This is the third year that Christmas has not gone as planned.
Our first year, we gathered with many in our home for an impromptu Christmas Eve service. Kids read scripture, we played some music, and we prayed together. It was messy and disorganized and fun. It felt like a spiritual family, with all the joy and pain and goodness and sorrow that the human life brings.
It wasn’t like the big, massive outpouring of dozens of services I was used to, but it was beautiful in its own way that felt like home.
And then 2020 Covid, and things changed for everyone, and then it seems like as the hours pass in 2021 Covid, things change again. Plans are disrupted. Visits are canceled. Many of us will (again) not be in church, for all kinds of reasons.
And into that mess, I asked myself the question,
But what do I want my family to know at Christmas?
So over the last couple of days, I’ve prepared a simple liturgy that my family will be using this Christmas Eve. It’s unpolished and surely could be improved, but for this year anyway, it represents what Jesus’ birth truly means, and unwraps–just a bit–this unbelievable gift for all of us that we find in Christ.
I hesitated to share it because I know it’s not perfect and totally refined–but already many have reached out to tell me that they, too, will not be in a corporate worship service–and perhaps this will give you a special moment to share with whoever you are with (and it’s certainly Zoom ready too if that’s the only way for you to be with your family!)
I’ve given you the downloads below, but if you want to get a sense of it, here’s what I wrote in preparation:
A Christmas Eve Liturgy: How to Prepare
All You Need:
4 candles and a birthday candle.
This liturgy on your phone or printed out.
I made two versions–one fancy one that you can print like a book, and one plain-and-simple that you can print just for reading around the table. You can adjust readers and kids as you need, but I tried to make it as easy as possible to have everyone get a part.
From the “Prepare” Section of the Download:
This is a simple practice to use for family and household worship at Christmas. So many of us are unable to gather in a corporate worship setting, but often struggle to figure out how to capture all that is Christmas in a way that’s engaging and easy to use with our kids or with families that are in various places of faith.
A liturgy allows you to lead a gentle but worshipful format that attempts to capture the full meaning and joy of Christ’s birth. You can gather a few simple materials to make the time special. The liturgy calls for four standard candles and one small candle; you can use flashlights, battery powered candles, birthday candles, or whatever you have on hand.
The prompts will encourage child/parent participation, but you can use this liturgy with any kind of group, small or large. If there are no children in your household, choose the child at heart who can bring some life to the questions 😉 It can be helpful to print or share the liturgy so it’s easy for people to follow along and read their part.
If you have a nativity in your home, consider moving it to the middle of the table and allowing different family members to hold up the various figures as they come into play.
This is a perfect way to begin your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meal. You can use a modified version of the liturgy for smaller children, beginning with a retelling of the Christmas story (I love this video version from the Jesus Storybook Bible version) and shortening or simplifying the language given here. The beauty of liturgy is the repetition. Even if your kids don’t fully understand this year, repeating these truths every Christmas provides the opportunity for the Spirit to enlighten their hearts over time.
If you desire to expand the liturgy, consider using a favorite Christmas carol at the beginning or the end, or reading from the scriptures from the endnotes.
In writing this, I felt a deep sense of confirmation that there is truly no greater gift than the gift of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that this small, imperfect offering creates a meaningful moment for you and your family this Christmas that allows your heart to feel the joy and hope of our Savior’s birth.
If you do use it, let me know–would love to hear from you. Merry Christmas, everyone, with all my love, and with the joy, peace and love of Christ that is truly the BEST news of all.