REPOST: Christmas Eve service ideas

I know lots of you are looking for Christmas Eve service ideas right now. I know because the Google search stats for this post are going through the roof :) I thought I’d make it easy for lots of you and repost this, basically a detailed recap of our Christmas Eve service with links to some resource. Hopefully it’s helpful for you!

The original post – http://www.chrisfromcanada.com/worship/christmas-eve-service-breakdown/

Normally I do my best to give you some thoughts related to Sunday morning and a bit of a confessional of how things went. This week I want to do something a little different. I know that there are lots of you who are looking for very specific ideas at certain times of year – Christmas Eve, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, etc – so I thought that I would give you a breakdown of our Christmas Eve service with some explanation of every single element.

If you are looking for Christmas Eve service ideas, hopefully this is helpful for you!

We did two Christmas Eve services this year – both of them were identical in content, lasted about 60 minutes and were family-friendly. We tell people that kids are welcome to come but we have no childcare. Because we know that kids will be in our auditorium, we program the service a little bit different from Sunday morning – the whole service moves unannounced, there is more sitting/standing than normal, we don’t have any silent prayer, etc etc.

Having said all of that, here is what we DID do for Christmas Eve this year -

Theme
Our theme for the service was “A King Is Born” taken from the verses in Matthew where the Magi come to Herod in search of the one who has been born “King of the Jews.” We bought pre-produced banners and invite cards from SermonView.com which helped with our set design and in our word-of-mouth advertising. They were a great company to work with and the finished product which came from them was awesome. We bought two of the “A King Is Born” banners and one each of the “Follow the Star” and “Journey Afar” banners. We hung the banners along the back of the stage and used the customized invite cards at all of our December services and events, encouraging people to take them and invite friends and neighbours to come out.

Stage
We normally don’t go big on set design and staging at OBC, mostly because we are a multi-use facility and our Sunday morning worship happens in a gym. But for Christmas Eve we normally put up some decor, flowers, candles, etc etc. In terms of staging our band, we had two different setups. For the opening Christmas songs we had three singers out front and a band with piano, keys, bass and drums. For the middle section, I moved off piano and played guitar and we also brought two readers on stage for the scripture passages.

Service
Here’s what our service outline looked like -

Welcome & Intro
Advent Reading – Luke 1:26-33
Lighting of Christ Candle
O Come All Ye Faithful
Hark The Herald Angels Sing
Angels We Have Heard On High
What Child Is This
Reading 1 – Matthew 1:18-25
Come Worship The King with video
Reading 2 – Luke 2:8-14
Emmanuel
Video – God Is With Us
Joy To The World

Message – Our King Has Arrived”
Silent Night

Details
I’d love to give some more detail on each of these elements. If you are looking for a complete pre-packaged service to use on Christmas Eve, feel free to use this as a template. We found that the balance of songs, video and reading worked great for us this year and the response we have received has been very positive.

Welcome & Intro
Usually it is a good idea to set up the content and theme of a service like this so that people are on track right from the beginning. We had one of our staff members welcome people (we get lots of visitors on Christmas Eve), remind them to turn off cell phones and then read the passage from Luke where the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and explains that the baby she will carry is from God – that he will be great, the Son of the Most High and that His kingdom will never end. Right from the beginning of the night we wanted to hit on our theme – “A King Is Born”. We then lit the centre candle, representing that Christ has come and is in our midst.

O Come All Ye Faithful
We did this song in G and did all three verses. The arrangement was pretty traditional and we used a lead sheet that I got from CCLI SongSelect. A great opener to a Christmas Eve service and very familiar to people whether they are regular church-going folk or not.

Hark The Herald Angels Sing
We dropped down to the key of E for the next three songs. The traditional arrangement of this song is pretty technical, lots of accidentals and relative chords but we decided to go with a simpler version musically and used an arrangement from our friends at PraiseCharts. I’ve been using lead sheets and click tracks from these guys for about a year and they always do good stuff. The big change we made from this arrangement is that we didn’t do the bridge. But it was really nice to have the simplified chords where the melody really came to the foreground.

