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The Senses of Christmas

Meeting Jesus through Taste, Touch, Smell, Sound, and Sight

Last year our congregation chose to take a look at the Christmas story through the lens of our five senses.

On the first Sunday of the Advent season we looked at the tastes of Christmas. We began by looking at the reason why Jesus came, and we tasted the bread and the juice of communion as a reminder of the body and blood of the Lord.

On the second Sunday in Advent we looked at the touch of Christmas and how Elizabeth’s baby touched her and leaped in her womb when Mary, who was expecting Jesus, came to visit her.

On the third Sunday we looked at the smells of Christmas, and we smelled the stable—full of humility. We smelled the baby and his approachableness and the full extent of Christ’s love.

On the fourth Sunday we looked at the sounds of Christmas, and we heard the sound of activity, the sound of silence, the sound of joy, and the sound of crying.

Finally, on Christmas Day we talked about the sights of Christmas and what we might have seen that first Christmas.

So often our Christmas experience is marked by Hallmark spirituality that puts a soft glow on the Christmas story or a sense of the holiness on the events surrounding the story that seem to separate it from time and place. This series seeks to bring Christmas back to earth. God came to earth in the form of a baby at a real time and place that included the smells of a stable and dirty diapers, the touch of a baby in a womb and the pains of labor, tastes of celebrations, and sounds and sights both ordinary and extraordinary.

First Sunday of Advent: The Tastes of Christmas

Creative Ideas

Do some research to find foods common in Bethlehem today (felafel, pita bread, hummus, for starters). Provide an opportunity for children or the whole congregation to have a taste. Use unleavened bread (like Jesus ate at the Passover) to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Sermon Outline

Text: Matthew 26:1-30

Introduction

  • It’s appropriate on this first Sunday of Advent, as we look forward to Jesus’ birth, that we remember the reason why Jesus came to this world: he did it out of love for us (see John 15:13). On this Sunday we’ll explore the tastes of Christmas. What tastes do you associate with Christmas? The tastes of the Lord’s Supper speak to the reason why Jesus came.

The taste of bread reminds us of

  • the life of Jesus, who humbled himself to become a baby
  • the incarnation
  • Jesus’ humiliation
  • Jesus’ death

The taste of juice or wine reminds us of

  • the blood of Christ
  • the sacrifice of Christ
  • the drops of blood Jesus sweated in Gethsemane
  • the beatings, floggings, nails, and crown of thorns that resulted in Christ’s bleeding
  • the piercing of his side

Tasting the bread and juice when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper

  • reminds us that our sins are forgiven (Matt. 26:28)
  • unites us to Christ
  • unite us together (1 Cor. 10:16-17)
  • encourages us to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again (1 Cor. 11:26)

Service Outline

Rejoicing in the Lord’s Presence

Prelude: Christmas medley

Welcome and Call to Worship: Isaiah 9:1-7

Opening Song: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” (st. 1, 2, 3, 4) LUYH 56, PH 2, PsH 329, SWM 83, TH 196, WR 153, GTG 82, 83

God’s Greeting

Children’s Message (We Light the Candle of Hope)

Invite the children to come forward, and show them the Advent wreath. Give a short, simple explanation of the wreath and the lighting of a new candle each week during this season we call Advent, a time when we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

Candle Lighting

For the readings suggested each week, consider using readers who represent the diversity in your congregation, i.e., young, elderly, ethnicities, abilities/disabilities, and so on. Project or print the reading if possible, encouraging the congregation to always join in on the last line.

Reading for the lighting of the first Advent candle:
Prepare the way of the Lord.
We light this candle in hope,
the hope of our coming Savior, Jesus.
Prepare, then, the way of the Lord. (The Worship Sourcebook, D.1.34, p. 444)

Song of Response: “O Christ, Our Hope” (st. 1, 2, 3, 4) LUYH 828, PsH 485, TH 161

Alternate Song of Response
“Cornerstone” (Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan, Eric Liljero, Edward Mote)

Congregational Prayer

Offerings

Offertory: “What Child Is This?” LUYH 95, PH 53, TH 213, WR 184, GTG 145

Listening to the Lord’s Word

Hymn of Preparation: “Savior of the Nations” LUYH 74, PsH 336, WR 168, GTG 102

Scripture: Matthew 26:1-30

Message: The Tastes of Christmas

Prayer of Application

Hymn of Application: “Silent Night! Holy Night!” LUYH 85, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186, GTG 122

Celebrating the Lord’s Work

The Lord’s Supper

Song: “Taste and See” LUYH 817, PFAS 222

Offering

Offering Song: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” LUYH 80, PH 31, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185, GTG 119

Leaving to Love and Serve the Lord

God’s Parting Blessing

Doxology: “O Come, Let Us Adore Him” SWM 102, WR 114

Postlude

Second Sunday of Advent: The Touch of Christmas

Creative Ideas

Ask one or more individuals to share their testimony of how Jesus has touched their lives. Find a young person who is willing to video those testimonies ahead of time and play them for your congregation. Or ask multiple people and create a montage of shorter answers.
If a member of your congregation is pregnant, consider asking her to read the Scripture passage.

