Last week I received an email inquiring of our Christmas Eve service plans. Obviously, there are a number of things you can do as a church and as Pastors on a night like this.
Many of my friends have multiple services, and do an assortment of things like fake snow, live nativity scenes, people dressed up as Christmas-esque characters, dramatic/drama presentations, singing Christmas trees, handbells, cookie decorating, ornament trading, taking the Lord’s Supper, etc. I’ve seen a lot of that stuff. Some good, some interesting, but most of it is done with really really good intentions. Just remember, what you win them with, you keep them with.
I suppose the real beauty us that each church has the opportunity to determine what they’d like to do for this special service. I’m very slow to judge what another church or Pastor chooses to do because I’m usually not aware of all the factors involved in a particular decision being made by them.
So, I thought I’d share what First Bellville is going to do on Christmas Eve based upon some questions I received from a friend.
Does your church do a candlelight service on Christmas eve?
YES. We only have one service at this time as it meets the needs in the city. I say that specifically because I was having a conversation with a pastor who shared that he was going to do an 11:00PM service, on top of their already 2-3 services. I inquired as to why and he shared that the 11PM service was “for him.” It was his preference and not really a need. I kid you not. I serve this church not to serve my preferences, rather in order to move people towards mission and engagement in our city for the sake of the gospel.
Back to my point, in the history of our church, we’ve had three “high attendance” services, in this order, Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas Eve. That’s fascinating to me. It seems, no matter the culture, this is a time when people who may not attend “church,” attend church gatherings. Family members often bring their families – and they often take up rows in our sanctuary. For us, then, we use this time evangelistically to communicate the truth of the gospel to people, and why we celebrate Christmas. We do this because it may be the one and only time, other than Easter and Mother’s day that people come.
We invite the entire community and ask the kids wear PJ’s. This makes it a family friendly environment (something we want communicated to people of who we are), and parents / kids alike enjoy seeing / wearing PJ’s to where the church meets. We also make sure to remind parents NOT to wear PJ’s – I don’t need to see what they’re wearing! 😉
I’ll read the kids the Christmas story, usually from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and there seems to be a sweet time during this. Just remember, reading and talking to the children is not just for them – this also reminds adults the beauty of the birth of Jesus. Is it messy? Sure. Is there a risk a kid might say something odd? Sure. Ironically, adults will probably listen to you more during the children’s sermon than your actual sermon. They won’t admit it – but they do. (NO PRESSURE!)
I’ve got a message down and such, but I was looking for some guidance on what–if anything– I should do/say for the candle lighting part.
Side note on message – keep it short and make it evangelistic. People are there who do not know Jesus and this is not the time for a lengthy message. I keep my message on that evening to about 12-15 minutes. This year the central them is “Jesus was born so that you could be born again.”
What I generally do with the candle part (at the end), is share why we light candles, and say something to the effect: “When Christ came, the Light dawned. The Light that would save all men who confessed with their mouths and believed that He is the King of Kings. This Light came, and by His grace, He calls us lights to the world. So we pass the light, one to another, which demonstrates how the gospel spreads – it starts with the Light (in which I light the candle from the center Advent (white) candle), and is passed throughout the world. Have you received the Light? His name is Jesus.”
Then we sing Silent Night, Holy Night.
Afterwards, because we want to display we’re a gospel-centered family which has fun, our church enjoy’s coffee, coco, and cookies. For our church, it was a huge success. People really enjoyed it.
Anywho – that’s what we do. If we had multiple services, we’d have to alter the fellowship, but in the end, do your best to make Christmas Eve about Jesus and you should be fine.
What are some elements you enjoy? I’d love to hear!