The difference between Advent being just another Christmas ‘thing’ and it being a spiritually engaging Christmas tradition can be influenced greatly by pastors preaching sermons that capitalize on the momentum of a countdown. Not just approaching sermons as ‘Christmas’ sermons but truly being intentional with the sermon outlines and manuscripts to capture the heart of the season, the anticipation of Christmas day, and preach a powerful Advent sermon series.
Advent needs to start with a simple telling of Jesus’ birth. Yes, just telling the story. The story itself is the critical component to over communicate because it illustrates the lengths God has gone in order to redeem creation. It may feel like you’re selling your congregation short by just telling the story, but you’re not. The story is timeless and, in all reality, your listeners want to hear the story. They want to feel Christmas. They want the nostalgia of their childhood, their past, their fun traditions. They want Christmas to be real.
If you were looking for someone to say, “It’s okay to just tell the story every week,” consider this the green light.
You can make the spiritual significance of Christmas real for your people by intentionally building up the anticipation for the arrival of Christ. Building anticipation creates the space needed in someone’s heart for an awakening or epiphany and the tradition of Advent is a strong vehicle to make that happen.
It is not your job to move the hearts of your people – that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Your job is to raise the sails of the heart so the wind of the Spirit can move them towards the Father. An Advent sermon series is a great technique for raising the sails.
It is not your job to move the hearts of your people – that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Your job is to raise the sails of the heart so the wind of the Spirit can move them towards the Father.
To help you prepare to preach your best advent sermons this Christmas, we have put together a collection of key points to consider including in every Advent sermon so the message sticks with listeners well beyond weekend services.
Explain the Significance of Advent Each Week In Your Message
You know the history of Advent and the stories about the tradition. You’ve probably shared elements of the history in a previous Advent sermon and there is a good chance you’ve preached on it several times. Needless to say, the significance of Advent is not lost on you. Remember that when you preach through Advent this year, it will be the first time many in your congregation will hear a teaching on the topic – this goes back to engaging everyone in the room.
No doubt you will want to include the importance and significance of Advent in your week one sermon, but when you don’t include it all four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, there will be a sizable number of attendees who will never know what Advent really is, why it is significant, or what it means for them.
Just as many people will skip Good Friday and jump right to Easter, many will skip Advent and jump right to Christmas.
The Pew Research Center conducted a US religious landscape study and only 25% of those surveyed say they attend a religious service at least once a week. What this means for you is that, on average, only 1 in 4 of those in your congregation will hear every message of your series – the other three individuals are going to miss at least one week in the lead up to Christmas.
Every week that you preach Advent, you should reiterate the very basics of what it is and why it is important. Here are five truths that pastors should consider including in every Advent sermon.
- Advent is a cue for Christians to prepare for the arrival of Jesus.
- Advent is meant to be a time of contemplating the reality of God becoming a baby and all the vulnerabilities that come with that truth.
- Advent is our call to worship and prepare ourselves in anticipation for the second coming of Christ.
- Advent is important because it creates a greater, all-around awareness and underscores the significance of the Christmas story.
- Advent is important because it creates a runway for celebrating Jesus’ birth leading to Christmas Day – not just celebrating on the day itself.
Just as many people will skip Good Friday and jump right to Easter, many will skip Advent and jump right to Christmas.
During December, your congregation will be readying their homes for the arrival of Christmas guests. Teach them how to ready their hearts for the arrival of Christ Jesus, the Lord. Every Advent sermon you preach should remind them Who is coming, why it matters, and what they can do to prepare themselves.
“Advent” Isn’t In the Bible…
As you preach each Advent sermon, it is important to make known to your congregation that they will not find the word “Advent” in the Bible, but they will find the Advent message rooted in scripture – in both Old Testament and New Testament.
If you don’t already have reference points in mind, here is a list of verses to consider (taken from The Revised Common Lectionary):
- Jeremiah 33:14-16 – God talking about the time when He will fulfill the promise He’s made to the people of Israel and Judah.
- Psalm 25:1-10 – David singing about trusting in God for his Salvation, and how God shows His love.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – The anticipation of unity through the return of Christ.
- Luke 21:25-36 – Preparing oneself in anticipation for the return of Christ.
- Malachi 3:1-4 – God talking about sending Christ, a messenger of the covenant to refine and purify.
- Luke 1:68-79 – Luke capturing Zechariah’s song which is a prophecy of Christ’s arrival.
- Philippians 1:3-11 – God completing the work inside of us, through Christ. A prayer for the church.
- Luke 3:1-6 – John the Baptist on preparing the way of the Lord.
- Zephaniah 3:14-20 – God promising rescue and restoration.
- Isaiah 12:2-6 – The prophet Isaiah declaring his salvation from God, his trust in The Lord, and a coming day of salvation.
- Philippians 4:4-7 – A prayer of rejoicing and a call to seek God, for The Lord is near.
- Micah 5:2-5a – Prophecy for the Messiah to come out of Bethlehem and the work He will accomplish.