Sermon Outline

Text: Luke 1:39-45

Introduction

  • Tell the story of Julie Malloy, who has a rare form of congenital insensitivity to pain. According to an article about her, “She has no sensation of touch, temperature, deep pressure, or vibrations in her limbs and parts of her chest and back.” Emphasize the importance of the sense of touch in every activity of life.

Elizabeth’s Situation

  • Elizabeth was the wife of the priest, Zechariah, and the daughter of a family of priests.
  • Elizabeth was a godly woman, a faithful follower of God.
  • Elizabeth was barren.
  • Elizabeth was old.

BUT: God intervened and she became pregnant, not just her but Mary as well. When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, amazing things happened to Elizabeth.

  • The baby leaped in her womb (not just moved—leaped!) (Luke 1:41).
  • She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and so was the baby that was in her—the baby who later baptized the Son of God (Luke 1:13-17; Matt. 3:11-12).
  • She felt the touch of Jesus in her life (Luke 1:42-43).

Elizabeth’s Response

  • Joy (Luke 1:42, 44)
  • Thanksgiving (Luke 1:43)

Conclusion

As you think about that touch that Elizabeth experienced, consider this question: Have you felt the touch of Jesus in your life? And if he has touched your life, how have you responded to that touch? (Consider projecting or reading the lyrics to Wayne Watson’s “Touch of the Master’s Hand.”)

Service Outline

Rejoicing in the Lord’s Presence

Prelude

Welcome

Call to Worship: Isaiah 9:2-7

Opening Song: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (st. 1, 2, 3) LUYH 80, PH 31, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185, GTG 119

God’s Greeting

Approaching the Lord’s Heart

God’s Will for Living

Prayer of Confession

Song of Assurance: “Once in Royal David’s City” (st. 1, 3, 4, 5) LUYH 87, PFAS 866, PH 49, PsH 346, TH 225, WR 183, GTG 140

Children’s Message (We Light the Candles of Hope and Peace)

Reading for the lighting of the second Advent candle:
Prepare the way of the Lord.
We light this candle in peace,
the peace that Jesus, our Savior, gives to the world.
Prepare, then, the way of the Lord. [adapt. TWS D.1.34, p. 444]

Optional Songs of Response
“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” PsH 545, WR 587, GTG 753
“Dona Nobis Pacem” with prayer for peace LUYH 73, GTG 752

Morning Prayer

Offering

Listening to the Lord’s Word

Hymn of Preparation: “Hark, the Glad Sound!” (st. 1, 2, 3, 4) LUYH 60, PsH 335

Scripture: Luke 1:39-45

Message: The Touch of Christmas

Prayer of Application

Song of Application: “He Touched Me” (William J. Gaither, Inc.)

Alternate Songs
“Imagine” LUYH 72
“I Serve a Risen Savior” LUYH 365

Leaving to Love and Serve the Lord

God’s Parting Blessing

Doxology: “O Come, Let Us Adore Him” SWM 102, WR 114

Postlude

Third Sunday of Advent: The Smells of Christmas

Creative Ideas

Place straw bales around the sanctuary.

Sermon Outline

Text: Luke 2:1-7

Introduction

  • What smells come to your mind when you think about Christmas? The smells that we equate with Christmas (cinnamon, pine, and so on) are a far cry from the smells of that first Christmas in Bethlehem, which is what we’ll focus on today.

The Smell of the Stable

  • Jesus, the Son of God, was born in a stable that probably smelled of manure.
  • The stable was a place of humility. Jesus’ first visitors were mere shepherds. Later his disciples were just plain old fishermen, and he hung out with sinners. The death of Jesus, 33 years after his birth, was the death of a slave, not of a high-class king (Phil. 2:3-8).

The Smell of a Baby

  • Think about the clean smell of a baby after its bath.
  • The word that comes to my mind when I think about that smell of baby Jesus is the word approachable. Everyone wants to see and hold babies. As a baby, people approached Jesus, like the shepherds and the wise men. But what makes this approachable perspective truly amazing is that this baby was God in the flesh. Approaching God this way was radically different than anything anyone ever thought would happen (reference Old Testament laws and practices).

