Visit our new site at

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Extra: Christmas Eve Worship Share

What does your church do on Christmas Eve? 
  • Do you have more than one service?
  • Are there varied services at different times, or do you repeat an order of worship? 
  • Do you plan a service for families?
  • Is your Christmas Pageant on Christmas Eve?
  • Is there a late service, beginning or ending around midnight?
Join the conversation in the comments and let us know our denomination, your church size and whether you're planning something new this year or sticking with traditions that are tried and true.


  1. Well, I will chime in~~
    My UCC congregation will have two services on Christmas eve--
    Twilight Service at 5:00 pm
    Candlelight Service at 7:30 pm

    At the Twilight, we tend to get a lot of visitors, a lot, a lot of children, singles, and elders. It's a shorter service, and although it engages the children in participating in the Christmas story, it still is pretty intergenerational. We also us glow sticks instead of real candles at this one, so the children can safely dance and sing at the end in the darkened sanctuary.

    The Candlelight service is lessons and carols, with a story for the children and a brief homily for all.
    It ends with candles and singing in the round in the sanctuary.

    Our congregation attendance averages around 90 on a Sunday (including children and youth); but everybody shows up on Christmas.

    We have a pageant, but it is always the Sunday before Christmas. It feels like the whole church participates in it---there are adults and children in it. The best thing is to get to be the camel--we have a huge camel costume, and the camel player hides a spray bottle in it's folds, and when processing down the aisle, the camel "spits" on the congregation. Silly, right? So beloved, though.

    That's about all I have for now. I have only served in one church where we had a late service (which was at 10 pm). Being a very early bird, it felt like torture to lead a service that late, but in spite of that, I do like late services!

  2. We have two services: Lessons and Carols (brief story with a Christmas theme instead of a sermon) at 7. Candles and Silent Night. A Candlelight Communion service at 11. Small and intimate.

    Our families with young kids usually come at 7.
    We always have the Christmas pageant on the third sunday of Advent, followed by a potluck party.

    I love the late Christmas Eve service. About 20 people come and we share communion around the table with the nativity set on it. It's quiet and dark, like the stable in my imagination.

  3. I have 2 small ELCA congregations. The smaller one (and the one with the fewest children as members) has a 7p traditional service, with candlelighting. Last year I did a children's sermon there which went ok, but this year the SS pageant is on Christmas Eve.

    The other, slightly larger congregation has a 10p service - traditional with candlelighting. The children's sermon bombed there - the kids in attendance were much too shy and sleepy to come up front. Their pageant is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and most of the town comes - lots of kids with cookies and a carol-sing after.

    So this year, I'm dropping the children's sermons. It's not a tradition at either congregation, so it not a big deal to not have one. I think I'm going to substitute carols for pieces of the liturgy for Advent, and I'll carry that over to Christmas. And we'll have communion at both services. It doesn't seem to be a tradition, but when it's one of the two services where my worship attendance doubles (or triples), I can't pass up offering it.

    Other than that, I haven't given it much thought - I'm woefully behind in planning. I'm looking forward to gleaning ideas from everyone here!

  4. This year I am serving another denomination (Lutheran). I am Presyterian. As the church is open to different things, we will do a modified Lessons & Carols with a very brief reflection (a few sentences) for each lesson. Both the 7 pm & 11 pm services are communion & candlelight with families at the earlier service.
    I will have a loaf of bread wrapped in linen in a manger on the altar and will do an adapted version of my Eucharistic invitation and prayer of thanksgiving to fit the ELCA liturgy. It is, as ever, my gift to the congregation - a highly visual and poignant image of God coming down to us, of love born for us, in the Bread of Heaven and of Life given for us. it really seems to reach people.
    Obviously, we will sing Silent Night while holding lighted candles.
    It will make for a long Christmas Eve and I won't get home til nearly 2 am. I'll be sleeping in on Christmas Day!!!
    Since there are so few children, there is no pagaent. I won't have a children's message at either service. Too bad. First year I haven't done one - although I might have one ready for the first service depending on whether we have some youngsters.

  5. This is my 3rd Christmas at St. M's. We have a 5 pm with a children's sermon, an 8:30 and an 11:00. The 8:30 and the 11 are fairly alike. Each one of us is preaching this year and we have a new deacon so this is likely to be a great holiday. I won't be going to the 5 as that is when our family has Christmas, but we will go on to do Midnight.

  6. We do our Christmas Pageant/Lessons and Carols on Advent III. Advent is a big deal for Episcopalians, so we will have been doing the big Advent wreath with the rose and purple candles for the four weeks preceding Christmas, then we light the final white candle in the center at the Christmas Even services.

