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C Advent - New Years

by Tim Isbell

Are you looking for some 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 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 prophesies 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. If you want 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 webpage explains the biblical text abbreviation system I use.

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.


Advent 1: Giving Thanks

1 Thessalonians 3.9-13. Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonian church and prays for their well-being and growth.

Thesis: Part of an authentic Christian community is for its members to gather and give public thanks to God – in good and bad times.

Advent 1 falls pretty close after Thanksgiving when people are just beginning to shift into the Christmas mindset. Many years on the first Sunday of Advent we had a worship service with a lot of time set aside for people to give thanks and praise to the Lord. On such Sunday’s I provide a short sermon lead-in that includes a scripture and then I share my personal thanks/praise to God for this past year. Then open the floor for a time for the congregation to share their thanks and praise, mixed with communion and a bit of music. This is one of those sermons.

Advent 2: God's Promise is Good 

Luke 1.68-79. Zechariah's prophecy.

Thesis: We can trust this God's love and destination for us – and not be disheartened by apparent instances to contrary.

This sermon has a novel, inductive framework which leads to one of those aha endings. It begins with a few personal stories about being uncomfortable in some situations, along with one story of a friend of mine going to Denmark and being surprised to immediately fell "at home." With this background, the sermon looks at some parallels to God in Christ coming to what must have been a very uncomfortable place for a person who had otherwise experienced nothing but holiness and joy. It finishes by explaining how Christmas offers us a way to find our own true home, one where we are finally "at home."

Advent 2: 3 Ways Christians Give

For a synopsis of this sermon go to Money Sermons

Advent 3: Slipping Confidence

Luke 3.7-18. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus by telling people to repent and change the way they live.

Thesis: God gives us enough of his word and his signs for us to trust him in everything downstream.

The scripture provides the opportunity to remind the congregation of the arc of John the Baptist's life. Particularly how he was so sure of his theology and message... until he was in Herod's prison. Then he appears to have doubts. The sermon uses reminds the congregation of the arc of John the Baptist's life to help us know how to deal with our doubts when the storms are hitting us from all sides. Late in the sermon, I change directions a bit and re-analyze John the Baptist's prison situation as not so much a matter of his personal doubts as something else. You will have to read the sermon for this.

Advent 4: Too Good to be True

John 14.12. I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works because I am going to be with the Father. 

Thesis: The incarnation of God in Christ continues with his incarnation in the “Body of Christ,” the church.

This sermon uses many scriptures, but none of them really fit Year A Advent 4. Regardless, I'm posting it here because it is such a strong sermon on the incarnation of Jesus 2000 years ago... and also in his reincarnation in the body of Christ ever since. 

A few times each year someone asks me about some Old Testament story where the picture of God is very harsh. For example, where God orders the destruction of an entire people group. Or where God himself destroys a group, like Sodom. I don’t like these stories, I wish they weren't in the Bible, but they are. This sermon is about how to think about these things. As it progresses the sermon unpacks the implications of the incarnation of Jesus in his incarnation in the body of Christ, and how this fulfills the John scripture. This sermon is a strong invitation to people who self-identify themselves as Christians to actually take up their assignment in the body of Christ.

Experimental link to an embedded version of the sermon Too Good to be True, Published to the Web. The purpose of this experiment is to see if Google finds/indexes it for web searches.

Advent 4: Christmas is Doctrinal and Historical

John 1.1-4, Luke 1 & 2

Thesis: Christmas is frankly doctrinal and boldly historical, and because of this Christians are solidly material, richly relational, profoundly mystical, and free to be emotional. 

This is an adaptation of Timothy Keller's superb sermon: The Purpose of Christmas. Sooner or later the material in this message needs preaching in every authentically Christian church. At the beginning of the sermon is an opportunity to use a video clip to tell the Christmas story, but you can also simply tell it or have it read by 2-3 readers. Also, there is a set of object lessons that threads through the sermon to connect to the 4 points: material, relational, mystical, and emotional.

Christmas Day: The Incarnation - God Among Us

This sermon is the 3rd of 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series.

John 1.1-14 (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 is the 3rd Big Idea of Christian Faith. To find out 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 did not 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 the question 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, he 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:  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 process than on goals. By process, I mean the ways of living an authentic Christian life that include worship, participation in a small group, serving some under-resourced people, and doing some life with unchurched friends.

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.

Christmas 1 or New Years: The Preacher’s Message


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

This book appears very infrequently in the lectionary. This sermon makes use of a lot of scriptures from the prologue, through the interior writing, and moves to a grand conclusion:  

  • At times in every life, it will seem meaningless – frustrating.
  • We will never completely figure Life out. Maybe not even in the next life.
  • God never promises us 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.”

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

Christmas 1 or New Years: It's God's Initiative; History Is Going Somewhere

Rev 21.1-4  John's prophesy 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 for the lectionary for all three years. It is a particularly strong one to lead off the year.

Okay, that's it for Advent, Christmas and New Years sermon material for this year. I hope you will consider subscribing to my email and/or RSS feeds of sermons for the upcoming seasons of Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and so on. You can subscribe to IsbellOnline News.



Subpages (1): Too Good to be True