This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. Alistair Begg. Dr. Begg is senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and host of Truth for Life. He is author of Christmas Playlist.
Plan today to reach your neighbors this December. Don’t delay and find that you have missed an opportunity to share why Jesus is at the center of your celebrations.
Christmas is coming. Very soon, they’ll change the music in the mall. All of a sudden, you’ll realize you’re humming along to “Jingle Bells” or “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” It’s a kind of subconscious “get ready” message.
Many of us resist the idea that the Christmas season begins in October. If you’re feeling irritated at the mention of the very word, I sympathize and I apologize. The music and mistletoe and magi are all very well, in December!
But in a sense, Christmas should start in October—for churches.
Christmas is the time of greatest cultural connection between Christianity and our culture—and so Christmas is the time of greatest opportunity for our churches to reach out with the gospel so that the glory of Christ might resound louder than the music in the mall. If we’re serious about doing that, we’ll be getting serious about it now.
Here are three tips for making the most of this Christmas for the glory of Christ.
Start your Christmas planning early. Whether you’re planning for a whole church or for your own household, think about what events you will hold.
How can you engage people who might not even come to a carol service? What will you give people who come through your doors to take home with them to read? How will you advertise and invite people to come in the New Year?
One thing we’ve found works well at our church is a concert, with lots of Christmas music, done well, and a nine-minute talk looking at just one aspect of the Christmas story. We invite people to take a Gospel away with them to read. We give them a copy of an evangelistic Christmas book as a present. And we think hard about hosting events in January for visitors to attend that will keep presenting the gospel to them.
That all takes more planning than simply doing whatever it was we did last year, and preaching a decent sermon on Christmas Eve. And it starts in October.
Don’t assume that everybody is really interested in what your church has to say about Christmas. But equally, don’t assume that nobody is remotely interested. Don’t give in to the idea that no one will be changed by what you say, if what you say is the gospel. Aim to simply and positively and faithfully preach Christmas, in conversation and in sermons. You don’t need to find an original angle, and do Christmas from the perspective of the donkey this year. Read the culture—I always try to find out what secular opinion-formers’ views of Christmas are. But then preach the gospel—it’s the gospel that has the power to save people.
Connect with what people around you say about Christmas, rather than confronting it. People often say, “Christmas is for kids”. How do you answer? You can say, “No, actually Christmas is for grown-ups.” Or you can say, “That’s absolutely right. Jesus said that too—except he said that actually, we all need to be like kids.” Or someone says, “Christmas is all about family.” You can say, “Actually, it’s meant to be all about Jesus Christ” or you can say, “Yes. Why do you think we feel that? And do you think any family ever matches up to our ideal for more than the few days of the Christmas holidays?”
Christmas is coming. And our Christmas planning and our Christmas praying need to start now, so that once December comes (and it always comes quicker than you expect), we’re ready—not only with presents and the turkey, but with the gospel. Personally, over the years I have found that having a short book that I can give to a friend or a neighbor and that explains the gospel clearly and winsomely is really helpful—which is what caused me to write Christmas Playlist. It may be a way you can introduce those you see this December to the Lord. Merry (early) Christmas!
Alistair Begg is pastor of Parkside Church, Cleveland, Ohio, and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life. Alistair has authored several books, including the new title Christmas Playlist: Four Songs that Bring you to the Heart of Christmas, perfect for giving out at your church’s Christmas events, and to non-or-nominal-Christian neighbors this December.