Christmas sermons

Many pastors find Special Occasions like Christmas a difficult time for preaching. The reason is that we are so familiar with the Christmas story that it can seem a chore to find something fresh each year.

I think one reason for this is we think of preaching only one sermon for Christmas. We fail to make much of the incarnation, a vital part of our redemption, by only taking one sermon in December and telling the same story year after year.

Since at least 1994 I have almost always made the month of December a month to emphasize the incarnation by a whole series of messages from all over the Scripture highlighting various threads or themes connected with the Christmas story.

We have done many different themes: the “Los Angeles” Christmas – all about angels; the Barren Woman theme from Isaiah 54, tying in with the barren woman theme in the Bible and culminating with Mary; the “Roots” Christmas, where I preached from the genealogies and taught the descent of Christ from Adam; and last year “The Bright and Morning Star” where we looked at Balaam’s prophecy and traced the theme of the star through the Scriptures (and taught some church history of the Moravian missions movement, using their Moravian star ornament as a tie-in). There have been many other themes as well.

Well, a friend was bemoaning the common problem recently and I took a look at my summary file of our past Christmas series. I found I hadn’t updated it for a few years. Tonight I took the time to catch it up and send it to him. This has an added benefit: it is getting me fired up for this coming December!

Our theme this year will be “The Word became Flesh” with messages from Psalm 19 as a prelude on the Word’s value to men, culminating with the Jn 1 passage and concluding with a New Years message on the ‘engrafted word’ from Jas 1.21.

You can find a copy of my updated file here. Perhaps this file might be an inspiration to some other preacher. Feel free to use as you see fit!

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an outline worth stealing

My morning sermon this Sunday (8/14) was based on an outline I found in a footnote to William R. Newell’s commentary on Romans 4.14. The footnote was so profound that I thought it shouldn’t lie dormant in the commentary but be fleshed out in a whole sermon.

I thought I’d share the entire footnote with you as well. I’d encourage the preachers in the audience to steal it too. It is well worth preaching.

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the desire accomplished…

… is sweet to the soul.

So says Pr 13.19a. I wonder if we take that out of context, considering the parallel phrase in Pr 13.19b, but…

But I just finished a massive amount of re-coding our Thru the Bible html index project.

Between August of 2005 and April of 2007 we took our church through a marathon chronological Bible reading and preaching project. We read the same passages together, worked through study guides, and preached messages covering the material we were reading each week.

I created Thru the Bible 1.0 with just the Old Testament index. It was kind of clunky looking, basically really really old-fashioned HTML, back eons ago when the web was young (and ugly). This index contained only our written material.

Tonight I finally finished the re-write of the whole project, OT, Intertestamental period, and NT. It looks much better than the earlier effort, although I am not sure it reaches the level of what the geeks call “Web 2.0”. Anyway, it looks a lot better than the first version.

And it contains all the audio files.

I plan to burn these on DVDs, and will make them available to anyone who asks for the cost of postage. (These will be on basic cheap DVDs, if you want a “100 year” DVD, it will cost $5 plus postage.)

I still have to double check all my links, but praise the Lord, all the coding is done.

Now its time to go to bed. How many late nights has this been?

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UPDATE: DVDs now available!

on non-technical communication

I love computers. I am self-taught on this subject, but am fairly conversant with how they work. When a techno-geek starts “talking techie to me”, I can usually follow a good bit of the conversation.

But, alas, there is a point where the tech can lose me. I’m not that computer literate after all.

In any technical field, be it the arcane nuances of computer networking or the intricacies of the hypostatic union, those ‘in the know’ find themselves afflicted with their own jargon – terms that mean much to the speaker, but almost nothing to the hearer.

If you would be an effective communicator, what to do?

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preachers of influence

I want to pick up on something I said in my last post. I was observing the influence of much admired and frequently listened to preachers on those who admire and listen to them. Here is a bit of what I said:

The preachers you listen to influence your own preaching. … I have spent hours listening to Mark Minnick. Mark was my Pulpit Speech teacher. I have intentionally tried to imitate his methods and something of his style. As I began listening to the Trinity messages this summer though (and most of them were Chuck Phelps), I caught myself a few times in the pulpit saying things in a way that sounded to me like the way Chuck would say it. I think Chuck has a certain cadence to his preaching that is a bit unique among preachers, and I was unconsciously (or semi-consciously) picking up on that.

