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Need help with Christmas talks?

Well it's nearly Advent so it's time for preachers to think about Carols services, Christingles, Nativity plays, etc.

It's also a time to miss a golden opportunity.  The golden opportunity is to preach a theology of incarnation.  But, year in and year out, this chance is missed in evangelical churches.

Our mentions of incarnation boil down to the Abrupt, the Apologetic or the Anselmian.

The Abrupt:

“God in skin. Weird huh? Anyway…”

The Apologetic:

“Jesus shows up in time and space which means that we can verify the truth through historical methods, and really the New Testament documents are very reliable don’t you know…”

The Anselmian:

“God basically wants to acquit his elect and so needs a Scapegoat to take the fall. And there he is the manger. Weird huh?  Anyway…”

Where are the Athanasian, Atoning, Abasing themes?

The Athanasian Incarnation:

“In this marvellous exchange, He becomes what we are, that we might become what He is”?

The Atoning Incarnation:

"Here is God-With-Us, making us at-one in His very Person!"

The Abasing Incarnation:

"My God is so small, so weak and so helpless, there's nothing that He will not do... for you!"

I wonder if we shy away from the Athanasian incarnation because we don't want to get into (or don't properly understand) the trinitarian theology that makes sense of it.

I wonder if we shy away from the Atoning incarnation because ontology has no place in our thinking about atonement.  (This is also why our Easter sermons contain no theology of resurrection - only a 'proof that the cross worked'.)

I wonder if we shy away from the Abasing incarnation because we're wedded to a theology of glory that refuses to countenance the little LORD Jesus.

If any of these guesses are anywhere near the mark, let me suggest a remedy.  Read Athanasius' On the Incarnation and hear the kind of Christmas message that has warmed the hearts of millions down through the ages.  Get started here as you listen to Mike Reeves read extracts.

And for what they're worth, here are three of my own posts on incarnation:

Incarnation and Trinity

Incarnation and Creation

Incarnation and Salvation

(For good measure here’s a paper on Athanasius and Irenaeus)

These are some talks in which I've tried to preach this theology...


Christmas is God laying hold of us - Hebrews 2:14-18

The Coming King - Psalm 72

In the beginning… – John 1:1-2

The Word became flesh – John 1:14

Christmas brings a crisis – John 1:15-18

Student Carols – Isaiah 9

Evangelistic carols service – Light shining in darkness – Isaiah 9:2-7 (different to the other Isaiah 9)

Luke 1:26-38

All-age: Christmas turns slaves to sons – Galatians 4:4-7

All-age Carols Talk: Christmas is weird – Phil 2:5-11


Here are some songs on the same theme and the Anti-Santy video


What resources have you found helpful?  Please share the wealth in comments...

6 thoughts on “Need help with Christmas talks?

  1. Brian Midmore

    My problem with the idea of substitutary atonement has never been the idea itself, but that many churches exclude any other idea of atonement and therefore substitutary atonement becomes elevated and almost 'the gospel'. Part of the gospel is God was born for us as a man for our salvation.

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  3. Jonathan

    Thanks Glen. Incarnation. At Christmas. Who would have thought?

    A word of sanity and encouragement for a season we evangelicals find a bit uncomfortable. I mean, we all know Christmas is important, but - what the heck are we supposed to do with it?


  4. Matt Ingle (@MattTheWingle)

    Thanks Glen - again I'm wrestling with this thought, how to get the truth over clearly and truthfully, not skimping on the greatness that is Immanuel! Problem is, I fear that I am going round in circles now, and now I'm puzzling. How do we become what he is? What is the "What he is" that we become? How do we become 'God'? I don't want it to be a throw away comment that i don't understand, but one that helpfully points to the salvation that our Immanuel brings!

  5. Glen

    Hi Matt - It's John 1:12-13. We become children of God in the Son of God, united to the Beloved, filled with the Spirit, doted on by the Father. This *is* the divine nature in which we participate (1 Pet 1:4).

    Evangelistically you can phrase it as the Family you were made for, the Loving Embrace that predated the universe, and you're invited - kinda thing.

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