Angels We Have Heard On High
We used another arrangement from PraiseCharts on this song which is based on the Third Day version of the song. I really liked the simplified verses and how the melody of the “Gloria” carried really nicely in this one. It was a simple arrangement that was easy on the band – especially the bass player! – compared to the traditional version.

What Child Is This
Up to this point in the service we had people standing so we got them to sit for this song. Such a great melody and incredible words. One of our vocalists, Rebecca, was featured on the first and third verses and did a great job. No tricky stuff on the arrangement for this one – we did it as traditional as you can and just let the melody and words ring out. Beautiful.

Reading 1 – Matthew 1:18-25
Here is where the service took a bit of a transition. We had been completely participatory up to this point but we shifted to a bit more of a presentation here. We had two readers come and tell part of the Christmas story, beginning with the passage in Matthew. We made sure that we chose people who were confident and could speak well and we had them come early to check their mics and read through the passages for us.

Come Worship The King with video
Okay – this one is going to take some explaining. There is a great CD that came out this year called “Glory Revealed” – if you don’t have it, buy it. It is good stuff. One of the songs on the CD, done by Michael W. Smith and Shane & Shane, is this song “Come Worship The King” taken from Jude 25 – “to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” The song is beautiful and, again, fit perfectly with our theme. We did this as a performance song but I wanted to have a visual element included in the song so that people were not just listening but watching as well. I did some hunting online and found this great video called “He Is Here” – it was perfect! We muted the audio from the video and played “Come Worship The King” live – it is amazing how some of the scenes in the video match up with the lyrics of the songs. It was a perfect element of our service.

Reading 2 – Luke 2:8-14
As soon as the song/video was finished we went straight back to the scripture readers and they did their second reading.

Emmanuel
This song by Hillsong was, again, perfectly in line with our theme of “A King Is Born” and was pulled off beautifully by two sisters from our church who were home for Christmas. They did a beautiful job on this simple song and conveyed the power of the lyrics incredibly.

Video – God Is With Us
This was the only video-only element of our service and was used as a buffer out of the “presentation” portion of our service and back to the “participatory” elements. Again, I found this one at WorshipHouseMedia and it did a great job of reinforcing the idea that our king has come, that God is with us.

Joy To The World
If you watch the video, you might be wondering how we transitioned from that element to Joy To The World. We had Rebecca, one of our vocalists, do a quick transition asking people to stand and reminding them that because God is, indeed, with us, we can sing with joy. We did this song in C and used an arrangement from the PraiseCharts peeps based on the Casting Crowns version from their recent Christmas album. The arrangement was simple enough to learn quickly but had some nice musical moments that made the song work really well.

Message – “Our King Has Arrived”
Our pastor does not speak long on Christmas Eve but he makes every moment count. I appreciate what he has to say every year to help people really appreciate the momentous occasion of Christ, the Son of God, coming to earth to dwell among His people. It is a significant event which must be celebrated well!

Silent Night
This is the hilight of our Christmas Eve service every year and has become a great tradition. We always close with this song by candlelight. Our pastor will finish his message, light a candle off the Christ candle we lit at the beginning of the night and then the flame of the candle is passed to the congregation. We place candles on every chair so within a few minutes our entire auditorium is completely dark but lit up by hundreds of candles held up around the room. It is an amazing sight and those of us on stage get the best view of it all! :) We normally do Silent Night in Bb and use a very simplified, traditional arrangement. At the end of the song we go back to verse 1 and do it completely a cappella. Hearing peoples’ voices fill the room with the sight of the candles and the emotion of the moment is a pretty incredible thing.

So there you go. That is all there is to know about our Christmas Eve services. I could give a bunch more info on stage layout, lighting cues, transitions, etc and if that stuff would be helpful for you please just ask. Every situation is unique and you’ll have to figure out the best way to pull this off if you’re going to use this material but I’d be more than happy to fill you in on how we did some of that stuff.

The response that we’ve had since Christmas Eve has been pretty powerful – lots of people making comments about the impact of the service, how the whole experience really worked together and how God used the music and the readings and the message in great ways. Also some stories of people who were visiting and taken back by the content and how it was presented. We are praying for relationships to continue and for God to continue to use what we are doing for His glory. What an awesome privilege!