Pastors everywhere are now putting their finishing touches on their Christmas Eve sermons. Christmas Eve is an incredible opportunities for churches and pastors to have a significant impact. But they’re also very challenging. In fact, most pastors I know do not particularly like Christmas sermons. Here’s what I love and hate about preaching on Christmas Eve.
Why I Hate It
1. Everyone thinks they know what you’re going to say. There’s not a lot of question about what you’re preaching on. You’re not talking about marriage, finances, forgiveness, or how to pray. You’re talking about Christmas. The expectation of predictability makes people less likely to really tune in to what is preached.
2. Preachers are expected to be creative. Because of the above expectation, it puts a lot of pressure on pastors to be extra-creative. How are you going to make this same familiar story interesting? What fresh angle are you going to take? How will you surprise and challenge people? Everyone’s coming–it better be good! These questions and ideas rattle around in the preacher’s head, adding a level of pressure that often makes it even harder to be creative.
3. Traditions trump truth. Christmas is puffed up with so many other things that seem to get more focus from people than the truth of it–and I don’t even mean all the commercialism. People are thinking about getting their daughters in pretty Christmas dresses, preparing their traditional Christmas Eve dinner, or singing the songs they’ve always loved. They’re sentimental, but not serious. The distraction of tradition–even well-meaning Christian tradition–makes focusing on something substantial more difficult.
Why I Love It
1. Many non-Christians are there. Whether out-of-town family or in-town guests, Christmas Eve services are filled with people who don’t regularly attend church. What a great opportunity. Pastors must be sure to speak in a way that acknowledges and engages these non-Christians.
2. Christmas really is a great story. God became a man. Wow. Pastors, don’t get bored with this truth. It’s earth-shattering. Help people feel how great this story truly is.
3. You can showcase your regular ministry. On Christmas Eve it’s important to give people a good picture of what a normal gathering is like. We try to do a very good version of a normal service with a few special elements rather than an over-the-top thing that is foreign to a typical Sunday. People should hear the kind of preaching they’d hear on a Sunday (even if a little shorter) and sing the style of music they’d sing on a Sunday. You wouldn’t want them to come back the next week and think, “What happened to this place?” Additionally, you can use your printed pieces on Christmas Eve to promote ongoing ministry rather than just upcoming events.
4. You can collect money for important, outward causes. People are eager to give on Christmas. Non-Christians too. That’s why we’re doing a Christmas Offering. I don’t feel bad asking non-Christians to give to causes that will really make a difference in the community. It allows them to make real spiritual decisions (giving is a spiritual decision), and the money goes to great things.
In the end, there are more reasons to love preaching on Christmas Eve than to hate it.
I’ve got my Christmas Eve sermon ready. I’m looking forward to God working among us. And I’m praying that God would use these services across his Kingdom so that people would respond with faith to his good news.
For you, what are the best and worst parts about Christmas Eve Services?