Christmas Eve Service Ideas

Chris  —  November 9, 2011 — 1 Comment
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One of my favorite services to plan and lead each year is the Christmas Eve Service.

It’s a great time to gather and remember the wonderful story of God’s amazing gift of love, hope, peace, and joy – the birth of Emmanuel, God with us. The mysterious story of God becoming man and making His dwelling among us.

The big question always on my mind in preparing for a Christmas Eve service is how to tell the story so that it is both clear and understandable to people who may never have heard it and yet keep it fresh for those who’ve heard it many times.

Christmas Eve is still one of the few times when people who don’t normally attend a service will come, whether it is with family, friends, or out of nostalgia. Even more so than at Easter or Mother’s Day.

There are a lot of approached to how to “program” a Christmas Eve service. Some like to pull out all the stops and do something completely different. Some prefer to stick with their typical liturgy, except with a Christmas flavor.

I prefer an approach that is more in the middle. Christmas Eve is a great time to incorporate some special elements, especially when it comes to telling the story in fresh ways. But, I’ve also found that people enjoy having familiar and participatory elements.

I also believe that the service should be somewhat representative of your typical Sunday morning. Since it is a service where there will be many “non-regular” attendees, and hopefully you are inviting them to return on a more regular basis, it helps them to know what they will experience when they return. At the same time, the service shouldn’t just be a cookie cutter service since it is a special experience.

Over the years, I’ve done many different things with my teams on Christmas Eve. However, there have been some consistent elements present:

  • A high value on telling the Christmas story in a fresh way to help people capture the mystery and wonder of Christ’s birth.
  • Accessible and participatory for the entire family.
  • Lots of congregational singing, especially Christmas carols.
  • Some special elements, whether drama, music, or visual.
  • Stage design and screen visuals designed to capture the evening.

In addition, most Christmas Eve services that I’ve done end with the lighting of small candles by each person and the singing of Silent Night. It’s a symbolic and special moment as we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, together.

Maybe you’re looking for some ideas of how to prepare for or include these types of elements. Feel free to use any of the ideas from these services I’ve been part of doing:

December 24, 2008

In 2008, the service actually followed a simple structure. Our focus was on what it meant for Jesus to be with us as Immanuel. The service featured a good selection of congregational Christmas carols done in our typical style, some special music numbers, a children’s story,  a short message, the candle lighting, some videos, and a few other elements.

You can download the service flow sheet here. Download

Here is the reading that was used early in the service: Jesus is Born! Download

Here are the links for the videos featured:

Greatest Story Ever Told

Four Words

December 24, 2009

The 2009 service had more creativity present. Our focus was to remember how the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of some great promises given by God. We wanted to capture a real family feel in this service. The idea that we were gathering together in a living room to remember Christ.

To do so, we developed a drama featuring a story within a story. The context was a grandfather talking about and reading a Christmas story to his grandchildren. Both the script and Christmas story were written by an intern I had working with me. He did a great job pulling the dramatic parts together. In between each act, we had a congregational song. The service ended with helping people to think about how to respond to God’s promise and gift and the lighting of candles.

This service had a higher production value, but still captured the simple family feel. All of our songs were done with just piano.

You can download the service flow sheet here. Download

Here is the drama script that was woven through the service: 


Here’s the story that was read as part of the drama: 

And a video of actual service for context. The audio isn’t the greatest, but you’ll get the idea.

Here are links for the videos used in the service:

Christmas Myths

Christmas Mystery

December 24, 2010

The 2010 service was built around telling the simple story of Christmas through the different advent candles. We wanted to help people step back from the craziness of the season and really remember why we celebrate.

This service again featured a lot of congregational singing and special elements, but it also feature the involvement of lots of people. The service began simply with reminding people of the Scriptural promise from Isaiah 9 and the expectation that was present. Then we increased the feel with video and songs to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Then there were four movements, each featuring a reading and song leading people through the simple story of Christmas. This had been our focus through the season. We ended by challenging people to think about what it all means, what their response would be, and then lighting the candles as we sang Silent Night.

