Worship Connection: Christmas Eve (Option 3)

September 2nd, 2021

Christmas Eve Candlelighting Service

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20. 

[Tonight’s Christmas Eve Service is based on the song “Star-Child” by Shirley Elena Murray, which is found in THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2095. The worship service focuses on those who are drawn to the Christ; and each group is represented by people costumed appropriately. In this service, directions are given for entrances and costuming; many readers are used, so this will require a rehearsal or two.]


Procession of Liturgists, Pastor, Choir, etc.

Choral Introit “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” verse 1, UMH #211

Christmas Greetings by the Pastor

Call to Worship

L: He’s coming! He’s coming! The Savior of the World is coming!
P: Let us prepare our hearts to greet him!
L: He comes to each one of us, healing and restoring our lives!
P: Praise be to God for God’s mighty gift to us.
L: O Come, Prince of Peace, bring your light to us!
P: We are ready to receive you in our lives! AMEN.

***Hymn #234 “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (UMH)

Lighting of Advent Candles

Reader 1:
We light the first Advent Candle: the candle of watching and waitin,g for we have searched and waited for our Savior to come to us.

Reader 2:
We light the second Advent Candle: the candle of preparation as we have prepared our hearts to receive the Savior.

Reader 3:
We light the third Advent Candle: the candle of beholding and believing because we have seen the mighty power and love of God in our lives.

Reader 4:
We light the fourth Advent Candle: the candle of rejoicing because we have been blessed with the good news of God’s love for all God’s people!

Now the time is near! The One who will save us, brings God’s light into our world. We light this Christ Candle in celebration of God’s most precious gift to us - our Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Opening Prayer (Unison):

Glorious God, who presents us with the most precious of gifts, we praise you for all your blessings in our lives. Tonight we have come to this place, in the midst of a busy time. We might not even have everything ready at home, yet we have come, because we ourselves need to be ready. Work in our hearts this night, preparing us for your presence. Work in our lives that we may reach out to others in comfort and compassion; work in our world that the darkness that has encompassed it may be dispelled by the brightness of your love and your Gift. In faith and expectation, we pray. AMEN.

Luke 2:1-20 : The Story of the Nativity

Introduction to Offering by the Pastor
Tonight we come with our hopes and our dreams. We come as little children. We come because for some of us it is tradition for the whole family to go to church on Christmas Eve. Some have come out of curiosity. Some come because of loneliness. We are here in this place, waiting on tiptoes for something to happen. We come offering our lives and bringing our gifts. In the spirit of this night, let us receive our Christmas offering

Offertory Music

Chorus of Praise and Thanksgiving UMH p. 295

Dedication of our Christmas gift offering

Choral Anthem or Special Music

Come, people. Come with us this night. Come not only to the stable but also to the world. Come to the world of both long ago and now. Come bringing your hopes and your fears, your joys and sorrows. Come, for God is ready; the stage of our lives is set.

STAR-CHILD: A presentation in sight and sound

[Have the organist play the music to “Star-Child” twice through.]

Reader 1:
There is nothing false about Christmas, nothing hokey or make believe. It’s the real thing. It is forgiveness for people who need forgiveness and life for those who have none. It is strength to fight temptation that is cruel and to do the thing that is right when it is hard to do. It is the hope of life in the face of death that is crudely real. It is God in the straw [pause]. Are you ready to come to the manger and to the cross? [pause] Can you let go of the Christmas Nativity scenes of your past and see the event with new eyes?

[Mary and Joseph come forward. Mary is carrying the infant Jesus. When she gets to the chancel, she places him in the manger. She is seated on the bench that is covered with burlap. Joseph stands behind her, looking at the child.]

Choir: Singing verse 1 of “Star-Child”

Reader 2:
[very happily] This is what we hoped for; this is the scene we love. The young mother with her newborn child, gently placing him in the manger, and Joseph, the proud father, looking on in wonder and love. We could stay here for a long time, gazing on this scene. Most of us may wish we had a special camera to capture not only the picture but the feeling. We are so happy to see this scene. [pause] But perhaps there is more . . .

[Four children, dressed in ragged clothes, bruised and barefoot, looking as though they lived on the street, come down the center aisle and approach the manger. One of the children sits on the floor to the front right of the manger, the other children kneel behind this child, staying close to one another.]

