Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

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reprinted from the December 2000 edition of Essentials   
  Going Fishing at Christmas

Luke Tattersall

At the time of writing, Luke Tattersall was the pastor of Byron Bay/ Mullambimby Presbyterian Church and has absolutely no interest in the kind of fishing that involves the use of lines or nets.
  If your church is anything like mine, then Christmas is the one time in the year when you can be sure of a bumper size congregation. More than likely, there will be people in church who you've never seen before in your life. And many of them will assure you on their way out the door that they're Presbyterian or Anglican or Baptist* - though you are not exactly sure what that means! But whatever the reason, they're in Church - and by the family full. So what are you going to say? More than any other time of the year the pressure is on. It's one thing to be a boring preacher the rest of the year - your congregation is used to it. But at Christmas? Come to think of it, the visitors probably won't mind much if you're boring either. After all... they're expecting it! That's one of the reasons they only come to church twice a year. It's normally so boring. So what are you going to say? Well the first question you have to ask yourself is this: "What do you want to achieve? What do you want people to go away with after the service?" Let me tell you what I don't want to do with my Christmas talks.  
  First, I don't want to make people feel guilty about the fact that they only turn up to church at Christmas and Easter. I'm sure we've all heard that one - maybe you've even given it?  
  Second - and most important - I don't want to be boring.  
  Well that covers the don'ts of the Christmas talk - so what about the do's?  
  Well, for me the main aim at our Christmas services is to surprise people. I want to present the Gospel to them in a way they've never heard it before. I want to present the Gospel - crisp and clear. I want them to see that the message of Christmas is important, that it's true, and most of all that it's for them. Jesus calls us to be fishers of men [sic]. Our job is to present the good news about him to those who have not heard. On Christmas day, a whole stack of fish will come swimming into your pond. You won't have to go looking for them - they'll come to you. So make the most of the opportunity!  
  Here's a set of five pre-tested Christmas messages in point form. Most of the ideas are not original - I've made a point of borrowing them wherever I can. Naturally, you'll need to build on these outlines, and the results will depend on your audience and your own personality. These ideas are just starting points – good hooks for you to build a talk on.  
  Talk 1  
  The Three Christmas Presents  
  The idea at the talk is to tell people about three Christmas presents you have been given. You will need to have-your own three presents. The three that I used were:  
  (1) A purple crotched tank top  
  (2) A walkman cassette player and  
  (3) A wallet.  
  Each of these had varying degrees of usefulness. The purple tank top never got to see the light of day after Christmas. It was put into a drawer and promptly forgotten. The walkman was useful for a while. It was great for listening to music. But gradually, as I got older, the novelty wore off. These days I hardly use it. It was good while I was young, but now I've outgrown it. The final gift, the wallet, is with me all the time. In fact, I'd be lost without it. It has become a part of me. Christmas is the time when we remember the gift that God has given to us in Jesus. People will tend to treat Jesus the same way I treated my Christmas gifts. Some will never pay any attention to him - they'll never even get him out of the drawer. Some will think he is okay for the young people. By the time they leave Sunday School, they've grown out of it. But the only response that God wants from us is to accept Jesus completely - to make him the very centre of our lives.  
  Talk 2  
  The Great Christmas Rip-Off  
  As soon as you become a parent, you begin to see through the Christmas "hype" and razzamatazz. All those special deals and offers you see in the shops amount to little more than a rip-off. It seems like they'll say anything and do anything to get you into their store. Christmas salesmen are full of empty promises. At the time of the very first Christmas, there were angels around promising peace. People still pick up on that today. You'll see Christmas cards and banners in shops that quote what the angels said - "peace on earth and good will to all men". Well, where is it? Have a look around the world. Can you see the peace? It's certainly not in Bosnia. And I doubt you could say it was in Somalia. And the list could go on and on. Some people try to take the idea seriously. During the Second World War, they would call a cease-fire on Christmas day. But the next day the guns would be out again. Is that the sort of peace the angels were talking about? Hardly. But there is no doubt about it - peace was what the angels said. That's what they promised - that's what is written in the Bible. They said that this baby was the Prince of Peace, and that his coming would mean peace and good will to all men. Were they wrong? Maybe it's just another one of those Christmas rip-offs? Just another letdown – a promise that didn't come true? No - not at all. Jesus came into the world to bring peace. And he delivered exactly what was promised. There's a verse in the Bible that sums this up very clearly: "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1) To put it simply, if you trust in Jesus then you do have peace - peace with God - real peace, the peace that people everywhere are searching for. Jesus came to mend the broken relationship between mankind and God. He came so that we could know what it was to have peace with God - no longer to be cut off from God. No longer to be alienated from God. No longer to be in conflict with God - but to have peace with him.  
  Talk 3  
  The Difference between Santa and God  
  When it comes to trying to figure out what Christmas is about, there are two main players - Santa and God. In some ways the message they have is similar. But in many other ways, the message is totally different. Both of them have something they want to give. They both offer you gifts. But that's about where the similarity ends. Santa has presents that he wants to give. But what do you have to do to get them? You have to be good. That's the question all the Santas in the shopping centres ask the kids... "Have you been good this year?" The message Santa gives is that you have to be good to get the presents. But that is not the case with God. In fact, God is exactly the opposite. Believe it or not, he wants to give his gifts to those who have been bad - to those who don't deserve it. The other big difference between what Santa gives and what God gives is how long the gift lasts. The stuff Santa gives you is lucky to last through Christmas day - let alone all the way to next Christmas. But look at how long God's gift lasts:  
  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  
  Talk 4  
  Undercover Operation  
  There was an action thriller movie some years ago - l think it starred Chuck Norris. In the movie there were a number of POWs still being held in a camp in Vietnam. They tried to think of every way to get them out, and the only solution they could come up with was to send someone in "undercover". He'd have to go in and become a POW himself in order to rescue the other POWs. Christmas is the time we remember God's "Undercover Operation". He sent Jesus into this world and he became a man so that he could rescue men. I heard a story about a little boy who was very scared of the lightning during a thunder storm. His dad told him that he needn't be scared. God knew how he felt. The little boy replied "How could God know? He hasn't got skin on!" But Hebrews 2:14 say this:  
  "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power at death - that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."  
  Talk 5  
  (This talk hinges on the word play of CHRISTMAS SACRED - CHRIST MASSACRED. You need to have it in a prominent place - cover of the notice sheet, OHP, etc)  
  I heard a story about a retired minister who was asked to fill in at a church and take their Christmas service. He got a little mixed up and pulled out an Easter sermon from his file instead of a Christmas one. In a way it was probably an appropriate message for Christmas. It would be difficult to talk about the birth of Jesus without talking about what he came to do. When we celebrate the birth of a famous person (for example Martin Luther or the Queen), we don't just remember that they were born. We are remembering the important things they achieved. When people are doing their HSC they are continually asked, "What are you going to do?" If you asked Jesus that question during his ministry, then he would have told you as he told his disciples - he was going to die in Jerusalem. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said:  
  "... the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many."  
  The reason we remember the birth of Jesus, the reason that Christmas IS sacred is that Jesus was massacred.  
  Used with permission from  

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