Holiday celebrations are opportunistic times to open-air preach. By taking a theme that is tied to the day, an open-air preacher can transition to the Bible’s declarations on the same topic. Jesus uses this technique through the Gospels to point individuals from the material to the spiritual. In John 7:38, he says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” He makes this statement on the last day of a holy day. It was the Feast of Booths which celebrated the end of the harvest and God’s provision to the Jews during their forty-year wilderness campaign. During the eight-day feast, the Jews would take water from the pool of Siloam and pour it on the altar of the temple while reading Isaiah 12.
Jesus used this tradition to point the Jews to Himself. Isaiah 12:3 says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” For eight days, the leaders have been drawing water out of the pool. Isaiah 12 foretells a figurative drawing of salvation from the waters. Therefore, Jesus used this to say, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus is the well from whom we draw the waters of salvation. From a preacher’s perspective, Jesus used the familiarity of the holiday to shift the focus to true salvation in Him.
By following Jesus’ example, we can use the coming holidays to pivot our preaching on the streets from a well-known holiday to an unknown Savior.
1. New Year’s
New Year’s is a time for football games, watching the ball drop, and celebrating a new year. For many people, they use it as an opportunity for a new beginning by making resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight, and exercise. Unfortunately, few use it to contemplate that they are a year closer to death. They are a moment sooner to standing before the Holy Almighty God.
If you open-air preach around New Year’s, point people to the reality that time passes quickly. You can say, “Doesn’t it seem like yesterday that we celebrated New Year’s? Now it is here again.” Preach from Psalm 90:10:
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”
Many people look forward to the new year with a positive mindset. However, millions of souls will die in the year 2017. When you preach, ask, “Who will have on their tombstone the death date 2017? Who of you has celebrated their last New Year?” Take the lost souls to Hebrews 9:27 to show that they have an appointment with death. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…” Since we do not know when we will die, today is the day of salvation while we still have breath in our lungs.
2. Valentine’s Day
This day is synonymous with love. Couples set aside time to buy their love a box of chocolates or a sparkling necklace. A husband makes a reservation at the nicest restaurant in town to display his devotion and affection for his wife. While this day makes singles nauseous and the unromantic critical, the theme of love can direct any sermon to Jesus Christ.
In John 15:12-14, Jesus explains what true love looks like: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
When you are on the box, proclaim the greatest love story ever told. It is the good news of Jesus Christ. The King of Glory came from heaven in humility to seek and save the lost. Mocked and scorned, he died a guilty man’s death on the cross despite being innocent. He had the army of hosts at His command to stop the execution. Yet, He submitted to the Father’s will, so that His death would bring life. He paid the debt for all sinners who repent and believe.
When a professing believer approaches you, ask them if they love Jesus. Then, show them His commandments. Probe to see if they believe what Jesus taught. Explain that love is not just a feeling but an action. While we are not saved by works, true faith produces good works. By allowing Jesus to define love, your preaching will broadcast that Jesus Christ’s crucifixion is the greatest example of love. All people should respond by loving Him in return.
3. President’s Day
The government created this holiday to honor all past Presidents of the United States. Due to the numerous federal holidays, it was not economical to give multiple days off for every President. Hence, the day is placed in February which is the birth month for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. While most people in private enterprise must work, public schools and federal and state government offices are usually closed.
Even though the United States does not have a king, we can apply Psalm 2:10-12 to our government. While citizens spend their day shopping at the stores, proclaim that Jesus Christ is King whether they acknowledge it or not.
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Preach to the crowd, “While Presidents can only serve eight years in office, Jesus Christ has always been, is, and will be King. He will not exit His office due to death or a majority vote. All people including kings and presidents must bow the knee to Jesus Christ and fear Him. If the elite of society must repent and believe in Jesus, then we who are the average citizens must do the same. Come kiss the Son by confessing your sins and believing that only through Him can you be saved.”
4. Mardi Gras
This holiday is translated from the French as “Fat Tuesday.” It is a Catholic celebration which allows a person to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh before he must give up certain items during Lent. Besides New Orleans which has celebrations nightly leading up to Tuesday, most Catholic cities have a Mardi Gras parade on the Saturday preceding it.
For example, St. Louis is a historic Catholic community. The city has a parade which starts at Busch stadium and ends in a residential area. The streets at the end of the parade are closed, so that people can drink and party. This presents a unique occasion to preach the Gospel to college students and young professionals who are living a life of hedonism.
The Bible speaks of the eternal consequences for engaging in this sin. Paul warns the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
The beauty in this text is found in the juxtaposition of the law and gospel. Paul explains that these examples of unrepentant sin will end in hell. Paul warns them to not be deceived into thinking that they can be Christians and participate in this debauchery. Then, he gives them the good news. In Corinth, God has graciously saved individuals from their bondage to sin. Through Jesus Christ, they have been forgiven and unbound from their slavery to sin.
Imitate Paul by telling the drunkard that he is on the path to hell. Warn the fornicators that their sinful pleasure now will lead to everlasting torment. Exhort homosexuals to stop being deceived by society and believe the Word of God. Then, tell them of the hope that is found in Jesus Christ if they repent and believe.
Pastor Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History, from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in Historical Theology in 2021 from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He is also an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. He is married to Karise with whom they raise Ian, Elizabeth, and Patrick. He is interested in history, especially Charles Spurgeon, and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.