Worship Lab: Order of Worship for Christmas Morning

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Because it is special to have a Sunday morning worship service on Christmas, we thought we might ask a few of our Worship Design Collective members to offer their congregation’s order of worship for Christmas Sunday. See below for insights from Emily Barlow. 

Planning a Christmas Day service is something we’ve only done a couple of times. Our worship service is old enough only to have Christmas fall on a Sunday twice. It presents us with a challenge, because in any other year, we celebrate Christmas at our Christmas Eve services. This year we’ll have two Christmas Eve services on Saturday and the gather again for worship on Christmas morning. Our Christmas Eve services will be much the same as they always are. We’ll still have candlelight and communion, a choir singing “Silent Night” and children dressed to pose as Mary, Joseph, angels, and shepherds as the Christmas story is read. What then will we do on Christmas day?

In many ways, our Christmas Day service will be more laid back than our Christmas Eve ones. As a portable service our equipment, supplies, and decor all live on a trailer. We rely on volunteers to unload and set up each week, as well as to stay late and pack everything up at the end of the day. We recognize many of these volunteers will also spend all day Christmas Eve volunteering at our church. Not only do we have two Christmas Eve services, but we also have a Christmas Eve Community Lunch. Add in family obligations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and people are both joyful and tired!  For this reason, we’ll only use the essentials on Christmas morning. Our lobby may not be fully decorated, but we will set up our stage the same as it has been all during Advent.

The current sermon series at our worship has been looking at Advent and Christmas “Through the Eyes of A Child.” We interviewed kids over the summer and asked them about their Christmas memories and favorite traditions. We made some short, humorous videos from those interviews to use each week. We’ll use one on Christmas Day. In addition, we’re having a birthday cake for Jesus in the lobby before the service and encouraging kids to bring in a Christmas gift they received to share during our Children’s Time. We’ll say a prayer of blessing over the gifts and encourage kids to be excited and grateful for what they’ve received. We’ve also given kids the freedom to wear their Christmas pajamas on Christmas morning, if they’d like to do so.

Since our Christmas Eve service will focus on the narrative from Luke, we’re going to jump ahead to the Magi and their gifts on Christmas day. That’s influenced our song choices.  We’ll open with a medley of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “We Three Kings” and also sing “The First Noel.” We’re also singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” because it tells the story so well, and sending everyone out singing “Joy to the World.” Our congregation is in the habit of sitting during the offering song, so we often take that opportunity to sing a lesser known song.  This year we picked “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  We felt like this song speaks to our world right now, a world that feels so divided and where hate is so strong. But as the song says, “God is not dead nor does he sleep.” Christmas Day ushers in peace on earth and is definitely worth singing about.

Our prayer is for people who worship with us on Christmas morning to experience a joyful and happy service as well as to be reminded that Jesus brings peace on earth.

Click here for the full Order of Worship: The Well Christmas Service OW

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Emily lives in Long Beach, Mississippi with her husband, Ben, and their three kids, Sadie, Joe, and Lizzie. Together they serve at The Well, an offsite service of First United Methodist Church in Long Beach. Ben is the pastor for The Well. Emily volunteers as the leader for the Worship Planning Team and helps with the spiritual formation of The Well's band. Emily graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2006. She loves learning more about planning and leading people in worship. When she's not working on something for The Well, Emily's probably telling her kids stories about growing up in Kentucky. You can find her on Twitter (@emilyhbarlow) but she mostly live tweets University of Kentucky basketball games.

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