- Luke 1:46b-55 – Mary’s song.
- Psalm 80:1-7 – A prayer of restoration and from God’s anger.
- Hebrews 10:5-10 – An explanation of Christ’s sacrifice and the sanctification through His body.
- Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) – Mary visiting Elizabeth.
In addition to using scripture to communicate the truth of Advent, you can consider using hymns and Christmas songs that connect with the Advent story.
As you begin to select the verse or verses you’ll incorporate into your weekly message, be thinking of ways you can encourage and empower your people to live out the Advent creed at home. Because Advent isn’t mentioned in scripture specifically, it is a great opportunity to connect the truth of what Advent is to the truth of everyday life in the 21st century.
You can further uncover an understanding of Advent by creating a Bible reading plan for the season. As an example, your plan could cover all the Christmas story passages and then email the plan through your weekly email newsletter or hand it out on Sunday morning.
The big idea here is to re-enforce the biblical qualifications of Advent through understanding the scriptures.
For the Moment When You Get Stuck Planning Your Weekly Advent Sermon
It is inevitable that you’ll get stuck at some moment when writing your advent sermon. When it happens, there are a few things you can do to get ‘unstuck’ and keep moving forward.
Search for Advent Sermon Series Ideas
Looking at what other churches have done on a particular topic is a great way to discover inspiration for your message. If you haven’t explored Church Sermon Series Ideas, now would be the time to do so. Every day, they post a new sermon series from churches around the globe. Each entry contains the series artwork, the series description, and the name of the church where the series was preached.
There are times when simply looking at an image can inspire creativity and Church Sermon Series Ideas delivers plenty of visual inspiration. If you want to explore a particular series further, just follow the included backlink to the church’s website.
To get started, here is the link to a search we did for Advent sermon series ideas.
Visit Ministry Pass for Message Big Ideas and Illustrations
While Church Sermon Series Ideas does a great job of providing a visual stimulant, Ministry Pass goes much further than series graphics, we deliver researched and theologically sound series guides.
Many of the most notable and well-known pastors employ full-time researchers and have multiple pastors on their teaching team who do much of the leg work, helping the lead pastor to prepare for an upcoming sermon series. They provide options for message big ideas, key scriptures to consider, illustration options, and overall talking points.
Ministry Pass does all of this for you.
Ministry Pass provides message big ideas, key scriptures to consider, illustration options, overall talking points and sermon series graphics. Everything pastors of the largest churches hire staff to do, Ministry Pass does for you.
Many pastors who are members of Ministry Pass rely on us to play the role of researcher, additional theology expert, wise sage, creative artist, and series organizer – helping them fill the financial gap between how mega church pastors fund their series prep work and being a lone pastor on staff.
Our team of pastors, researchers, and teachers have produced some amazing material for Advent that we’re really excited about
- Advent: The Coming King (4 weeks)
- Advent: The Light Has Come (4 weeks)
- Advent I (4 weeks)
- Advent II (4 weeks)
Planning Advent with Other Pastors and Colleagues
It is never unwise to seek advice, counsel, and assistance from those who have ‘done it before’ or who are ‘seasoned.’ You will actually increase the odds of crafting a memorable sermon the more you include others in your process. Whether you are new to preaching Advent or if you’ve taught it so many times you’re out of ideas, be sure to reach out to pastors around you. We have found that pastors are willing, and even eager, to share their Advent sermon ideas and illustrations.
You can glean from other messages, illustrations, and presentations and adapt what has worked for other pastors into something that will work for you.
Even something as simple as listening to another pastor’s Advent sermon will help you move forward in your preparation.
IllustrationIdeas.Bible is great resource where many pastors give away their sermon illustrations for other pastors to use and benefit from.
Remember that Advent Is Not Just Another Christmas Series
Approaching Advent as just another ‘Christmas series’ can and will trip you up. The best Advent sermons are those which capitalize on the elements of tradition, spiritual awareness, and faith disciplines – think discipleship. Preaching a sermon on Advent allows you to tap into spiritual elements, practices, and traditions that humans cannot find anywhere else in the world.
Advent is unique to the Church and church is the only place in the world where humans can find the spiritual elements, practices, and traditions of Advent.
The calendar season of Christmas has been co-opted by retailers and mass merchandisers. Nativity scenes show up on fireplaces and in front yards. But the history of Advent and anticipating the arrival of Christ is something that cannot be co-opted or adopted by anyone other than the Saints because it is so closely tied to the promises of God and the fulfillment through Christ.
Great advent sermons help us see how the stories surrounding Christ’s incarnation actually strengthens us now, in the present, as we strive to live faithfully until Jesus returns. They take well-worn stories and bring some kind of fresh light. Don’t try and get too cute. Just preach the basic stories, but spend enough time in preparation to pull out fresh insight and connect it to people’s real lives.
