My Gift To You: Christmas Eve Sermon Outline

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Have a Merry Christmas everyone. Here’s my gift to the world this Christmas. Here are the general notes from last night’s Christmas Eve Sermon. May God bless us, everyone.

The band (or individual instrument) plays Silent Night instrumentally as the campus pastor steps up to speak

Pastor Josef Mohr had a problem. It was December 23rd and the church organist, Franz Gruber, had told him earlier in the day that the church organ had broken pipes, making the instrument inoperable until extensive repairs could be made. In Obendorf, Austria in 1818, it was unheard of to have a Christmas Eve service without organ music.

Not knowing what to do, Pastor Mohr took a walk through the snow, enjoying the majestic silence of the evening. As he walked, he remembered a poem he had written two years earlier about the night when Jesus was born. The next day Mohr took the poem to Franz Gruber, who set the poem to music.

That evening, the small Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing a duet of their brand new Christmas carol, Silent Night. If they had known how famous the song would become, they would have been grateful for those broken pipes. God took what was broken and made something beautiful.

Let’s sing the first verse of that song:

Silent night, Holy night, All Is Calm, All Is Bright,

Round Yon Virgin, Mother and Child

Holy Infant, So Tender and Mild

Sleep in Heavenly Peace,

Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

(instrumental music continues)

Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Many of us have sung this part of this Christmas carol for years. It is nice to think about the Baby Jesus sleeping peacefully. However, before His birth, it actually wasn’t so peaceful for Mary and Joseph. We don’t know everything that happened on the night that Jesus was born, but we do know what the Bible tells us in Luke chapter two:

(Campus Pastor reads Luke 2:1-14)

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.  That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Let’s sing together again.

Silent night, Holy night, Son of God, Love’s Pure Light

Radiant Beams From Thy Holy Face,

With the Dawn of Redeeming Grace,

Jesus, Lord at Thy Birth,

Jesus, Lord at Thy Birth.

(music continues)

Jesus was Lord at His birth. We know this because of the words in John chapter one. Speaking of Jesus, John wrote:  “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2)

Jesus, being God, lowered Himself to become one of us. The angel who appeared to Mary even said He would be called Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.”

Why would Jesus lower Himself to be born as a human? It’s a question that’s been asked for thousands of years.

With the exception of Jesus, everyone who has ever lived has sinned in some way. The Bible says that “We all fall short of short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23)

What does this all mean? Is there any hope for us at all?

The first part of Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death…” When someone works at a job, after a predetermined point of time, they receive their wages, or payment, for what they’ve done. Therefore, we know that the wages we receive for our sin is death, or eternal separation from God.

Doesn’t look good for us, does it?

However, in the second part of Romans 6:23, we see that “the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As we sang earlier, Jesus was Lord at His birth. But He didn’t stay a baby. He grew up; lived a totally sinless life; and gave Himself as a perfect sacrifice for us. In other words, He took our punishment for us.

We learn from 1 John 1:9 that “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Because of our sin, we’re all broken, but Jesus is the Restorer of everything that is broken. _____ years ago, I realized my own brokenness. I realized my own need for Jesus.

(Share in 3 minutes how you came to Christ)

Tonight, you may realize your own brokenness, but you have the opportunity to make things right with God this evening. God can take your broken life and create something beautiful.

(Lead the people through a salvation prayer and having them indicate their decision on their communication cards)

If you prayed that prayer with me and you meant it, this Jesus, who was Lord at His birth and who died on the cross for you, is now your Lord and Savior. He is able to turn your broken life around. He’s the whole reason we’re here tonight. Christmas is all about celebrating His birthday. Let’s remember this as we sing the third verse of Silent Night.

Silent night, Holy night, Shepherds Quake at the Sight,

Glories Stream From Heaven Above,

Heavenly Hosts Sing Hallelujah!

Christ the Savior is Born!

Christ the Savior is Born!

(At this point, your worship team can either go back into verse 1 or transition to the chorus of the song “He Loves Us”  by Kim Walker)

Prayer

Merry Christmas

 

 

Seven Great Christmas Videos For Worship (including my personal favorite)

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There are a plethora of Christmas videos for worship out there, but I’ve found these seven helpful over the last couple of years. Enjoy.

Christmas In A Nutshell – http://www.danstevers.com/store/christmas_in_a_nutshell/

Dan Stevers never ceases to impress me with his ingenuity and simple messages. This video is great for a message opener, transition video, or plug for people to invite others.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus – http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/35133/come-thou-long-expected-jesus  Creative painting changing often to keep everyone’s attention shows how all of history culminates in Jesus. Set to an interesting version of the Christmas Carol by the same title by Marcy Priest.

A New Promise – http://www.sermonspice.com/product/65069/a-new-promise – Surprisingly moving, the video from Lifeway Media uses highlights of scripture to point to the promise of Jesus’ birth.

