5 Christmas Sermons to Preach During the Month of December

5 Christmas Sermons to Preach During the Month of December

If you’re a pastor, you know what it’s like to blink and realize it’s Christmas season again. Suddenly, it’s upon you, and you have to turn your attention to that critical month—the time of year that brings in droves of visitors whose hearts are especially receptive to the gospel. And there’s that initial sense of panic around coming up with a different angle for your Christmas sermon series.

For most people, Christian or not, Christmas carols are one of the best things about the season. And the church has so many traditional songs with rich, biblical history. Since you’re singing these songs anyway, you could preach through these well-known songs throughout December.

Everyone knows them. After all, Christmas is the one time of year when shopping malls pipe in music full of Christian sentiment. Why not take this opportunity to look at carols from a biblical angle? You can talk about what they get right, where they go astray from the biblical account and empower people to connect with these songs on a deeper level.

You and your staff can choose your favorites, but here are four weeks’ worth of suggestions and a bonus song for your Christmas Eve service.

Christmas Sermons Week one: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

If you’re looking for a powerful hymn to kick off Advent, look no further than “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” It’s a compelling picture of human longing for Israel’s Messiah and humanity’s deliverance.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,

Born to set thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

 

Born thy people to deliver,

born a child and yet a King,

born to reign in us forever,

now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal spirit

rule in all our hearts alone;

by thine all sufficient merit,

raise us to thy glorious throne.

As you kick off the Christmas season, this can be a powerful way to communicate the yearning that Israel felt as the nation stumbled under the weight of the Roman empire.

Another possible song for week one could be “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

The song’s story

Charles Wesley was the brother of the famed evangelist John Wesley, and worked alongside him in founding the Methodist movement. He’s known for writing more than 8,000 hymns. You could easily say that Charles’ hymns were as central to the birth of Methodism as his brother John’s teachings.

“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” was first published in Wesley’s Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord in 1744. This hymnal was so popular that it was reprinted 20 times during Wesley’s life.

One of the enduring strengths of this song is the fact that it doesn’t retell the nativity story. Instead, it focuses on a hunger that we can all identify with.

The biblical connection

Wesley touches on a central desire found throughout the Old Testament. As far back as Genesis, we’re told that:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10, ESV).

This future monarch wasn’t merely a promise for Israel; he was an assurance for the whole world. Whether the Jews realized it or not, the Messiah that would come out of Israel would meet the craving of every nation and people.  

The prophet, Isaiah, communicates this clearly:

“In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).

“This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:26–27)

Not only does this carol communicate the first-century longing of every human heart, but it also represents a current desire in the kingdom of God to see Christ’s rule physically manifested in our troubled world:

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10).

Christmas Sermons Week two: What Child Is This

As a staple of every children’s pageant, “What Child Is This” is almost universally familiar.  

What Child is this

Who laid to rest

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,

While shepherds watch are keeping?

 

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,

Come Peasant, King to own Him

The King of Kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

 

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing

Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

The song’s story

Sung to the tune “Greensleeves,” William Chatterton Dix’s carol invokes the image of a typical nativity scene. Jesus is there on Mary’s lap, and angels and shepherds tend to him. The second verse speaks of the presents brought by the magi and the gift of salvation that Jesus brings in return.

Dix was a manager for the Maritime Insurance Company in Glasgow, Scotland when he wrote the words to “What Child Is This,” and it has had a profound cultural impact for over 100 years.

The biblical connection

If you’re looking for a way to share the Christmas narrative, you’ll find “What Child Is This” helpful. It can take you from the hope of Christ’s coming to the manger where Jesus was born. It gives you an opportunity to talk about the angel’s announcement to Mary (Luke 1:26–38), Joseph’s dream (Matthew 1:19–21), and Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1–7).

But it’s also an excellent opportunity to give a more profound answer to the carol’s question. What child is this? This is God most high coming to deliver us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1–5).

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9–13).

Christmas Sermons Week three: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Because Charles Wesley is responsible for thousands of hymns, it’s not surprising that we’d incorporate another one of his famous carols.  

