In searching for an alternative worship service for Christmas day, someone pointed me to this resource over at the Young Clergy Women Project. This met my needs, since I wanted a service that was a little fun, a bit different, and most of all, substantially different from the Christmas Eve services the night before. (In 2016, Christmas fell on a Sunday.) I adapted the content of the YCW service to make it appropriate for a day service rather than an evening, and added communion and some other elements to make it a bit more substantive. I share it now in case anyone else is looking for a Christmas service for either Christmas eve, day, or Christmastide. I used this in conjunction with images for each letter, but it would not require those visuals. This could also be adapted for a fun family devotional or a program would children. I used a bulletin that gave a streamlined outline of this so folks could follow along, except where there was a congregational response or a reading I wanted to highlight. This is what I an the other worship leaders will read, in full Here goes!
The ABCs of Christmas
Lighting of the Christ Candle
A is for an angel, Gabriel, who began the story with a greeting to Jesus’ mother, Mary:
“Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28)
Sing “Angels from the Realms of Glory”
B is for Bethlehem, where our story takes place. People traveled from everywhere to arrive in the city; it was a very busy place.
C is for a census (that’s a counting of all the people) the reason so many people filled the city of Bethlehem. Luke 2:1-3 says, “In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.”
D is for David, Jesus’ ancestor, the greatest King of Israel. Bethlehem was called “the city of David.” Gabriel promised Mary that her son Jesus would inherit King David’s throne: “Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.” (Luke 1:31-33)
E is for exhausted, that’s how everyone felt when they arrived – tired from all the traveling!
F is for family: Mary and Joseph and their new baby Jesus, who was born that night in Bethlehem. Let’s say a prayer for families:
O God, look with compassion on families everywhere. Where they are divided, bring them together. Where they are united, strengthen their bonds. Where they are wounded, lead them towards forgiveness and healing. We pray for families of all sizes and types, and for loved ones who bless our lives, whether they have come to us by blood or by choice. Inspire us through the faithfulness and wisdom of the Holy Family, and make every home a place where Jesus is adored. Amen.
Carol: O Little Town of Bethlehem
G is for the Good News about to be shared with all the earth. This is what was said in Luke 2:8-16,
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
H is for herds, all those animals that were present in the stable, and the flocks of sheep in the field with the shepherds when they heard the good news.
I is for Immanuel, the name that the prophet Isaiah gave to Jesus in 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Immanuel means, “God with us.”
Carol: Emmanuel, Emmanuel
J is for joy – the excitement and happiness that Jesus brings to us, the joy that we relive today.
K is for kindness, shown by the innkeeper that night, allowing a tired family to stay in the stable when there was no room in the inn.
L is for the love we share with one another all through the year and especially at Christmas.
M is for the manger, it is usually used to hold food for animals, but this time it held the baby because he had no crib.
Carol: Away in a Manger
N is for Noel, another word for Christmas. It also another word for a Christmas carol. One of the most popular carols this time of year reminds us of the angels’ song when Jesus was born, the very first Noel.
Let’s sing the first verse of The First Noel together.
O is for offering, when we give back to God some of what God has given us, out of love. The Wise Men brought valuable gifts for the baby Jesus, and just like them, we are going to share our gifts with Jesus.
Sharing Our Gifts (Offertory song)
P is for prayer and praise and pondering, all different ways people reacted the amazing thing that happened. We pray and praise and ponder together:
Prayers of the People
Q is for quiet, the deep peace that Christmas brings – knowing that God is with us.
R is for rejoicing! (Sermon follows.)
S is for one special star that shone bright in the night showing the Magi the way to Jesus. And when they found Jesus, they were filled with joy and worshipped him.
Carol: Joy to the World
T is for thanksgiving, which is what Eucharist means. This is another word for The Lord’s Supper, when we give thanks for all that God has done and enjoy a meal prepared by Christ. Turn to page 15 and let us celebrate Christ together once more.
U is for unity, all different people brought together today to celebrate God’s love! Let’s pray:
God, thank you for meeting us once together as gather around your table on this holy day. Thank you that Christmas is a celebration that unites Christians around the world. Take away our divisions, that we can show the world Christ’s love as one church, united by the Holy Spirit. Thank you for this opportunity to remember that Christmas is about more than parties and presents. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.
V is for vulnerable; Jesus came to us as an infant, and like other children he had to be cared for, protected–that’s our job. Just like the Holy Family that searched for shelter, there are beloved people and families in our community that God wants us to welcome and to love and serve. All throughout the Bible we see God’s love for the vulnerable, but we especially see it at Christmas, when God became a vulnerable infant out of His great love for us.
W is for wonder– our amazement at the beauty of how much God loves us, and how much God loves the whole world. Just like the Magi, we are lost in wonder at this great miracle.
Carol: We Three Kings (vv. 1, 2, 5)
X is for Xmas! We don’t shy away from this abbreviation because the x is actually the symbol for Christ – it is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. So when we sign something “Merry Xmas,” we are actually saying Christmas!
Y is for “yule tide carols” – let’s sing Deck the Halls together!
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la.
Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol
Z is for Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, who sang this beautiful song when he met the infant Jesus, in Luke 1:68-79 (CEB):
“Bless the Lord God of Israel
because he has come to help and has delivered his people.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house, just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.
He has brought salvation from our enemies
and from the power of all those who hate us.
He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and remembered his holy covenant,
the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.
He has granted that we would be rescued
from the power of our enemies
so that we could serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes,
for as long as we live.
You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
You will tell his people how to be saved
through the forgiveness of their sins.
Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide us on the path of peace.”
Zechariah’s song reminds why Christmas is good news for the whole world. Let’s leave this place and live this good news and tell others! Let’s close our worship together by singing Go, “Tell it on the Mountain.”
Closing Carol: Go Tell it on the Mountain
I’d welcome your thoughts on how to improve this, or, if you use it, what worked and what didn’t work. Feel free to edit and adapt this for your own use. Merry Christmas!