The Smell of a Baby’s Diaper

  • Jesus was human. He was like us.
  • When I think of the smell of the dirty diaper of Jesus, the word love comes to my mind. Jesus Christ took on our flesh and he became like us, in every way, except for sin.
  • That baby who had to have a dirty diaper removed and a clean one put on him would one day be stripped of those undergarments and hang naked on the cross for all the world to see. That is love—immense love.

Conclusion

  • The smell of the stable = humility
  • The smell of a baby = approachable
  • The smell of a baby’s diaper = love

Service Outline

Rejoicing in the Lord’s Presence

Prelude: Advent medley

Welcome and Call to Worship: Isaiah 9:2-7

Opening Song: “Away in a Manger” (st. 1, 2, 3) LUYH 86, PH 24, PsH 348, SWM 87, TH 204, WR 203, GTG 114

God’s Greeting

Approaching the Lord’s Heart

Song of Preparation: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (st. 1, 2, 3) LUYH 61, PFAS 458, PH 9, PsH 328, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154, GTG 88

God’s Will for Living: Exodus 20:1-17

Song of Confession: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (st. 4, 5, 6, 7) LUYH 61, PFAS 458, PH 9, PsH 328, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154, GTG 88

Assurance of Pardon: Luke 1:68-75

Song of Assurance: “Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come” (st. 1, 3, 4) LUYH 92, PFAS 618, PH 40, PsH 337, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179, GTG 266, 134

Children’s Message (We Light the Candles of Hope, Peace, and Joy)

Reading for the lighting of the third Advent candle:
Prepare the way of the Lord.
We light this candle in joy,
the joy that we have in Jesus, our Savior.
Prepare, then, the way of the Lord.
[adapt. TWS D.1.34, p. 444]

Song of Response: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” LUYH 69, PFAS 462, GTG 100

Congregational Prayer

Offering

Listening to the Lord’s Word

Song of Preparation: “While Shepherds Watched” PH 58, PsH 215, TH 222, WR 228, GTG 117

Scripture: Luke 2:1-7

Message: The Smells Of Christmas

Prayer of Application

Song of Application: “Once in Royal David’s City” (st. 1, 2, 5) LUYH 87, PFAS 866, PH 49, PsH 346, TH 225, WR 183, GTG 140

Leaving to Love and Serve the Lord

God’s Parting Blessing

Doxology: “O Come, Let Us Adore Him” SWM 102, WR 114

Postlude

Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Sounds of Christmas

Creative Ideas

You can find just about anything on the Internet, including sounds of a stable. Consider playing those sounds in the background during the sermon. Maybe juxtapose that with traditional sounds of Christmas. You can even find a video of “The 18 Best Sounds of Christmas.”

Sermon Outline

Texts: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-18

Introduction

  • When you think about the different sounds of Christmas, what sounds come to your mind?

The Sound of Activity

  • Remember the Roman census and the many people it brought to Bethlehem.
  • Think of a family reunion: noisy, busy, people sleeping all over, people talking and laughing.

The Sound of Silence

  • Amidst the activity in Bethlehem is the sound of silence.
  • The town of Bethlehem was so busy that their inattentiveness to what was happening was a form of silence. But in the fields and in the stable there was a silence and they heard the message.
  • In this story we never hear any words from Mary; we only read these words in Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
  • Yes, baby Jesus cried, but like most babies there probably was time when despite the busyness Jesus slept and people were told not to wake the baby.

The Sound of Joy

  • Shepherds heard of the joy from the angels (Luke 2:10).
  • Shepherds shared the joy (Luke 2:17-18).
  • Shepherds worshiped (Luke 2:20).

The Sound of Crying

  • Jesus cried and shed tears as a baby and later as an adult. He knows pain.
  • In the story of the slaughtering of the boys under two years by King Herod, many families cried in anguish (Matt. 2:17-18).

These sounds still happen today

  • The sound of activity: we’re busy getting ready for Christmas.
  • The sound of silence: the Christmas story can become buried amidst all the activity, but we can take time to be silent and contemplate the story.
  • The sound of joy: it’s time to celebrate and be joyful that Jesus, our Savior, has come into the world—that’s true joy.
  • The sound of crying: for some people, this is a very difficult time of year because of a death in the family. Loss is felt, tears are shed, and cries are heard.

Conclusion

  • As you prepare for Christmas, pay attention to the sounds you hear and then be reminded of the sounds from that first Christmas season.

