for under fifteen minutes.
- Think about how foolish the Gospel is. The Nativity story is crazy – a teenage girl has a baby in a stable, and a load of shepherds and an angel rock up. We may be used to it but it really is a strange story, and yet we celebrate it every year. Don’t shy away from this but embrace it!
- Remember that the Jesus of Christmas is also the Jesus of Easter. Don’t be afraid to talk about the cross or the resurrection – it’s the same man in both stories. We can often separate the two of them but this is a holistic story that begins long before Jesus’ birth and continues way beyond today. Any aspect of the nativity that you choose to focus on will point to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Christmas is a time of joy, merriment, and love that people across the world celebrate every year, but yet it also speaks of the greatest news of all: Jesus Christ. It is an amazing gift to be able to share this message at Christmas, whether at a carol service, on Christmas morning, or even over a Christmas meal.
So as you prepare to speak, go in Spirit-empowered confidence, and know that you possess the greatest news the world has ever known: joy to the world, the Lord is come!