After almost 40 years at Saddleback, I know how tough it can be to come up with a holiday sermon. I like preaching around holidays because I know I’m connecting to something that’s on people’s minds, but it’s hard to come up with something fresh and engaging year in and year out.
As we head into the new year, I know you’re probably preparing for one of your most important sermons of the year. Sure, Christmas and Easter sermons get lots of attention because you’re likely preaching to larger crowds. But the first sermon of the new year tends to bring in people who are trying to fulfill a New Year’s resolution to get back into a church.
So as you prepare your New Year’s sermon for the upcoming year, I thought I’d share with you five of the ways we’ve tackled New Year’s sermons at Saddleback through the years. Some of them started off a new series, while others were stand-alone sermons.
I hope these titles and topics give you some inspiration as you prepare your own message.
1. New You for a New Year
Our happiness tends to revolve around our ability to make changes in life. We all have habits and attitudes that may have been appropriate in the past but just don’t cut it anymore. We get stuck in a rut. So I shared with the congregation how Jesus could change those tough-to-break habits. There’s no better time to talk about the need to make changes than the first weekend of the year. Everyone is thinking about what they want to do differently in the upcoming year.
2 Corinthians 5:17 and Luke 5:36-39 are great passages to point people toward as they think about making a fresh start in their lives.
2. New Year’s Essentials (series)
This series started our year as we looked at some of the essentials for growing in our relationship with God. Again, people are making new habits at the beginning of the year, so it’s a great time to focus their attention on the essentials of what it means to grow spiritually. During that series, our team touched on the topics of developing faith, reasons for hope, and pursuing balance in the new year.
3. Making the Most of the New Year
It doesn’t really matter what age we are. Our time is running out. Every year, we’re closer than ever to the end of our lives. That’s why, at the start of the new year, many people are looking for an opportunity to make the most of the time ahead of them. They want to change their year for the better. I used this sermon to help people tackle those goals for the new year.
4. The One Thing You Can Count On
Looking at a new year creates a lot of uncertainty for many people. In this message, I focused on the comforting truth that even though we can’t control everything, God is still in control. When things are spinning out of control, it’s reassuring to know that God has our future in his hands. Then, at the end of my message, I turned people’s focus toward committing their lives to Christ as the ultimate way to secure their future.
5. The Awesome Power of Focus
Many of us enter the new year with big goals. To reach those goals, we must learn to focus. As we learn to focus, God gives us the power to reach our goals. This message centered on helping people focus their lives more fully in the coming year. I knew that the more focused our people became, the more fulfilled they’d be and the more effective they’d be in ministry throughout our community.
So I took our congregation to Genesis 24, where Abraham put his servant in charge of finding Isaac a wife. I shared the 10 steps the servant went through as he worked toward his goal. It’s a great passage to dig into when you want to talk about reaching goals.
Of course, with dozens of New Year’s messages behind us at Saddleback, these are just the start. You can go in lots of different directions for your New Year’s sermon. We’ve done sermons like “The Promise of a New Year,” where Pastor Tom Holladay shared some of the great promises of the Bible that people can hang on to for the year ahead. We’ve also tackled topics on relationships and living a life that impacts others.
Any sermon that encourages people to make a fresh start or do something new tends to connect well at this time of year.
It’s also a great time to encourage people to take their next step with God—whatever that next step might be.