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A 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 in tact.

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: Can Anything Really New Happen Under the Sun?

Matthew 24.36-44. This scripture is Jesus talking about his second coming.

Thesis: God is the source of new and good things that happen in his world.

This sermon is framed in 4 questions:

  1. Can anything really new happen under the sun?
  2. Christ came 2000 years ago. That's a long time. What happens next?
  3. Around here we like to schedule things, so when is Christ coming back?
  4. What are we to do in the meantime?

Advent 2: Easiest Thing … Hardest Thing

Matthew 3.1-12.  John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus.

Thesis: Following Christ is the easiest and the hardest thing we’ll ever do, resulting in the grandest life we can live.

After spending a few minutes to remind people of the grace in which we live, the sermon moves to address the challenging aspects of Christian faith. It does this partly by unpacking the stages that the 3rd-century church took new believers through:

  • Inquiry
  • Catechumen
  • Purification and enlightenment
  • Mystagogy

Advent 2: Everything Changed  

Matthew 3.1-3, 11  John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus

Thesis: Several core elements of spiritual life changed with Christ coming to do his work on earth.

There are some life events that change everything that follows.  Imagine that you are a Gentile living in the first century. This sermon considers how the coming of God in Christ changes everything for such people.  And most of us are these people.

Advent 3: While We Wait  

Matthew 11.2-13, James 5.7-11. The Matthew scripture is Jesus responding to the emissaries of John the Baptist from prison. The James passage is advice to have patience and endurance as we await the second coming of the Lord's return.

Thesis: While we are awaiting Jesus’ return, there are some useless ways some of us wait and some fruitful ways. Let’s choose the fruitful ones.

This sermon uses several contemporary stories of what people do while they wait: Estee Lauder, the trapeze flyer, 2 East Coast lovers, awaiting the birth of a grandchild. And then moves on to how Mary waited for the birth of Jesus, James' instruction to wait patiently and without grumbling, and Peter's instruction to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope they see in you. All these lead to some teaching about how we wait on the second coming of Jesus.

Advent 4: Lessons from Joseph

Matt 1.18-25. The angel comes to Joseph in a dream to encourage him to have the courage and follow-through with the plan to wed the pregnant Mary.

Thesis: Joseph was a quality guy in precisely the areas that we need to be quality people, too.

This sermon starts with an anecdote about how no child wants to be Joseph in the Christmas pageant and moves on to unpack the many wonderful traits of the good man Joseph. This sermon encourages men to be like Joseph, and indirectly encourages wives to value their husband's faithfulness. And, indirectly, it speaks to the unmarried about the real attributes of a good husband.

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, verifies them, and then expects us to stay on track until he makes it just as clear that it’s time to move on to the next assignment.

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

Christmas Day: The Incarnation - God Among Us

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 (week 04.4): Jesus Comes Anyway 

Luke 2.1-20.  The birth of Jesus story.

Thesis:  No matter how humble or unfit our house is, Jesus wants to come and fill our house with his presence – and to stand by us through whatever life brings.

This sermon emphasizes the concept that we don't have to clean up our house before we invite Jesus into it.  He's willing to live in the grandkids' playhouse in the back yard if that's what we offer him.  He's patient.  Overtime you'll come to treasure his presence so much that you will probably give him the "run of the whole house."

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

This sermon is also part of a distributed series. It's detail is not in the "filing cabinet below; to find it please go to the 7th sermon in the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series.

Rev 21.1-4 (John's New Jerusalem prophesy). The sermon also uses 1 Peter 3.13-16, from A 6Easter, to help us know how to share the good news of Jesus with our FRANs (Friends, Relatives, Associates, Neighbors). 

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

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.

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. It's 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.

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