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B Advent - New Years

by Tim Isbell

Are you looking for fresh preaching ideas for this Christmas season? In addition to the sermon material below, be sure to check out Advent Readings. And for a great 4-minute video clip that shows the localized Christmas truce between British and German troops during WW1, check out this 2014 Sainsbury's Christmas Advertisement.

This page provides many sermons for Advent (the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas), Christmas and New Years. They are based on scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary. Feel free to extract ideas, outlines, or the entire sermons. Advent scriptures focus on much more than Jesus' birth. Several are Old Testament prophecies pointing to the First Advent (the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago). Others point to the Second Advent (the future coming of Christ).

In the listing below, clicking on a sermon title takes you to a Google Doc of the sermon notes. You can view/print these from any browser, or download the file in various formats (such as Word, RTF, or PDF). If you are using a version of Word prior to 2007 you may need to download it in RTF. Then it will open with most (if not all) the formatting intact.

You can also access any of these sermons from the Sermon Chart, which displays them in the context of the entire 3-year lectionary cycle. Browse down the second column until you see the lectionary season of interest. To access the sermon notes just click on the sermon title.

Not a lectionary preacher? You can change the Sermon Chart so that it lists the sermons in the order of the primary biblical text for each sermon. In the Sermon Chart, browse down to the chart and look at the right-hand column. Click on Sort: Ascending. Notice that many sermons list additional scriptures. To find all entries for a particular biblical book from the whole list just use your browser's Find function. The top of the Sermon Chart web page explains the biblical text abbreviation system.

For more about the Revised Common Lectionary, click on Lectionary Basics and Lectionary Preaching.

Feel free to extract any ideas, outlines, or entire sermons from my site. That's what it is for. To subscribe to email or RSS notifications of new posts from this site, click IsbellOnline News.


Blessings,
Tim


Advent 1: Good News for Weary Hearts

Isaiah 64.1-9. Includes the passage, "And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter..."

Thesis: Like an expert craftsman, God works faithfully over enormous periods of time to form those who receive his Good News of Jesus into persons suitable to live for even longer – for all eternity.

This is a short sermon, designed to fit into the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It begins with a teachable moment on the importance of reading scripture, and in the process reminds people that this is the first Sunday of a new Christian year. It also offers a reminder of how the lectionary fits into all this. The core of the sermon, though, focuses on the Isaiah passage, which looks back on Israel's history and looks forward to the coming of Jesus.


Advent 2: Straighten the Road

Isaiah 40.1-11, Mark 1.1-8. Straighten the road in the wilderness for the Lord is coming.

Thesis: God is still in the business of making old hearts new; our job is to straighten the road for the Lord by repenting, getting baptized, and welcoming the Spirit of Jesus.

This sermon begins with a humorous example about parents who unwittingly make the "little adult assumption." This section even includes a little role play example. The sermon also contains a very strong section on forgiveness, using an anecdote from India from William Willimon, and also one from South Africa. Both touch the heart and set up a close that invites people to take action.


Advent 3: Connecting the Dots

Isaiah 61.1-11, Luke 4.14-30

Thesis: The fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy in Jesus is not something that theologians discovered through scholarly analysis; it was revealed to them by Jesus after the resurrection. Embracing these truths help us move from decaf to espresso Christianity.

This sermon unpacks a core concept that I've used countless times with intellectually strong investigators of Christian faith. Many get stuck on the issue that the Old Testament prophecies that Christians believe point to Jesus, but which are obscure to the inquirer. They occasionally ask how today's Jews interpret these Old Testament scriptures, and of course, they do not interpret them anything like Christians. Several years ago I resolved this dilemma (at least for myself, and as it turns out for people I've talked with about it) by realizing how first century Christians came to their understanding. They did not analytically "connect the dots." Jesus himself revealed (taught) it to them after the resurrection and before the ascension. Whether or not you preach any part of this sermon, please read through it to help you deal with intellectual investigators.


Advent 4: The Virgin Birth

Luke 1.26-38. The birth of Jesus foretold.

Thesis: The virgin birth helps us understand and accept God’s salvation offer, not as human virtue rewarded, but as people responding to God’s relentlessly unmerited grace.

I sidestepped ever dealing with the virgin birth for as long as I could. Finally, in 2008, it was time to study up on it and deliver a sermon to our congregation on this topic. This is it.


Advent 4: Life After God Speaks

Matt 1.18-25 (A Advent 4) or Luke 1.26-38 (B Advent 4). These scriptures are the two stories of angels coming to Joseph and Mary prior to the birth of Jesus.

Thesis: God gives us assignments, validates them, and then expects us to stay on track until he makes it just as clear that it’s time to move on to another assignment.

This sermon helps people grow to where they recognize and interpret God's prompting and then teaches them how to stay on-track while things unfold in God's timing.