Choir: Singing verse 2 of “Star-Child”

Reader 3:
We really didn’t expect to see street children at the manger. After all, isn’t it supposed to be shepherds. They were the poorest of the poor in Jesus’ day. But we are caught in a dilemma. You see, the name Emmanuel, given to Jesus and proclaimed by the angels, means “God with us”--not just long ago, but right now. Who are the poorest now? [pause] Perhaps the poorest of the poor, the young ones who have been hurt, beaten, abused, need to be at the manger.

[4 older adults enter from the left side of the chancel and walk toward the manger. Two chairs are placed there, covered in brown burlap and burgundy cloth for the older women. The men will stand behind them, as they all look at the manger]

Choir: Singing verse 3 of “Star-Child”

Reader 4:
[puzzled, questioning] Just a minute! I thought we might have some adult shepherds here, you know, keeping track of the children, the little sheep. Teenagers are great for the part. They are mostly in their adult height and look older than the little ones who so often have been shepherds. But what are we going to do about these new arrivals? What are these older people doing at the manger? Haven’t they seen enough Christmases to know better? [pause] Or is Christmas really for everyone--for all those who have had many Christmases and for whom life has given a variety of experiences? They bring to the manger a wondrous array of experiences and gifts. Perhaps, just perhaps, it is right.

[Three children, dressed in very fancy clothes, carrying lovely gifts wrapped in fancy paper and having large bows, enter from the right side of the chancel. They approach the manger. Two of the children kneel by the manger and the third child stands behind them.]

Choir: Singing verse 4 of “Star-Child”

Reader 5:
Look at this scene. [pause] These fancy-dressed children look out of place. Where do they fit in? They have everything that they want, and they keep asking for more, as if more will take the place of the emptiness that can exist in their lives. [pause] The trinkets and toys won’t help. They just won’t be enough. And all the bright ribbons and pretty packages cannot deliver to them the peace that this Christ child comes to bring. [pause] Yes, it is right for them to be here. They need to be here, for they, too, are beloved.

[Six robed figures enter--three from the right and three from the left. They carry candles adorned with white and gold streamers. They move toward the manger scene and form a semi-circle behind the scene. The pastor enters the semi-circle at the center and takes the light from the Christ Candle. She/He lights the candles of the robed figures on each side.]

Choir: Singing verse 5 of “Star-Child”

Pastor: God’s stupendous sign--a child in a manger, a Light given for our darkness. [pause] Just when we thin that we have understood it all, we are surprised again. We are included--there is room for us in this picture, at this manger, in God’s house--there is always room.

Let us raise our voices in song:
*** “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” UMH #218 
*** “Angels from the Realms of Glory” UMH #220
*** “O Little Town of Bethlehem” UMH #230

Do you feel the spirit yet? Not the spirit of a childhood Christmas, but the spirit of God with us? [pause] It’s here, among us right now. It is in the faces of each of the people in our unique Nativity scene. It is in your faces!

The light of God is given for you--given to you--and by you it is given to others.

[The choir may receive the light from those in the semi-circle or it may be given to specially designated persons who then distribute it to the congregation.]

Let us sing together.

“Silent Night” UMH #239

[It is a good idea to have this printed on the back of the worship bulletin so that people are not struggling with a hymnal and a lighted candle.]


Closing Music


Because this service is based on a special piece of music, the setting changes from the usual display of poinsettias and candles adorning the worship area. They may be used in the sanctuary, but the focus will be on a special living Nativity scene.

You will need:

  • Some sort of Manger, with hay or burlap into which the Christ Child will be placed
  • A bench for Mary--covered in burlap
  • Two chairs for the Older adults, covered in burlap and burgundy cloth
  • Doll wrapped in soft blanket for Mary to place in manger.
  • Three brightly wrapped gifts complete with bows for the children in verse 4
  • Candles for the congregation
  • Larger candles for the semi-circle
  • A large candle for the Pastor
  • Advent candles and the Christ candle


  • Ragged and dirty clothes, some makeup for the children in verse 2
  • Fancy clothes for the children in verse 4
  • Adult witnesses in verse 3 can wear their usual clothing
  • Six choir robes or other robes for the group in the semi-circle
  • Joseph and Mary may be in the usual traditional dress of ancient times or you might consider having them in modern dress.
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