You can download the service flow sheet here. Download

You can download the text for the four readings here.

Movement 1: Download
Movement 2: Download
Movement 3: Download
Movement 4: Download

Here are the links for the videos used in the service:

Isaiah 9

Christmas Worship Intro

Christmas Connection

December 24, 2011

The service this year had a few extra elements because Christmas fell on a weekend, and this was also our regular corporate gathering. I did Worship Together post about this service here.

December 24, 2012

The service in 2012 was built as an extension of our Advent series …Upon a Midnight Clear, but was also entirely self sufficient. During this series, we had been looking at some of the different characters of the Christmas story and what impact the story had on them. As a result, we had told the story of Christmas many times. On this evening, we took a step back and looked at the entire thread of the Christmas story from the very beginning in Genesis while focusing on a final character – us. What is the impact of the Christmas story on us?

The question we led up to was this: How would your life change if you were absolutely convinced that God Himself was with you?

The service itself was a simple service primarily built around Scripture and music. The first half alternated the reading of Scripture by a “narrator” type figure and a musical and video element. You can see how it flowed, and the Scriptures used, in the downloads. The later half of the service comprised a brief devotion on John 1:1-14, and then opportunities for reflection and response culminating in the lighting of the Christ candle and the sharing of the light while singing Silent Night.

The musical ensemble was pretty simple, too. It was comprised of keys, an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, a cajon, and a male and female vocalist. It could even be done with something as simple as a piano and vocalist.

Download the service flow sheet here: 

Download the “script” here: 

Videos used in this service:

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

The Christmas Question

December 24, 2013

This year, during the Advent season, we did a series focused on the names of Christ contained in Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah 9. We called it Immanuel: What’s in a Name? For Christmas Eve, we didn’t do anything incredibly fancy or creative, but rolled the service into the series by focusing on what it means that Christ is Immanuel – God with Us. We took some time to simply celebrate and remember that simple, yet profound and amazing truth.

The other aspect is that Christmas Eve is (or was depending on when you read this) a tradition we are still developing. Prior to a few years ago, this church had not done a Christmas Eve service. We see it beginning to catch on and as something people are beginning to incorporate into their traditions and celebrations.

The service consisted of carols, media, scripture, a special music (something we don’t do very often), media, and the gospel. We also included a “children’s moment” (also something we don’t normally do) that was the reading of the Christmas story. It began with an upbeat feel of celebration that Christ is born with a full worship band, and then moved “downward” and ended more simply and reflective with the lighting/sharing of candlelight and the singing of Silent Night. We also were very intentional to try and connect new people that might be there for the first time.

Our special music was a Christmas version of the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen that had been done by the group Cloverton. Here’s a Youtube of the song, and here is a link to sheet music you can purchase on MusicTabs.com.

Download the service flow sheet here: 

Videos used in the service:

Christmas Worship Intro

Advent Video 5 from Bluefishtv.com

God With Us (a great video capturing a portion of a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Immanuel)

One more thing: Our service actually ended with a service opportunity. We had prepared packages of cookies and invited people to take some with them and deliver them to folks that were working on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in our community to simply say “Thank You”. If you would like more information about that, be sure to contact me.


> If you’re looking for resources/readings for the 4 weeks of Advent, there are some on the Worship Resources Page.


The possibilities are endless. Obviously, part of planning a creative and engaging Christmas service is determining what will be appropriate in your setting and for the church you serve. Christmas Eve isn’t primarily about showing off our creative chops, but using the gifts and talents available to engage people with the amazing story of Christ’s birth.

If there is anything I can help you with, or questions I can answer, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me.

I’ll leave you with one last thing. There are times when creativity can backfire, as this church discovered.

May you plan and lead your congregation with joy to celebrate the birth of Christ this year.

What have you done for Christmas Eve services in your setting?

Chris

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  1. Advent & Christmas Linkapalooza! | Journey of Worship - December 7, 2012

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