An Introduction to Christmas Worship

As your church prepares for Christmas, I thought it appropriate to share a seasonal entry from A.C.T. Intl’s resource site, Worshipedia.org. We’ll offer an entry for the season of Epiphany in my next post.

From the very beginnings of the Christmas celebration in the early fourth century, the theme of the Christmas season has always been the arrival of the Light, the Light that has come to dispel darkness. Historically, three services are celebrated on Christmas day: the midnight service, a service on Christmas morning, and another on Christmas night. The texts of these services stress the birth of Christ, but in such a way that the birth is not isolated from His sacrificial death and His coming again.

What we are called to remember as we construct Christmas services is that Christmas is clearly a celebration of redemption. The prayers, Scripture readings, and hymns should point us to the source of our redemption, namely the paschal mystery in which the Incarnation finds its ultimate meaning.

This theme is clearly announced in a popular Epistle reading for Christmas: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” Titus 2:11–14, ESV.

Decorations at Christmas should not be limited to the area around the altar. To do so creates a cumbersome stage setting. Keep this area free from distraction by limiting the floral arrangements and by placing crèche figures elsewhere. Hackneyed decorations, such as masses of poinsettias or wreaths hung on every pillar, though beautiful in themselves, can have a numbing effect. Such overkill also obscures what these decorations signify.

As for music, there are of course more songs and hymns available for Christmas than for any other time in the Christian year. Many congregations include in their worship life during the Christmas season a musical drama in which many of the children of the congregation participate. This is a wonderful tradition that allows entire congregation to be part of this joyous occasion.