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This is the complete Christmas Eve Service that my family and I hosted last year.  We will be out of town this year, and I’m sorry we can’t do it again!

We rented a tiny local heritage church for the evening and advertised a bit with posters inviting all to come to a “Christmas Eve Sacred Song and Story Service” followed by warm apple cider.

Other than my family, I knew none of the 30+ people who attended, but it was a special Christmas moment of bonding among strangers.  The service had several Celtic elements:  we removed most of the pews and set them in a circle, practiced equality by having young and old participate in reading, and chose music that in it’s sound and words emphasised the Mystery of Christmas.

I adapted some material from John Birch’s Faith and Worship site and some from Celtic Daily Prayer, mixed with my own work.  Feel free to use or adapt this material to suit your service.

Arrange chairs in a circle. This is an interactive service!

[In advance, print individual copies of each scripture passage.  As people enter and visit, invite various ages to read these portions aloud during the service, and give them the copy.  Also hand out to children and adults the pieces of the nativity, and ask them to come and place their pieces at the front during the service when you indicate]

 Prelude: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Welcome to Christmas Eve!

Tonight we celebrate the coming of Jesus, but it is important to remember how longingly his birth was anticipated for centuries before he came.  So we will begin with O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.  Please feel free to sit, stand or move however suits you.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

“And He did come!  Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’  On that night, Heaven invaded Earth in the most unexpected way.  In a radical stealth move, the Creator of All took on flesh, to be born as a real baby, behind enemy lines.  Such Mystery!  That baby grew, and took His first steps on the Earth that sprang from His word!  The One who spoke us into being learned our speech.  He became one of us, knew joy and pain and love, died, and then rose so we could be one with Him.  May this mystery awaken in our hearts as we sing…”

Once In Royal David’s City

“Together, we’re going to sing and read our way through the Christmas story.  Consider the familiar words with fresh ears as we read and re-create the nativity scene.”

Invite First Reader to read Luke 2:1-7 (Message)

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

[Ask those with figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, ox, donkey and manger to place their pieces during the singing – prompt as necessary]

“Please join in the singing as you catch on, if the Wexford Carol is not familiar to you.”

Wexford Carol  verses 1 and 2  

Good people all, this Christmas-time
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town
But mark how all things come to pass
From every door repelled alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox’s stall.

Invite Second Reader to read Luke 2:8-20 (Message)

 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

[Ask those with figures of shepherd, sheep and angels to place their pieces during the singing]

Wexford Carol verses 3 and 4

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
“Prepare and go,” the angels said
“To Bethlehem , be not afraid
For there you’ll find this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.”

With thankful heart and joyful mind

The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side the Virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of life
Who came on earth to end all strife.

Invite Third Reader to read Matthew 2:1-2 (New Living Translation, Message)

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some magi from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,and we have come to worship him.”

 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.  He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the magi, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.

[Invite those with Magi and camels to place their pieces during singing]

Wexford Carol  verse 5

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah was
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

We Three Kings  instrumental

Invite the Fourth Reader to read John 1:10-14 (New Living Translation, Message)

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.

 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

 Pondering the Incarnation

Jesus, you walked this earth as child and Creator.  You embraced our world, and us.  Your feet touched the soil.  You enjoyed good food.  Water and wine quenched your thirst.

You brought life and light, love and laughter

To the lives of outcasts, and the ‘in crowd’,

To everyone who received you.

Creative God, you are the breath of all life.

Through you all things are created and sustained.

May this eternal truth be always on our hearts:

That you who breathed this world into being,

Placed stars in the heavens, and designed a butterfly’s wing,

Are the God who entrusted his life to the care of ordinary people,

Became vulnerable

That we might know how strong is the power of love…

A mystery, so deep it is impossible to grasp.

A mystery, so beautiful it is impossible to ignore.

(Silent moment)

Light a large central candle

“Jesus came as the light of the world, but then He called us the light of the world, shining His love in every dark place.  There are many faithful who could be pointed at as examples.  Canada’s first Christmas Carol, the Huron Carol, was written by a Jesuit missionary, Jean de Brebeuf.  He had tremendous love for the Huron First Nation, working and living among them, learning their language and culture.  When they were threatened by another tribe, Jean-Paul and eight other missionaries remained.  He identified so closely with the people he served that he stayed when they were slaughtered.  He was captured and tortured, but the way he withstood suffering, and the grace by which he died deeply impressed his captors.”

Iesus Ahhatonia/ Huron Carol 

Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
And wandering hunters heard the hymn,

refrain:  Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt

O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou
The Holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy
Who brings you beauty peace and joy

Silent Night

“Another historical figure who’s life shone with the love of God was Good King Wenceslas.  He was a Baron rather than a King, but for the love of God and man he used his wealth to purchase slaves and give them their freedom.  If they had no home to go to, he gave them employment and a home on his land – another picture of what Jesus has done for us.”

Good King Wenceslas

Joy to the World!


“Thank you for coming to our Christmas Eve service
May your Christmas be joyful
May you make room in your heart
And receive the gift of Christ;
And on this night, and every night,
May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord make His face shine upon you
And be gracious unto you
May the Lord lift His countenance upon you
And give you His peace.”












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