In The Series
While this service is part five of a seven-part series of services, in many ways, and perhaps for most who will attend it, it will be a standalone service.
Still, keep the sense of the series in mind as you plan it. Even call attention to it as appropriate, particularly as this service leads into the next two.
We concluded Advent on Sunday with Dream. Tonight, we explore a core element of God’s dream for the world, the dream of Peace. The incarnation, God becoming flesh and dwelling among us in Jesus, is already part of God’s making peace with humanity and the greater creation. An angel announces this to shepherds, and Mary’s pondering of “all these things in her heart” embodies God’s dream of peace set loose in the world through Jesus in another way.
In This Service
Many will come to Christmas Eve services who generally attend few if any other services during the year. If you want some of these people to come back, there are at least two things you need to do.
One is to invite them in a compelling way. While the most effective invitations are personal invitations from people (not the pastor!) who already know them, an effective public invitation can help reinforce the personal one. Be sure to use this service to invite folks both to the rest of the services in this series (Christmas Day and Epiphany, January 1) and to any Christmas-related events you may be hosting.
But don’t stop there. Probably most folks will not come back tomorrow or next Sunday, given the time of year. So be sure to make a strong invitation and offer a compelling preview of your “Season after Epiphany” series as well. The overall theme for this series in the coming year is “Come and See,” echoing the invitation of Jesus to Andrew, and then Andrew to Peter in John’s Gospel. Decide up front whether your series invitation will start with Baptism of the Lord (which may feel “insider” for some with its focus on reaffirming the baptismal covenant) or the following Sunday (January 15). If the invitation is for January 15, keep in mind you’ll need to make sure more of your folks make the invitation one on one between now and then.
A second is make this Christmas Eve service more “traditional” than not. Your annual guests or other less frequent guests are highly likely to come expecting to do what they’ve always done this night with only minor variations. They want to sing familiar Christmas hymns, hear the story from Luke, celebrate Communion, and light candles to “Silent Night.” They don’t want folks messing with these basics too much. This is what Christmas Eve services are to them. Don’t break their trust. If you do change this up too much, you can expect a few angry responses, and a lot of those you invite to join you for the next series simply decline your invitation — and perhaps will not show up next year on Christmas Eve, either.
This is why so many elements in our commended service are traditional, including the use of the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day liturgy straight from The United Methodist Hymnal and Book of Worship and the singing of many familiar Christmas hymns. One element that may be less familiar is our suggested pairing of “Night of Silence” with “Silent Night,” but since the congregation sings “Silent Night” at the candle lighting with the traditional words and text, the effect may be more amplification of the tradition than something entirely new.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário em português, Lecionário comum revisado
Isaiah 9: (1), 2-7 Isaiah prophesies new hope to come in his own day for the war-torn regions of Zebulun and Naphtali (see maps above), the heart of Galilee. This region later became the center of the ministry of Jesus.
Psalm response: Psalm 96 (UMH 815) A psalm of jubilant praise for the glorious reign of God! If you want a chant tone for the provided response, try B-D-G-B; E-C-B-A. Or, use the refrain from "O Come, Let Us Adore Him" (UMH 234) and, for chanting, G-F#-A-G; B-A-C-B in G-major.
Titus 2:11-14 The grace of God has appeared in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God's grace in Christ cleanses and frees us from the power of sin. This means we can become thoroughly committed to good deeds.
Luke 2:1-20 Jesus is born, angels announce this to shepherds, and Mary ponders the message of the shepherds in her heart.
Christmas Season begins now.
Whether in dreams or visions of angels, we see and hear and join the chorus of the heavenly host announcing the birth of Jesus as a sign of peace to all people of good will.
This is likely to be one of the highest attendance services of the year. Be sure to prepare to invite your many visitors to your next series, whenever you begin it in earnest.
Advent Wreath Resources: BOW 262, 2016 Advent Wreath Meditations (based on Isaiah readings)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Ghana, Nigeria, Stateless People and Migrants