Pastors, No Need to Invent a New Twist on This Old Story


" For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).

Just tell the story.

Get over the need to be flashy, cutting edge, different. Just tell it.

Tell the story with faithfulness and respect. Tell it accurately and fully, bringing in the accounts of Matthew and Luke, drawing from the prophecies of old.

Tell it with gusto and love. Tell the story of the birth of Jesus with all the excitement of someone hearing it for the first time. Tell the story without detouring into theories, guesses, myths and controversies.

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Your Christmas sermon is no time to conjecture on how planets aligned themselves into creating that wandering star which led the Magi to Bethlehem. Keep in mind that it "went before them until it came and stood over where the young Child was" (Matt. 2:9b). Try doing that with planets. Stay on the subject, pastor, and don't waste your time.

Your Christmas sermon should not waste everyone's valuable time on the pagan origin of Christmas or the history of Augustus' census, unless you've found something worthwhile, pastor. Mostly those are fillers.

Stay on the subject.

Tell the story with imagination and appreciation.

Try to imagine how Mary must have felt. Evidently, she was living a normal life of a young Jewish maiden when the angel of the Lord interrupted her with life-changing plans. Talk about showstoppers! "How can these things be" indeed! What will people think? What will mama say? How will I ever be able to pull this off? What is the Lord up to? And why me, of all people?

Try to imagine how Joseph must have felt. The young lady who has won his heart and for whom he has been making plans informs him that she is pregnant. And has the chutzpah to claim it's the Lord's doing and that she is still pure. Oh yeah. Put her away? That's the only way. A godly person has to avoid even the appearance of evil. And then one restless night, an angel appeared with information that changed everything.

Try to imagine how the families of Mary and Joseph must have felt. Talk about mixed emotions. Maybe their traveling to Bethlehem is a good idea. Get the girl away from home, so the neighbors won't know that this baby was born too early, so to speak. Perhaps Mary and Joseph will go on living in Bethlehem after its birth so people around here will forget the scandal and conveniently lose track of the years.

Imagine how Gabriel must have felt. He was making the greatest announcement ever—the one awaited since the Garden of Eden fiasco—and the only audience is a small group of wide-eyed shepherds. Will these unsophisticated types appreciate what's being said, understand what this means, drop everything and go? Or will they be as dull as the religious leaders in Jerusalem?

Imagine how the angelic choir must have felt. They practiced that little song for eons and traveled zillions of miles and then, when the curtains were opened, they found their whole audience was a few tone-deaf shepherds. The heavenly Father sure doesn't do things the way we would, does He? But then, angels know that. They live with Him in glory. They know things we do not.

Imagine how the shepherds must have felt. A night like all the other nights they'd worked out there in the pitch blackness, only to have the landscape light up like noonday when an angel appeared and hung about 20 feet out there in midair. Did they wonder, "Why us? Why this announcement to a few lowly shepherds with no theological degrees or religious vocations? We've had no preparation for this, and we're not sure anyone will believe our report. Couldn't the Lord have found better recipients for this announcement, a better welcoming committee for His Son, more reliable witnesses for this story?"

Imagine how the citizens of Jerusalem must have felt when a few foreign visitors showed up asking, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" That sure set the town to gossiping for a few days. Finally, the visitors with the funny accents worked their way up to the castle where they were invited in for an audience with murderous King Herod himself.

Imagine how the religious leaders in Jerusalem must have felt. Herod asked them about the birth of one called "King of the Jews." They told him what the Prophet Micah had said—this one "whose goings forth have been from the days of eternity" was to be born in Bethlehem—and that seemed to satisfy him (Micah 5:2). But did any of them ever think of actually walking the five miles to Bethlehem to see for themselves? Were they too busy with their religious careers, self-advancement issues or vocational interests to do anything so simple and blessed such as dropping everything to worship the newborn King?

Something you may have wondered ...

You have perhaps wondered what you would have done had you been alive when Jesus was born, in the crowd when He ministered, in the throngs when He walked the dusty trails of Galilee. How would you have responded when He preached to the crowds on the seashore, when He was nailed to the cross, when you heard that He was risen from the dead?

We have all wondered, "What would I have done?"

— Would you have come to Him? Would you have worshiped and followed, listened to His every word and given your heart to Him?

— Would you have opposed Him as some did? Would you have banded together with other opponents and worked up schemes to trap Him, made plans to arrest Him, schemed to still His voice and stop His work lest He stir up Rome and cause more trouble?

— Or would you have gone on your way, too busy to be bothered by another religious charlatan with yet another scheme for ending Rome's oppression?

We know the answer.

You and I would have done exactly as we are doing now.


If you are worshiping, loving and obeying Jesus now, you'd have done so then. And your faithfulness would have provoked the gratitude of millions of Christians ever since.

If you are resisting and fighting Him now, it's safe to say you would have joined the Herodians and Pharisees and been among the rabble at the foot of the cross. And made the greatest mistake of your life.

If you are too busy now, you'd have ignored Jesus then. And missed the blessing of the ages.

So, what are you doing with Jesus? God bless you in making this decision for the ages.

"O come let us adore Him. Christ the Lord."

For good reason, this is the greatest story ever.

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Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

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