Another Christmas, another opportunity to capture imaginations with the beauty of the Incarnation.
While the Matthew and Luke narratives will always be wonderful for this, there are plenty of other passages in Scripture that can draw out themes and nuances often neglected.
Why not explore with one of these texts?
1. Genesis 3:15
Often considered the first Messianic prophecy recorded in Scripture, this verse finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus—the offspring of a woman, who eventually crushes Satan. No more let sins and sorrow grow / Nor thorns infest the ground / He comes to make his blessings flow / Far as the curse is found, writes Watts. Genesis 3:15 predicts the seed who would come to uproot the thorns and break the curse of sin.
2. Gen. 49:8–12
Toward the end of Genesis, Jacob speaks a word of prophecy over each of his sons. He promises Judah, from whom Jesus would ultimately descend, that the scepter will not depart from him. Jacob calls Judah “a lion’s cub,” and Scripture goes on to call Jesus the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). This unique passage offers an opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ supreme authority, which he holds even when he is just a cub.
3. Exodus 1:1–2:10
There are striking parallels between Moses’ infancy and Jesus’. Both are born in humble circumstances. Both escape murderous plots of evil rulers. Both grow up to lead their people out of captivity. This passage can help your congregation appreciate the way the Bible holds together, as well as see God’s sovereign hand in preserving a mediator for his people.
4. Exodus 16
This is the narrative of God providing manna and quail for Israel as they wander in the desert. God sends bread from heaven, and in John 6 Jesus explicitly refers to this story and calls himself the “bread of life.” God sent eternal bread to hungry wanderers in the form of his Son, making this Exodus event a rich foreshadowing. A preacher can capture the imagination of a congregation—and follow the homiletical example of Christ himself—by drawing parallels between the physical hunger of Israel in the desert and the spiritual hunger of all those without Christ.
5. Exodus 33:12–23
In one of the most beautiful scenes of Exodus, Moses pleads boldly and personally to the Lord for his presence. The Lord honors Moses by agreeing to reveal his goodness and glory—but not his face. In the Incarnation, however, God is fully revealed, and his presence is offered to all who receive him. This intimate moment Moses experiences with God is made available to all through Christ—but we will see him “face to face” (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:12).
6. 2 Samuel 7
In this famous covenant God makes with David, God promises that his offspring’s throne will be established forever. Eventually the kingdom divides and falls, and by the time Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey—several hundred years and two exiles later—the throne is still not established. So when the crowds shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!”, they are heralding this covenant: they are hoping in a king. Joy is bursting from under sorrow long held, because Hope has come. The Incarnation offers the same “thrill of hope” today.
7. Psalm 27
At the end of this psalm, David writes, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Christians today can repeat these words only because Christ has come and has promised to come again. Like Anna and Simeon, who in their old age finally beheld the hope they waited so long for (Luke 2:22-38), those who hope in Christ will not be disappointed.
8. Isaiah, various
Isaiah is chock-full of references to the coming Messiah. Chapter 7 speaks of a virgin who will conceive and bear a son, whose name will be called “Immanuel”—God with us. Chapter 9 provides a brief portrait of this Son-King, and it continues all throughout Isaiah, such as in chapters 11, 40–43, 49, and 58. Preachers could do a tour through Isaiah to fill out the portrait of the Messiah, and then juxtapose the majesty described there to the humility displayed in the manger, leading to a reflection on God’s wisdom in working mightily through humble means.
9. Angel appearances
Another interesting choice would be to preach on various angel appearances in Scripture. From the beginning of Old Testament history to its end—from Abraham all the way to Daniel—angel appearances tend to coincide with God’s revelation and rescue. So when angels burst onto the scene in Luke and Matthew, we know from past behavior that God is up to something big, something miraculous and merciful. Preaching through some of these angel appearances would build that sense of anticipation and provide texture to Jesus’ birth story. Consider Genesis 16, 19, 21, and 31–32; Deuteronomy 33:2 (see Psalms 68:17; Acts 7:53; and Galatians 3:19); 1 Kings 19; and Daniel 3 and 6.
10. Matthew 1:1–17 (plus vv. 18–23)
I’ve heard several sermons on this text that draw attention to the scandalous nature of Jesus’ family tree. The attention is justified. For one, it’s not common for genealogies in patriarchal societies such as Israel’s to mention women. It’s even more surprising, then, that when Matthew does, it’s to bring up memories that any family would rather forget, such as incestuous rape (Judah and Tamar, v. 3), prostitution (Rahab, v. 5), and adultery and murder (David and the wife of Uriah, v. 6). What’s the point of recalling such a sordid past? Probably to remind readers of God’s power to work beauty from ashes, to bring redemption from a family—and to the family—that desperately needs it. The genealogy provides an excellent opportunity to proclaim how the Incarnation means all our stories can be rewritten in Jesus.
Scripture is full of rivers and streams that flow to Jesus. These are just a sample of texts you can use for Christmas without bending them to be about the Incarnation. God bless you as you prepare your services this year.
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