Advent 4 or 3: Belief that Matters

Luke 1.26-55. 

Thesis: Belief that matters to God includes action.

This sermon is a great fit for Christmas Sunday morning. It looks at how God intersected the lives of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and wise men with assignments - encouraging all of them not to fear. And they all rearranged their lives to around God's assignment, leading the preacher to ask the church, "How about us. Will we rearrange our lives to serve God?"


Christmas Day: The Incarnation

This is the 3rd Big Idea of Christian Faith. For more about the series, go to the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series.

John 1.14 (also could be revised to fit Matt 1.18-25, A 4Advent). John's poetic telling of the incarnation.

Thesis: From the beginning, God has desired to live among his people.

This sermon leverages off of a question an inquirer asked me after reading Exodus: "Why does God only allow Moses to see Him and why does God perform miracles and teachings only through Moses? Could God teach the Israelites more directly so ordinary people will not sin? I think there were possibly people that just didn’t trust Moses from time to time. If these people saw or heard God directly, they would not have turned away from God.”

The sermon responds to this query by tracing the desire of God to be with his people in the Moses story and on into the Jesus story in the New Testament. Through our work together on reading the Bible using the Story-Line Method, the enquirer did indeed become a Christian.


Christmas Eve or Day: Comparing Emperor Augustus and King Jesus

Luke 1.1-20

Thesis: Luke’s message is about the same as his message to the Roman world: Augustus' reign was good, but Jesus reign is far better.

This short sermon designed was for a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, but it would also work on a Christmas Sunday morning. Luke wrote with a Roman/Gentile audience in mind. He knew they had a high opinion of Emperor Augustus, so Luke contextualized his message by showing that while Augustus was a very good lord of the Roman Empire, Jesus was a far greater Lord of all.


New Years Eve: New Years Reset

Psalms 139. Oh Lord, you have examined my heart...

Thesis: The Lord hears our confession, and sets us free to begin fresh in the new year.

This is a devotional designed for a contemplative segment in a New Years Eve service or event. Its purpose is to lead people in a time of confession and resetting for the new year. It includes an interactive component where each person can transfer their sins to a small rock, and then deposit the rock in a receptacle to represent giving them to God. It is not tied to any lectionary week.


New Years: Living the Good News

Isaiah 61:10-62.3

Thesis: If you belong to Jesus Christ, you belong to everyone else who belongs to Jesus Christ. (A quote from Haddon Robinson)

Early in a new year is a good time to talk with the congregation about the local church's direction. This is such a sermon. It’s somewhat aimed at the New Life Church, but there are several usable ideas in it for any pastor wanting to frame the upcoming year.


New Years: Absolute Truth - Does It Constrain or Free Us?

Galatians 4.4-7, John 1.1-14, John 8.31-32, 2 Corinthians 5.14. A mixture of scriptures on both sides of the paradox of freedom and slavery to Jesus.

Thesis: Absolute truth-claims sound oppressive, but the Christian claim of absolute truth in the person of Jesus Christ is wonderfully freeing.

This is an implementation of some excellent Timothy Keller teaching. For the original material, go to Redeemer Presbyterian's site and look for material on Overcoming Objections


New Years: It's God's Initiative; History Is Going Somewhere

Rev 21.1-4. John's prophecy of a coming New Jerusalem. The sermon also uses 1 Peter 3.13-16.

Thesis: God’s primary mission in human history is to redeem people into a Kingdom community suitable to live with him forever.

This sermon is also part of a distributed series: the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series. It is a good fit in the lectionary for all three years. While it is a very strong one to lead off the year, it also fits almost anyplace in the calendar.


New Years: Now Is the Time

Ecclesiastes 3.1-13

Thesis: Maybe this is not the year to over-focus on long-term goals; perhaps this is a year to enjoy the processes of God.

Many New Years sermons direct attention to setting goals for the upcoming year. This sermon takes the opposite approach, suggesting that we focus our attention more on the process than on the goals. By process, I mean the ways of living Christian lives that include worship, participation in a small group, serving some under-resourced people, and doing some life with some unchurched friends.


Christmas 1 or New Years: The Preacher’s Message

Ecclesiastes.

  • At times, every life will seem meaningless, frustrating.
  • We will never completely figure life out - maybe not even in the next life.
  • God never promises all the answers; what he promises is himself. Even in the complexities of life, we hold onto the promise, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”

Thesis: God never promises all the answers to life’s frustrations; instead he offers himself even/especially in the middle of life’s complexities.

Ecclesiastes appears infrequently in the lectionary. This sermon uses many Ecclesiastes scriptures from the prolog, through the interior writing, and moves to a grand conclusion.

This is what enables Christians to live with confidence and courage.

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