Christmas Eve 2017 Planning Notes

December 24, 2017 (Year B) | Candlelight Communion Service


Order of Worship Preaching Hymns Music Planning Additional Resources

Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé

Calendar Notes

Christmas colors are white and gold, beginning with this service and continuing through the celebration of Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord (January 7). 


December 24    Christmas Eve (evening)
December 25    
Christmas Day
December 26    Kwanzaa
December 31    Watch Night/New Year’s Eve


January 1        New Year’s Day/Holy Name of Jesus
January 7        Epiphany Sunday AND Baptism of the Lord
                         Season after Epiphany Series Begins (Forthcoming)
January 11      
Human Trafficking Awareness Day
January 14      Human Relations Day (Special Sunday with Offering)
January 15      
Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
January 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 21      Ecumenical Sunday

All Month       Black History Month
February 11   Transfiguration of the Lord
                        Scouting Sunday

February 14   Ash Wednesday
                        Lent Series Begins (forthcoming)
February 19  
Presidents Day

March 2         World Day of Prayer
March 11       UMCOR Sunday
                       Daylight Saving Time Change Song (Spring) (USA)

For your Planning Team

In the Series

Christmas Eve may generally be one of the best attended services of the year. It is also one where most folks, especially those who attend rarely, may have the most specific expectations of what happens. Among these may be particular songs (especially “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night”), particular Scriptures (Luke 2), and particular ritual actions (especially the lighting of candles after while singing Silent Night after receiving Holy Communion).

At the same time, this year you will already have had a Sunday morning service. The vast majority of United Methodist congregations in the United States normally have fewer than 100 worshipers on a typical Sunday. Asking many of these congregations to have a single full-blown Christmas Eve service after a Sunday morning service on the same day may be too large a request to be reasonable. Christmas Eve should be a celebration, not a chore!

That is why we have suggested and provided for a somewhat lower key approach to a Christmas Eve candlelight Communion service this year. Rather than one “big” service, we suggest offering two or more abbreviated services, 30-35 minutes in length, focused on Holy Communion, while retaining the “must have” list many expect (candle lighting, singing “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night”), but with more of a family feel, and a brief homily (5-8 minutes) rather than a full sermon. These services may be scheduled at times that make it convenient for families, friends, and Las Posadas groups (if you’ve followed our afternoon activity suggestion) to gather for a more intimate service throughout the evening. It may require a bit more of the pastor and musician or soloists in terms of time, but would make less of a demand on choirs and others who may be involved. We would anticipate that attendance across all of these briefer services may be as high or higher than if you were to schedule one “big” service.

If you have followed our suggestion about Las Posadas gatherings this afternoon, having multiple briefer services scheduled also makes it more convenient for these groups (which should include invited guests) to find a time for the Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion service that works for their schedules.

At the same time, for those congregations that are ready and able to host a big service, this service order could easily be adapted for that use, largely by expanding the homily time to a full sermon and adding more songs at the beginning.

Because guests may be present at both Christmas Eve services and Las Posadas gatherings, be sure to take the opportunity to invite these persons back to church next Sunday and especially for the launch of the After Epiphany Series (Rise Up!) beginning January 7, and featuring sermon notes from The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Kevin Smalls of Hope UMC, Southfield, Michigan.

The series outline for Rise Up! is:

January 7      God Is Speaking!
(Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord)
Isaiah 60:1-6; Mark 1:4-11

January 14    Listen
I Samuel 3:1-10

January 21    Move
Jonah 3:1-5, 10

January 28    Answer
Deuteronomy 18:15-20

February 4    Focus
Isaiah 40:21-31

February 11: God is Speaking!
2 Kings 2:1-12; Mark 9:2-9

Additional Resources for this Service

2014 Planning Helps for these readings

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Japan, North Korea, South Korea

Categories: Worship, Worship Planning, Year B, Christmas Eve — December 24, 2017