Pastor, is your church’s Christmas celebration missing something? There is a lot of pressure on churches to celebrate Christmas in creative, memorable and meaningful ways. This usually means finding some room for more food, more music, more lights, and more drama. However gifted some pastors might be in ceremony or theatrics, this is not exactly the work that the Holy Spirit calls pastors to.
For many pastors, the need to make Christmas something more than it was last year creates a great deal of holiday stress. In that stress, the Christmas (or Christmas Eve) sermon can fall to the side as something of an afterthought. Don’t let this happen. Preaching the Word of God is a weighty privilege worthy of your full attention. If you want an idea for something “more” to bring to Christmas, bring the cross. Here are three reasons why your congregation is missing out if the cross is missing from Christmas.
You are missing the point of Christmas.
Christmas is our way of marking the coming of Christ to this world. Paul says it like this, “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:6-7).” That Christ Jesus would come to this earth is a fantastic reason for us to celebrate. But, why did he come? What’s the point?
In 2016, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came to Canada for a royal tour. On a daily basis, Canadians gathered for an opportunity to see royalty. The news was filled with coverage of the various events underway. Once the tour was completed, the royal couple returned home leaving no identifiable change on our culture, politics, or economy. So, what was point? Was it all simple pageantry? Without the cross, the coming of Christ is little more than a royal tour of cosmic proportions, but this is not the Christ we celebrate.
Paul’s celebration of the condescension continues, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Jesus came for a reason and that reason cannot be reduced to sentimentalities or ceremonial worship. He came in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17).
Let’s worship God this Christmas for sending his only son to earth. Let’s celebrate all the more that he came for the salvation of all who would believe.
You are missing the warning in Christmas.
In a recent article for TGC Canada, Wyatt Graham reminded us that there is one Gospel. Graham writes, “And that Gospel, that good news is the whole life of Jesus.” For those who are in Christ, the Gospel is the good news of their salvation. It is hope and joy and peace, but for those who are who will reject Christ, the Gospel is their condemnation.
The exclusive nature of the Gospel is not foreign to the Christmas story. Luke 2:14 is the account of the heralding of the heavenly hosts. This sing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” In carols, cards, and movies, these final words, anthropois eudokias, will commonly be expressed “good will toward men” as in the KJV. However, this is not exactly what is being said. Anthropois itself would suffice as a universal expression of mankind. To modify it with eudokias is to narrow the field to those favoured.
The biblical message of Christ’s birth is a message of hope and peace for some. As messengers of God’s Word and shepherds of his people, we are compelled to explain the fullness of why this baby was born so that those who have ears to hear might hear and move from death to life. If you leave the cross out of Christmas you are bandaging wounds lightly saying peace, peace when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14).
You are missing the opportunity of Christmas.
There is no opportunity to bring the Gospel to the masses like Christmas. This time of year, believers and non-believers alike will happily sing “glory to the new born king.” Those who will find no other opportunity to sit under your preaching will come to celebrate the season. Preach Christ crucified! This is what you are called to do.
There will be those who will be put off by a Gospel message. They will suggest that it is foolishness to speak of sin, repentance, and salvation by grace through faith in a Christmas message. Stand firm and remember that it pleased God, through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21). Don’t create another gospel in hopes that you will entice seekers to return to hear the truth. Bring the Gospel you have been given in prayerful anticipation that the hearing of the message of Christ will bring the lost to faith.
Christmas is a wonderful time of celebration. As your church gathers for this celebration, celebrate the birth of Christ for all it is worth. Sing and feast and fellowship because the coming of Jesus is your collective hope. And, when the time comes for you to proclaim that he has come, don’t forget to tell them why he has come.