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Dec 07

Christmas Eve (Year B)

I know – all too well – that every church has particular Christmas Eve traditions.  And, of all the sacred cows in this world, those that accompany this season are often the ones that are the most dangerous to tip.  However, I think that sacred cow-tipping is part of my calling (and certainly is part of what The Worship Closet is all about).  So… enjoy the reflections on Christmas Eve (as well as the ones for Christmas Day that will be posted).  Tip your sacred cows with care.

Isaiah 9:2-7

  • Finally, the Light of the World has come!  All the candles of Advent will be lit!  And, I would bet, that many of us will be celebrating with some sort of candlelighting portion of the worship service.  Remember, unless you want to drip wax all over the sanctuary floor and pews, never tip a lit candle…
  • I can remember hearing about the “yoke of their burden” when I was a little kid, and I puzzled over why we were talking about eggs.  Of course, there is a big difference between a yolk and a yoke.  But, I wonder… how many kids in our pews hear this scripture and wonder the same thing?  If you do a Children’s Moment during your Christmas Eve service, this might be a good thing to talk about.
  • Actual wooden yokes are extremely expensive (though, you may be able to borrow one from a farmer…it just depends on where you live, I suppose).  But, cardboard tends to be pretty cheap.  Check out images online and use them as a pattern for one of your own making (using cardboard, foam-board, or other crafting material).
  • What yokes have already been broken by our Lord?  What yokes might Christ be breaking even now?
  • If you are concerned about having children use real candles during a candlelighting service, you could use LED candles (perhaps just for the kids, though you could use them for everyone if you wanted to).  Using candles like this or this
    can help some parents feel more comfortable with their youngsters participating with less mess (and less danger of any accidents).
  • Having a “gift” for the kids that come to your Christmas Eve service can be really nice.  Honestly, I still treasure many of the gifts that I received from my pastor when I was a little kid!  If you want to give them something to remind them of Jesus’ being the Light of the World, glow in the dark cross necklaces would be great (and fairly affordable).  Also, these “Jesus is the Light” bracelets are pretty nifty…

Psalm 96

  • As I have suggested before, if you are going to read a Psalm about singing…why not actually sing it?  There are some lovely hymns that are based on Psalm 96, as well as plenty of choral anthems.
  • With verse 6 speaking to us about “strength and beauty…in his sanctuary”, now is a good time to remind us all to change the paraments in the worship space!  The dark purples and blues of Advent are now replaced (or joined) by bright white.  A good accent color is gold, which emphasizes the majesty, and glory of the Christmas season.

Titus 2:11-14

  • The words of the reading from Titus – as translated in the NRSV – are perfect for a Call to Worship.  This same passage in Eugene Peterson’s The Message, however, seems to me to be perfect for use as a Charge and Benediction.  You could book-end the service with the same passage (but 2 different translations)… neat!

Luke 2:1-20

  • These are (I hope) really familiar words for your congregation to hear.  You will find that some folks prefer to hear this scripture read from a particular translation – typically the KJV, though there are some places that prefer the RSV or NRSV.  This is one of those sacred cows I was talking about…proceed with caution…  If you want to read from a different translation this year, be aware that there may be some people who will react in negative ways.  One way to help avoid having someone accuse you of ruining their Christmas Eve by not stumbling through the Nativity Story using Elizabethan English: present this text in multiple ways throughout the service.  You could read the text from the Common English Bible or the Easy-to-Read Version (which I am growing to love to use with children) during a Children’s Time.  You could re-read the text during the sermon from The Message or the New Century Version.  There are plenty of versions to use…
  • If you have not yet set up a Nativity in your worship space, then this is the perfect time to do so.  Personal preference and suggestion: don’t include the “wise men” yet – they don’t show up for another few days.  Still want to include them in the worship space?  Place them in the back of the worship space (perhaps on a window sill), making it seem as if they are in the process of traveling to the Nativity.  Move them closer each week until they get there in time for Epiphany!
  • Are you planning to talk about the shepherds abiding in their fields by night?  I bet you can guess what one of the decorating suggestions will be.  Yep – a shepherd’s crook!  Of course!  Combined with a rustic-looking manger (complete with hay) and you can easily set up an easy, beautiful display (perhaps in front of the Table, not on it – a manger would probably look better standing on the floor, rather than on the Table).  If you want to have the effect of “Holy Light” coming from inside the manger, I suggest using tap lights, small LED puck lights, or white LED floral lights carefully placed under the hay or fabric in the manger.  These kinds of lights can also be used to illuminate your Nativity (as well as several other uses that I’ll share in future posts).
  • Feeling really daring?  You could make a radical departure from the traditional Christmas decor and use a variety of street signs.  Why would you do this?  Well, if you are focusing on verse 12 (“This will be a sign for you…”), then you may find yourself talking about all the different signs that we see everyday.  Use picture frame stands and easels to prop up all kinds of signs, and then place a Nativity (specifically the Holy Family) right in the middle of it all.  Check your local home improvement or hardware store for signs to use.  Don’t go breaking any of the Commandments to get signs to use

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  1. Pam Phillips-Burk

    Hi – good comments and very creative. I have an idea that I’ve been wanting to bounce off someone to see if it is too cheesy or just bad theology. We have a rustic looking manger – I usually put straw in it. In Christmas Eves past – folks have received a strip of cloth when they entered the sanctuary and during a time of quiet reflection they were invited to “prepare the manger for the coming of Jesus” – from Cloth for the Cradle resource. Anyways – we’ve worn that one out. I’m thinking about placing the communion bread (wrapped up in white cloth in the manger) and then at the time of communion taking it from the manger and breaking it. Sort of linking Christmas and Easter (reflective of Ann Weems poem – Cross in the Manger.) What do you think? Too out there?

    1. Amy Loving

      I like the idea, Pam! The Christmas-Easter link is great – and the imagery is really nice. I especially like the use of the Ann Weems poem! I can understand your concern about it looking/seeming “cheesy”. One way to avoid it would be to wrap the bread completely in the white cloth. If it is visible, it may end up looking…odd (I’m not sure about the look of bread dressed up as a baby). Still, I’m just imagining what it would look like – you’ll know best when you try it out and get things put together!

  2. Emilia Florio

    Pam,

    I have used the bread idea before. I did have a rustic looking manger at the front of the church. Then, as the service began (after the announcements) “Mary” came in carrying a bundle/baby. She walked up to the front and placed it in the manger. We proceeded with the service. when it came time to consecrate the elements, I took the “baby” out of the manger and unwrapped it to reveal the bread. It seemed to be very meaningful for the congregation. Just my 2cents!

  3. Jennifer Chapman

    Thanks Pam and Emilia, I love this idea and will be using it (we’re not having a Christmas Eve service, but we’ll use these texts and this idea for Christmas night).

    And Amy, thanks so much for starting this site! I love your ideas and have already used many of them!

    Grace and Peace to you all!

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