5 Easy-to-Create Christmas Sermons to Preach During Advent

5 Easy-to-Create Christmas Sermons to Preach During Advent

 

Holidays come around like clockwork for pastors. One month out of every 12, you have a handful of Christmas sermons to develop. They’re critically important considering so many people in your community have Jesus on their minds and are open to the gospel during the Christmas season. Still coming up with a fresh way to engage the Christmas story each year can be a challenge.

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.

These songs are universally known. Since shopping malls pipe them throughout their facilities and some radio stations reorganize their entire playlists around them, people constantly hear Christmas carols wherever they go. Why not build your next Christmas series around these carols? You can talk about what the carols get right—and what they get wrong—concerning the Christmas story and encourage people to engage with these songs in a whole new way.

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 Message #1: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” would be a great carol to kick off your advent season since it centers around Israel’s longing for the 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 launch into Advent, Charles Wesley’s song can help you teach about Israel’s long wait for their coming Messiah as it struggled under foreign occupation. 

You could also potentially focus this message around “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

The song’s story

Charles Wesley helped his more famous brother, John, start the Methodist movement. As a writer of more than 8,000 hymns, his songwriting played an important part in the movement’s birth.

Wesley published “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” in his Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord in 1744. The popular hymnal was reprinted 20 times during his lifetime.

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 addresses a basic desire taught throughout the Old Testament. The first book of the Bible says:

“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).

The future king wouldn’t just be a ruler for Israel but a redeemer for the whole world. The Jews may not have understood this at the time, but Israel’s Messiah would meet a deep need people all over the world had.

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)

The carol doesn’t just describe a first-century human desire though. It tells of a current hunger people have in our world today for God’s rule to extend over 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).

We know the upcoming year is also on your mind as you prepare your Christmas sermon. Don’t put your new year plan too much on the backburner as the holidays continue. Download the free ebook, Start Strong today, to see what your church can do to start and stay strong after Christmas.

Christmas Message #2: 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

Using the tune for “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 wrote these words when serving as the manager for the Maritime Insurance Company in Glasgow, Scotland, and the words have profoundly impacted the world for more than a century now.

The biblical connection

This carol will provide you with a clear way to communicate the basic Christmas narrative, helping you bridge the gap between the hope of Christ’s coming to the manger where Jesus was born. You can use it to engage your audience about what the Bible says concerning 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).

You can also dig into the Bible to answer the carol’s core question—“What child is this?” The Gospel of John answers the question like this: “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 Message #3: 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!

George Whitefield, the 18th century Anglican pastor and evangelist, modified the original words and included the carol in his 1754 publication Collection of Hymns for Social Worship. It wasn’t unusual for hymn texts like this to change over time. Many people would be surprised to see the original words of some of their favorite hymns. 

The biblical connection

You can take this carol in a variety of interesting directions. One way to tackle it is to focus in on the line “Mild He lays His glory by.” God didn’t just invade the world to save sinners through the incarnation. He gave us an example 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).

Jesus willingly gave up all of his rights and privileges as God in order to enter our world. Jesus and the New Testament writers frequently encourage us to do likewise. We’re called to become servants so we can minister to others.

Message #4: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is one of the most famous and most theologically rich Christmas carols in existence. For 500 years, these classic lyrics and catchy tune of this song have enthralled Christmas celebrants. 

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

We know little about where this song came from. Of all the carols still being sung today, this is one of the oldest—dating back to before the 16th century. Charles Dickens even mentions the song in his classic 1843 story, A Christmas Carol.

The biblical connection

We’re told in the first verse that Christ was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power. That’s a potent theological thought for churches to consider during this season.

The Bible says it like this: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).

All throughout the Bible, we read about Jesus wrecking the devil’s works. Every time he resisted temptation, healed an illness, or cast a demon out of a person, he made a mockery out of the devil. Of course, the ultimate example of this came at the cross, where he devastated the devil’s plans and destined him for destruction in a powerful display of triumph.

“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

Most people naturally think about Silent Night on Christmas Eve, but “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” may be an even better fit.

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 American history’s most respected poets—wrote this poem about the Civil War. His wife of 18 years died 1861. His son joined the Union army without his father’s blessing and was severely wounded. After the difficulties of the previous few years, Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas of 1863. The poem was then turned into a song in 1872 by John Baptiste Calkin, who took out some of the more specific stanzas having to do with the war, such as:

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

The Christmas is a well-known time for people to battle depression. For many people the oft-described Christmas cheer seems foreign from their actual experience. Many are experiencing loneliness over being away from family and might be grieving their life situation or the broader circumstances of their community.

Because of the incarnation God isn’t absent from the world but he’s intimately involved in it. God entered human existence as an infant on the first Christmas to begin his great work to heal the world’s brokenness:

“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. Because of Christmas, we know that God is at work in the world reconciling everything to Himself.

Making the most of the Advent season

While most people in your church have sung these songs for years, many haven’t thought through the deep biblical concepts they teach. A sermon series like described above can help you connect with your church community and share theological truth imbedded within the Nativity story. For more messages, feel free to explore our Easter sermons blog.

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.