Insta-Christmas – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGx98I_utNI – Great video from Discovery Church. A couple of years old now, but creative in how it tells the story of Jesus’ birth using ancient and modern pictures in an Instagram style. Download it for free at http://smarturl.it/instachristmasHD

The Real Night Before Christmas – https://www.ignitermedia.com/products/3740-the-real-night-before-christmas – With a classic story telling voice partnering with video of children, this Igniter Media video builds anticipation for the birth of the King of Kings.

Seek – http://www.danstevers.com/store/seek/ – Another great one from Dan Stevers. Seek reminds us through shepherds and wisemen that the Lord draws near those who draw near to Him.

And my personal favorite

The Christmas Story – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWq60oyrHVQThe story of Christmas as told by the children of St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand. There have been many remakes of this video in the last year, but this one is my favorite, with cute costumes and original ideas.

Feel free to comment with links to your favorites. Merry Christmas.

Why Many Worship Leaders Don’t Like (Or Are Afraid Of) Christmas Carols

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Christmas is a special time of year for many Christians as they gather to celebrate the mystery that is the birth of our Savior. However, for many worship leaders, the Christmas season is a mystery, a conundrum, an enigma, for an entirely different reason:  Christmas carols.

For many years, a decade or more, I noticed a decline in the singing of Christmas carols in churches across America. Even though I’m beginning to see that trend reverse, there is still a resistance to Christmas carols from some worship leaders.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Christmas Carols are often written in traditional, hymnlike styles and basically sound old. This can be a inward struggle for some worship leaders who strive most of the year to create or maintain a modern style only to feel like they’ve been jerked back hundreds of years by one month every year. Many feel like they are caving into their stylistic principles just because it’s Christmas.
  • Christmas Carols are often written in key or time signatures unusual to worship leaders and instrumentalists, therefore making them more difficult to play and forcing preparation times to go longer. Worship leaders are often puzzled as to how to lead people into the presence of God when their team is struggling with figuring out the music.
  • Christmas Carols have the dual problem of being wordy and containing antiquated lyrics, making them less relevant to many congregations. To compound the problem, most churches typically only sing them at Christmas, so worship leaders, singers, and congregation members find it easy to forget the words while finding it hard to decipher them. Being tied to the music or a confidence monitor for words often makes it difficult for a worship leader to lead others in worship.
  •  Christmas Carols change chords often, sometimes containing 3 to 4 chords per measure. This compounds the problem for worship leaders and their teams when they are already struggling with an overabundance of unusual key and time signatures and unusual lyrics. Because of this, worship teams are sometimes frustrated, glued to the music or lead sheet, and completely self-focused, making it extremely difficult to lead people deeper into worship.
  •  Sometimes, Christmas Carols just don’t appeal to people and they can’t explain why. I asked one worship leader why he never led Christmas Carols and he answered, “Because they’re stupid and I hate them.”

piano

So what are worship leaders to do? Should they just quit singing Christmas carols and ignore the Christmas season altogether? Should they completely cave in and go traditional for one month of every year? Is there anyway to strike a balance with modern worship music and Christmas carols?

I did a quick survey of a few worship leaders I know who are successfully integrating carols into their times of musical worship. Here are a few of their answers:

  • “When possible, simplify and rewrite the chord progressions by allowing for less harmonic movement. For example, some hymns and carols may have 3 or 4 chords per measure of music. Try reducing it to 1 or 2 when possible.”
  • “Mash them up. Think through how to combine Christmas Carols and worship songs that can be sung in conjunction with each other. This can be done by adding in the chorus of a new or favorite worship song as a tag to a Christmas Carol or vice versa.”
  • “Update the carols musically and creatively with production elements, different arrangements, varying instrumentation, modernizing the chords while keeping the melody, mashing them up with current worship songs, and writing extra choruses and bridges with modern words.”
  • “Don’t wait until right before the service to prepare. Find an arrangement with a demonstration your team can listen to throughout the week. Provide the music or lead sheets for them in advance and ask them to come to practice prepared to worship.”
  • “Use mashups. Every Christmas song we’ve done this year has been a mashup with other songs our congregation already knows well. This way, the song isn’t such a shock to the system for everyone involved, including the musicians onstage. It makes the music easier to play, even familiar in some situations. It’s actually been really exciting for me to find interesting ways to combine new and old songs in a fun way. I the fact that it forces me to think in creative ways…”
  • “Have a rehearsal before your pre-service runthrough to prepare your Christmas songs. Taking time to work through songs without the pressure of a service starting in an hour or less gives the worship team time to perfect the songs, allowing them to feel more natural to you.”

worship leader

To millions of people, the Christmas season, Christmas carols, and Christmas songs provide a reminder that God loved the world so much that He gave us Jesus. In this hectic world, Christmas carols can slow us down, help us forget about our frustrating pace of life, and remind us of the real meaning of Christmas. Hopefully, the suggestions above can help worship leaders and worship teams not be frustrated while preparing to lead people in times of worship utilizing carols in the Christmas season.

(Special thanks to my worship leader friends for their input)