Two Sundays and a Christmas Eve service to go! Panicked or planned? Some guys start in August. If you are swamped, scrooged, or just plain out of ideas, go back to the basics. Every Christmas program needs this recipe.
- Always include kids in the program. Christmas is a time of wonder, celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus. No one expresses joyous innocence like little ones. (Not to mention their parents will show up, smartphones in hand).
- Sing Christmas Carols. You can use the latest Christian artist’s nativity tunes as part of the service, rev up the band and use cutting edge video, but eventually everybody wants to sing Silent Night the normal way. Don’t disappoint.
- Use instruments. Jingle bells work even if you don’t have access to excellent musicians. People love to hear a harp, a violin, a flute or a cello. You don’t have to have the Boston Philharmonic. Christmas is special-a remarkable Holy Day that requires a festive celebration.
- Make your sanctuary beautiful. One lean year, I decorated an entire church with sparkled holly picks, poinsettias and wired gold ribbon from the dollar store. You don’t have to pay big bucks to make a big statement. (Multi-media, lights and/or candles add to the sparkle). But it’s Jesus’ birthday. Party on!
- Read the Christmas story. Have the third graders recite. Have Grandpa read it to his grandson in a mahogany rocker. Use it as a responsive reading, but the Christmas story is why we came to church. Luke 2 is indispensible.
- Where’s the Nativity? It needs to be visible or enacted. You won’t see the Holy Family anywhere else in America these days.
- Have plenty of gracious greeters. You will have more visitors on Christmas Eve than any other time except Easter. Make them feel warm and fuzzy. Give the kids candy canes with the story of the “candy cane cross” attached to the little striped confection. We learned the hard way not to pass them out during the service. Sticky, sticky, sticky. And you’d better have enough!
- Make your service short. Folks bring extended family to the services: babies, squirmy preschoolers, elderly aunts-all who plan to eat gooey goodies immediately following the festivities. Be impactful and edit the precious time you have.
- Finally, share the Gospel. Tie it in to the message of why Jesus came to earth. People are in church, ready to feel the presence of God at some level. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you wise and loving words that will point them toward Christ at Christmas.
You can’t miss if you have the essentials. Merry Christmas!