Chuck himself mentioned this tendency among preacher boys in one of the messages I listened to today. He said that those who sat under Tom Malone often mimicked some of his habits as did those who sat under Dr Bob Sr. Of course, I have observed this with other admired preachers as well. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing!

But it does mean preachers need to be careful who they admire, who they listen to, and who influences them. I think that subject is probably worth another post at some point.

The influence of one preacher on another is all well and good if the admired and followed preacher is a fully faithful member of the clergy. You may pick up mannerisms – that is one thing. But much more you should pick up philosophy, methodology, zeal, and ministry patterns. And you will, if you make a study of a particular preacher or preachers.

That means you must choose your models very, very carefully. Some young men today are making extremely unwise choices in this regard.

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my excellent twelve hour Bible conference

I am on my way to the Western Canada Baptist Fellowship annual meeting, this year featuring the preaching of Mark Minnick. The meeting will be held in Calgary, AB, Thursday-Saturday (although I have to beat it out of town on Saturday to make it home for our own services).

On the way, I am going to spend a day with my parents in my quirky and beloved Alberta home town. I say quirky because my love for this town is mostly nostalgic. There is nothing special about the town per se, but there are excellent memories to be had on almost every street of the little burg… and it is on the prairies where you can see the sky. What more could one ask out of a home town?

I had intended to get an early ferry and make it home before I rested my weary head, but certain family responsibilities meant I had to catch a noon ferry. So here I am, twelve hours after disembarking, still a couple of hours from home, and ready to sack out. But before I do, a few comments on preaching…

When driving alone, I love nothing better than listening to sermons. With modern technology I do this with a PDA and an auxiliary plug in my CD player. In my twelve hours on the road, I managed to listen to 15 and a half sermons today! Kind of a soul-food pig-out session!

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listening to sermons on my way to camp

and blogging about them out of doors, with the sounds of my family enjoying themselves and me obsessively reading the latest in the unending fundi-neo wars…

A friend of mine asked me to listen to two messages preached recently by two men of similar age and relatively similar standing in the world. So my son and I listened to them on the way to camp. Here is our take:

  • One preacher knows what worldliness is; one thinks its very complicated.
  • One is clear; one is vague.
  • One is proud of his heritage; one isn’t so sure.
  • One is determined not to allow corruption any possibility of infiltration; one thinks we need to think it over oh so carefully.

One wonders what kind of impact these differences will have on the Christian church in the next few years.

~~~

I’ve also noticed another preacher taking potshots at this space. I’ll not name the preacher, or where it was done, but it is typical of the individual involved. May God help him.

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ye must be born again

I am not going to link to outside commentaries on this one, though references abound, particularly in some quarters. My subject is the negative rap placed on ‘revivalism’ and ‘decisionism’ by some. And of course, I’d like to take a contrarian position.

First, let me acknowledge that I oppose the “I prayed a prayer” approach to assurance. A great deal of damage has been done by giving people the misconception that if they say the right words to God, they will magically be born again.

Salvation isn’t a matter of getting the words right in your prayer!

Salvation isn’t a matter of getting the words right in your prayer! It isn’t a matter of crying the appropriate number of tears, walking an aisle, being baptized, or any other such matter of external activity.

Salvation is a matter of living faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Now, is salvation a one-time decision, or not? What does it mean to be born again? And is it right for Christian ministers to call for a decision for Christ?

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so if they’re ‘talks’ what does a sermon sound like

Have you noticed the mini-trend to call sermons ‘talks’? I am noticing this within a certain segment of Christianity, seemingly conservative. Isn’t the term a little disconcerting?

Does it matter?

It seems to me that it does, but then…

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another little Lloyd-Jones gem

“The gospel of Jesus Christ is not popular with the natural man. He is against it. So that if you find the natural, unregenerate man praising either the preacher or his message then, I say, you had better examine that preaching and that preacher very carefully.”[1]

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[1] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The Gospel of God, p. 264.