Service Outline

Rejoicing in the Lord

Prelude

Welcome and Call to Worship: Isaiah 9:2-7

Opening Song: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” (st. 1, 2, 4, 5) LUYH 81, PH 2, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189, GTG 143

God’s Greeting

Children’s Message (We Light the Candles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love)

Reading for the lighting of the fourth Advent candle:
Prepare the way of the Lord.
We light this candle in love,
the love that Jesus, our Savior, has for us.
Prepare, then, the way of the Lord.
[adapt. TWS D.1.34, pg. 444]

Hymn of Response: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (st. 1, 2, 3) LUYH 76, PH 41, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182, GTG 133

Congregational Prayer

Offering

Listening to the Lord

Hymn of Preparation: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

Alternate Hymn of Preparation: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” LUYH 88

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-18

Message: The Sounds of Christmas

Prayer of Application

Song of Application: “Angels We Have Heard on High” (st. 1, 2, 3) LUYH 82, PH 23, PsH 347, SWM 90, TH 214, WR 188, GTG 113

Leaving to Love and Serve the Lord

God’s Parting Blessing

Doxology: “O Come, Let Us Adore Him” (st. 1, 2, 3, 4) SWM 102, WR 114

Postlude

Christmas Day: The Sights of Christmas

Creative Ideas

Invite the children up front and using a large nativity set create the scene, introducing a new “character” that the children can see as you preach the sermon, or take a series of pictures of a nativity set and project them (first picture the travelers, second the stable etc.)

Sermon Outline

Texts: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12

Introduction

  • Remark on the difference lights make on a house at Christmas. We drive to look at “the lights.”
  • Because of the True Light, Jesus Christ, our sense of sight, and what we see in the Christmas story, can be heightened.

The Sight of The Travelers

  • Use a map to show the approximately 68-mile journey Joseph and Mary took.
  • Wonder what people thought when they saw Mary, nine months pregnant, traveling with Joseph.

The Sight of the Stable

  • Was the stable a welcoming sight after their journey?
  • In the stable they probably saw more animals than people.

The Sight of the Shepherds

  • We see the shepherds—the poor on the outskirts of society.
  • We see the shepherds terrified by the angels.
  • We see the shepherds filled with joy at the message of the angels.
  • We see the shepherds worshiping the baby Jesus.
  • We see the shepherds spreading the good news.

The Sight of the Angels

  • Bright terrifying light.
  • From one angel to a great company of angels.
  • As quickly as they came, they went.

The Sight of the Magi

  • They saw the star and followed the star.
  • They had complete faith that what they saw was heralding the birth of “the King of the Jews.”
  • Wonder what Mary and Joseph thought when they saw these Magi.
  • We see the Magi worshiping Jesus.

The Sight of the Star

  • The Magi saw the star (Matt. 2:2; Matt. 2:9-10).
  • The star was a sign of fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Numbers 24:17.

The Sight of the Gifts

  • It was customary when people paid homage to a king that they would bring a present with them.
  • The gift of gold symbolized Jesus’ presence as a King.
  • The gift of incense symbolized his presence as deity, as God.
  • The gift of myrrh symbolized the future suffering that would come upon him.

The Sight of the Baby

  • Everything about this Christmas story revolves around the little baby Jesus.
  • It’s all about hope, peace, love, and joy wrapped up and put in an animal-feeding trough.
  • It’s all about the incarnation.
  • It’s all about birth and death and resurrection.
  • It’s all about the salvation of you and me.

Conclusion

  • Just as the lights of Christmas draw our attention, may we be drawn to the True Light, Jesus Christ.
  • Like the Shepherds and the Magi, may we be led to worship Christ.

Service Outline

The Celebration Begins

Prelude

Welcome and Call to Worship: Psalm 100

Opening Song of Praise: “O Come All Ye Faithful” LUYH 76, PH 41, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182, GTG 133

God’s Greeting and Mutual Greeting

Song of Response: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” LUYH 93, PH 29, PsH 356, TH 224, WR 218, GTG 136

Children’s Message (We Light the Candles of Christmas)

Reading for the Christ candle
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
We light this candle because Jesus, the light of the world,
was born on this day, and he brightens all things.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! [adapt. TWS D.1.34, pg. 444]

Song of Response: “Imagine” LUYH 72

Prayer

Offering

Songs
“Angels from the Realms of Glory” (st. 1, 2, 4) LUYH 81, PH 22, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189, GTG 143
“Angels We Have Heard on High” (st. 1, 2, 3) LUYH 82, PH 23, PsH 347, SWM 90, TH 214, WR 188, GTG 113

The Celebration Continues

Song of Preparation: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (st. 1, 2, 3) LUYH 80, PH 31, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185, GTG 119

Optional Song of Preparation: “Jesus, Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child” LUYH 99, SNC 108, GTG 126

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12

Message: The Sights of Christmas

Prayer of Application

The Celebration Does Not Stop

Song of Application: “Joy to the World!” (st. 1, 3, 4) LUYH 92, PFAS 618, PH 40, PsH 337, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179, GTG 266, 134

God’s Parting Blessing

Doxology: “The Birthday of a King” (st. 1, 2) WR 224

Postlude