Lead Pastor at Redemption Church Gateway
Make Advent special and incorporate elements into your sermon, your series, and your church’s celebration of Christmas that move weekend teaching into the home. You will teach and celebrate Advent as a church one day of the week – help your church members take your message and build upon the truth the other six days of the week.
Great Ways to Help Your People Celebrate Advent at Home to Help Your Sermon Stick
However you choose to approach each Advent sermon you preach this Christmas, whatever angle you choose to take, you want to capitalize on the ‘countdown nature’ of Advent – this will help your weekend sermon stick. As we searched the internet for great Advent sermons, we came across some great ideas for making Advent personal for your people.
You can take ideas like these, modify them, and use them to best fit your church family.
Celebrating Advent With an Advent Countdown at Home
As much as the underlying significance of Advent may be foreign to many, the concept of an Advent calendar is not. A quick search on Amazon for Advent calendars will give you dozens – maybe even hundreds – of calendar variations, themes, and types. People love a good countdown and retailers know this.
You can also include your own Advent experiences in your messages. Sharing stories about your family observing Advent during the week will inspire other families to consider observing the tradition as well. Not only will your messages have a greater life cycle (because they’re relevant all week long) but your next weekend message will have your congregation arriving having already considered the topic all week. Wow!
Invite Your People to An All-Church Advent Bible Reading Plan
Once you’ve selected the verses you’ll preach on during each of your messages, take the remaining Christmas verses and create an Advent Bible reading plan for your people. Your congregation is anticipating your sermons every weekend, but what we want is to make disciples and using a Bible reading plan for Advent will do that!
Opening up the Bible and just reading something random is a bit intimidating to someone who hasn’t developed the discipline of reading scripture. An Advent Bible reading plan is ideal because it does three things.
- Provides clear direction for what passages to read.
- Is wrapped around a familiar story, creating context for each scripture.
- Is time limited so doesn’t feel as intimidating as a one-year Bible reading plan may feel.
We were #surprised #notsurprised to find that YouVersion has curated several stellar Bible reading plans specifically for Advent. You can find a reading plan as short as four days or as long as four weeks.
Depending on your tradition, using the word Advent may go over the head of some. This is one of the seasons where most people know the basic story… they just need to hear the story again. God uses different elements of your sermon and your service to touch the most tender spots in people’s hearts.
Lead Pastor at New Life Community Church
If you really want to create something unique for your people, unique to your church, you could create a very simple document that contains a series of verses, perhaps 25 verses (one for each day between December 1-25) and include a single sentence to your congregation for each one. Curate your list, write up a comment or challenge, print the document and distribute it during services.
You can also make it available as a part of promoting your Advent sermon series prior to the first week.
A Message for Believers and A Message for Non-Believers
If your church is made up of a lot of Christians, Advent is most likely not a new idea so you can go more quickly to discipleship application. Your individual sermons can focus in on the elements of hope, love, joy, and peace and what those fruits of the spirit ought to look like in the life of a believer during Christmas – all with the foreshadowing of Christ being born. Advent itself has a liturgical bent and helps you remind your people, “We are going to celebrate Christmas differently than the world.”
If your church is made up of a lot of non-Christians or new Christians, you can spend more time focusing on the evangelistic aspect of the tradition. Rather than reminding believers of what Christmas really means and highlighting strong discipleship themes, you can reveal how Christ’s arrival makes everything different, and the hope that was introduced into the world through Jesus that night 2,000 years ago is available today.
The underscored message throughout your sermon needs to be that we don’t want to just jump to Christmas. We want to anticipate, reflect, and celebrate.
It is also worth noting that you don’t have to be preaching a series called “Advent” or something clearly Advent related to bring in hope, love, joy, and peace. You can work these elements into any Christmas message and relate them to the theme of Advent, mentioning it as you go along.
Consider the message below by Pastor Max Lucado. This message is so clearly related to the hope we have in Christ to live lives of significance regardless of how ‘normal’ we may be.
Here is something that is true: Through prayer and petition, and through the illumination of the scriptures, you will know what is best for the people entrusted to you. Call your message an Advent message or just refer to it as a Christmas message. Preach through an Advent series or preach Advent elements while calling it a Christmas series. The elements of Advent are advantageous for your congregation because it ultimately places our hearts and minds in a place to receive the gift God revealed that night.
The Advent Series You Preach Will Shape Christmas For Your Church
Your message will shape how your congregation celebrates Christmas this year. At the end of the day, your weekly message is meant to help slow down the season, focus on the simplicity of the story, and let the promise of redemption have its impact on the hearts of your people.
There is so much going on, even weeks before Christmas, and many in your church won’t actually stop and reflect on Jesus’ birth – so when you have their attention, help them slow down and then encourage them in ways they can continue to slow things down so they can enjoy the countdown to Christmas and Christ’s arrival.
Just as young children count down the days until they get to open presents, we should be counting down the days to the birth of Christ with the same sense of anticipation. Your weekly sermon, Advent themed or not, can be used to give your members an understanding of what Christmas really is all about, a countdown to remember that Jesus is coming!