You likely noticed that people started decorating earlier for Christmas this year. Earlier than they decorated in previous years. Many of my friends have commented on this reality. If you were already in the “before Thanksgiving” decorating camp, you may have started even earlier in 2020. If you were in the “wait until the day after Thanksgiving” group, this may have been the year you shocked yourself and decorated before Thanksgiving. Some have wondered why. “Why did people prepare for Christmas earlier this year?” Yes, it is true that there is a longing for normalcy and a longing for something like Christmas that can conjure good memories. But there is something deeper too. In a year like 2020 there is a longing for joy, hope, love, and peace. There is a longing for Christmas.
Christ stepped into a world that was filled with pain and division. He came to this world not to establish an earthly kingdom but an eternal one – a kingdom He is populating with people from every single tribe, tongue, and nation. He came on a rescue mission to seek and save that which was lost and reconcile us to Himself. The message of Christmas is beautiful and our souls need it all of the time. Including this time. By God’s grace, some will realize they need Christmas more this year than they have realized before. In other words, in the midst of a challenging year when people are longing for hope is a great time to declare the good news of Christmas.
As I am praying for the Christmas services I will be preaching, both online and in-person, I am praying for different groups of people the Lord will bring to our services. Preaching is not simply communicating a sacred message. It is communicating a sacred message to real people the Lord loves. Martyn Lloyd-Jones famously quipped “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.” Here are six groups of people the Lord is reminding me of as I pray and prepare for Christmas.
1. People who have been roughed up by 2020
Every Christmas there are people in our midst who are in the midst of trials, but many have commented that CoVid and the struggles of 2020 has been an amplifier to challenges that were already there. There will be a lot of pain and loss among the people who gather for Christmas services this year. May the Lord overwhelm them His tender mercy and remind them that He is Immanuel.
2. People who are returning to church for the first time in a long time
This is also true every Christmas, and this will also be exaggerated this year. Some have not returned to church since March and Christmas services will be a re-entry point for them. May they find the Lord is the same and that He welcomes them.
3. People who are new to the Bible and unsure about the Christian faith
The Lord is doing an incredible work, introducing Himself to people in the midst of the craziness of 2020. There will be people among us who have not yet received Christ as their Savior and Lord. It is a deep honor that they are trusting us at this stage in their journey. May Jesus show Himself as their Rescuer. May they understand that the Jesus came here for them and is for them.
4. Families who are hobbling through challenging conversations
Some families and friends have been struggling under the weight of disagreement over all types of issues in our culture in 2020: how to respond to a pandemic, viewpoints on civil unrest, and the election. Some will gather together at Christmas because they are trying to stay together in the midst of the disagreement. May the Lord refresh them with His grace and remind them that He is their source of unity.
5. Hungry (and easily satisfied) Christians
A seminary professor once commented (I cannot recall which one): “The righteous are easily satisfied.” The context of the comment was a local church gathering, and the point is that the people who are most in awe of Jesus are typically the people most easily satisfied at church. They just want to be reminded of Jesus and have the Scriptures spoken over their lives. May the Lord encourage them this Christmas.
Because more families bring their kids with them to Christmas services – as opposed to putting them in the elementary programming – Christmas services will have a bunch of kids in them. I am praying for the kids who will be in our services. May the Lord give them wonder and love for Him and His people.
I am ready to preach Christmas!