Hark the herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled”

Joyful, all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With the angelic host proclaim:

“Christ is born in Bethlehem”

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Christ by highest heav’n adored

Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold Him come

Offspring of a Virgin’s womb

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see

Hail the incarnate Deity

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus, our Emmanuel

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings

Ris’n with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

The song’s story

This hymn was first published in 1739, and the original version of this hymn looks a little different than the one we’re accustomed to:

HARK how all the Welkin rings

“Glory to the Kings of Kings,

“Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,

“GOD and Sinners reconcil’d!

Famed Anglican minister and evangelist, George Whitefield, changed Wesley’s original lyrics and republished this carol in his 1754 publication Collection of Hymns for Social Worship. It was quite common for these texts to change over time. In fact, most people would be surprised to see the original versions of some of their favorite hymns.

The biblical connection

There are so many exciting directions to take this thought-provoking carol. One interesting course to examine is found in the line, “Mild He lays His glory by.” The incarnation isn’t simply an invasion of God into the world to save sinners; it’s also an example for us to follow:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:4–11).

In coming to save us, Jesus had to lay aside the privileges of deity and enter into our experience, and he calls us who follow him to do the same. We are to take the forms of servants so that we may serve others.

Christmas Sermons Week four: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

There are very few Christmas carols as beloved and theologically rich as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Its infectious, joy-filled melody has charmed people for more than 500 years.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Saviour

Was born on Christmas day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

In Bethlehem, in Israel

This blessed Babe was born

And laid within a manger

Upon this blessed morn

The which His Mother Mary

Did nothing take in scorn

O tidings of comfort and joy

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

The song’s story

Not a lot is known about the origin of this classic carol. Of all the carols still being sung today, this is one of the oldest—dating back before the 16th century. Charles Dickens even mentions the song in his classic 1843 story, A Christmas Carol.

The biblical connection

In the first verse, the author tells us that Christ was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power. This is a potent truth to consider during the Christmas season.

The apostle John says this very thing in his first epistle: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).

We see Jesus destroying the works of the devil throughout his ministry by resisting temptation, revealing truth, and healing people of illness and demonic possession. Next, he also destroys the works of the devil at the cross, shaming the devil in the process:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:13–15).

Christmas Eve: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

While Silent Night often gets top billing in Christmas Eve services, it might be that “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is much more poignant and impactful.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

 

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

 

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

The song’s story

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—one of America’s most renowned poets—wrote this poem about the Civil War. In 1872, John Baptiste Calkin took out some of the more specific stanzas having to do with the war:

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

In the 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury described this carol as “immensely moving, overwhelming, no matter what day or what month it was sung.”

The biblical connection

Christmas has been described as “the most depressing season of the year.” So often the cheer associated with Christmas stands in stark contrast to peoples’ experiences. They might feel isolated from loved ones and a sense of sadness over the state of their lives or the condition of the culture.

The incarnation reminds us that God is intimately at work in the world, and through this child in a manger, God is launching his plan to heal the world’s brokenness and restore people:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18–20).

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister (1:19–23).

Longfellow was right, God is not dead or sleeping. The right will prevail and the wrong shall fail, and we have a child born in Bethlehem to thank for that.

Another Christmas carol that touches on the same theme is “Joy to the World.” Consider this stanza:

No more let sin and sorrow grow

Nor thorns infest the ground:

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as the curse is found.

“Joy to the World” also reminds us that, lying within the manger, is hope for the future. A promise that God is at work in the world reconciling everything to Himself.

Making the most of the Advent season

You’d be surprised how many people at your church know these songs by heart but aren’t familiar with their theological implications. Preaching through the carols can be a powerful way to keep people engaged while you share the profound truths of the gospel found in the Christmas story.

Once Christmas wraps up, it’ll be time to start thinking through the new year. The free ebook, Start Strong, is a great resource to have in your back pocket as the new year approaches. Focus on Christmas today. Start Strong tomorrow. Download the free ebook today.

Jayson D. Bradley

Jayson D. Bradley is a writer and pastor in Bellingham, WA. He’s a regular contributor to Relevant Magazine, and his blog JaysonDBradley.com has been voted one of the 25 Christian blogs you should be reading.