    On Christmas Eve, we do two services, one oriented to young families at 4:30 pm, one more solemn with fleets of acolytes and lots and lots of music at 10:30 pm. This year we will do a puppet show of the story at the manger at the 4:30 in lieu of a children's sermon. The music at the early service is usually a little more kid-friendly. We usually get about 80 at the early service and 150 at the later one, which usually ends right around midnight, so it's a wonderfully rich and jam-packed night.

  7. Each of my three churches has a Christmas Eve service, so the schedule will be 2pm, 5pm and 9pm. It's traditionally a candlelight communion service, which always feels a bit odd at the 2pm - it's not dark yet! I change up what we do in the first half of the service every year, so I need to get moving and decide that for this year. (All three churches really liked it the year we added figures to the nativity scene piece by piece, with a meditation and song on each one).

  8. PCUSA
    200 ish members (150 ish in worship each week)
    We don't do a pageant, but may bring one back next year now that we are getting more kids. We have two services Christmas Eve, 5 and 7 pm. Chancel Choir sings at second. Children sing at first. We tried to make the first service the "kid's service" but many families preferred the later service, so I plan for kids at both. We have candle light at both services. Similar liturgy, same sermon at both.
    No midnight service. The sunday before Christmas, we have a Longest Night (blue christmas) kind of service, which uses Taize, prayer centers, and more reflective worship.

  9. Small church; we are talking about maybe doing an informal service late in the afternoon on the 23rd to try to engage our non-church-going neighbors, and then our traditional service on the 24th. We have a week-old baby in the congregation, so I am wondering if we might have a bit of a pageant at one or the other service.

    This is honestly the first Christmas (number 5)since my son died that I have had the slightest interest in the whole event. Maybe it will feel a little for real this year. My own church's service is early, so I am hoping we'll make it back to the city for my home church's midnight service -- I long for the hundreds of people and big choir and sort of ponderous formality of a big church.

  10. We have two Christmas Eve services (we used to have 3, but have gotten smaller). The 4:00 p.m. is a family service and was quite large last year. We do strawing of the manger at that one and we also have a family with a baby dress up as the Holy Famly. The 10:00 p.m. service is more formal. Both do have candles at the end, though. We have communion at both services, at least we did last year.

  11. One service at 5 p.m. Every church in the small rural community is either at 5 pm or 5:30 pm. Candles and communion. No pageant and really...that's OK with me. If we ever have kids I would hope to incorporate them into the service in other ways.

  12. I'm serving in an interim position in a large Anglican church. Christmas Eve we'll have 3 services -- 4:30 for children, 7:00 p.m. for families, and 11 p.m. for traditionalists. And I'll celebrate and preach at 10:30 Christmas morning. I have a poem to read in lieu of a homily; I have a most excellent nativity-set wooden jigsaw puzzle "in case of" children, on Christmas morning. Lots of carols of course at all these services, and the Eucharist at all but perhaps the 4:30 on the 24th. Our church is right smack downtown and surrounded by hotels, some of which post Christmas service times publicly for their guests' convenience.

  13. Small church (attendance around 90 on a Sunday, including 20ish children). This year we are doing our Christmas service and party on the 16th, because many of us have family elsewhere and will be away over Christmas (including me). Morning the childrens team is leading a service when we will gradually build up a homemade nativity scene (figures made from 2Litre Coke bottles) as we tell the story. Then lunch, then a concert in the afternoon. All designed to be easy to invite folk to.

    There will be a simple service on Christmas morning - often its those who are alone and far from home who come along and we try to organise things so that no-one goes home alone. There is some ongoing discussion of holding a meal on the evening of the 24th in the church. Again thinking of those who would otherwise be alone. (We have a fair few asylum seekers living in fairly grim hostels.)

    Meanwhile I'll be spending Christmas with my in-laws, who are not church-goers, except for my SIL's mother. So I think that she and I will have to conspire to find a service to go to together...

  14. Christmas Eve 10:30 pm going on to midnight. Blessing of the crib and Eucharist -- processions, bells and smells.
    Christmas Day 8am Eucharist. Children will sing two carols and I will try to gear the sermon to them. That will be a first for them, I believe!

  15. We are breaking tradition this year by having only one service at 5:00 -- festive family friendly Eucharist pulling out all our music stops. Last year we had over 125 at 5:00 and only 30 at 11:00 but the choir only sang at 11 which just doesn't make much sense. And without the choir, the numbers at 11 would be even lower. So...I am kind of sad b/c I've always, even as a child, loved midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and I've toyed with the idea of going to a late service somewhere else just to worship, but we'll see. And we'll have a service at 10 am on Christmas morning, which is surprisingly well attended.

    The Sunday after Christmas we will do lessons and carols and I will take a preaching break which will be nice, too, because my family will be coming in the day after Christmas.


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.