Christmas was easily my favorite holiday when I was kid. My family kept so many traditions that made the holidays special. However, it wasn’t until I became a youth pastor in my native Kentucky that I understood just how stressful Christmas could be. As anyone who works as a pastor or teacher in the church knows, Christmas time is filled to the brim with carol singing at nursing homes, choir practices, special Christmas events that bring the community into the church, and meetings to discuss the church’s plans for the coming year. On top of this, the congregation (rightly) expects to hear a word from the pastor and teachers about the nativity of our Lord.
As a youth pastor, I was tasked with teaching through the Christmas story with our teenagers. My resources, however, were pretty bad. I had a few single-volume commentaries on Matthew and Luke and the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a great book but not exactly prime study material. I was absolutely unprepared for what is arguably the heaviest teaching season of the year.
This Christmas, you and your teaching staff can avoid running into the “book barrier” by picking up key resources for preparing Sunday School lessons and sermons. Here are a few of the resources that I return to again and again for lesson prep.
The New American Commentary: Luke
Dr. Robert Stein is senior professor of New Testament Interpretation at my alma mater, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a capable and well-qualified writer on everything related to the Gospels. In this commentary, he combines scholarly acumen with a love for the Jesus proclaimed in the Gospels. My favorite quote: “The irony of the most important event in history taking place in a manger should not be lost sight of; it reveals how God elevates the lowly and humble and rejects the proud and mighty of this world.” Pastors and teachers looking for a single-volume commentary to help them preach through the nativity story will struggle to find resources more helpful than this.
Discovering Christ in All Scriptures
Pastor Don Fortner’s survey of the Bible takes readers through Scripture, exploring Jesus’ presence throughout the biblical text. The standalone volume Discovering Christ in All Scriptures provides a Christological synopsis of each book in the Bible, while the other books are expanded commentaries on specific books of Scripture. Pastor Fortner’s eye for the presence of Jesus in all parts of the Bible make this a handy series of books to turn to when preaching on the incarnation.
Steps to the Sermon: An Eight-Step Plan for Preaching with Confidence, rev. ed.
I gave two sermons as a youth pastor and they were both extremely rough—too much exposition and not enough application for the congregation. Thankfully, books like this one helped me to reorganize my thoughts, look for the main purpose of the Christmas story, and find relevant points from the passage to my students. Sprinkled throughout with examples and exhortations, this resource helps pastors improve their messages from start to finish. With books like this, there’s no excuse for sloppy sermons this holiday!