There isn’t much time left so let’s help simplify the process by reviewing some of the essential elements needed for a successful Christmas service. If you are in a panic, take a deep breath, meditate on the One you seek to magnify, and prepare your heart and mind to present the hope of the gospel. We will try to keep the process simple to make it a little more manageable. Let’s get to it! Here are four M’s to a meaningful Christmas service:
Last Minute Christmas Service Preparations
You can’t do it all yourself (ok, maybe you can, but your probably shouldn’t). Once you have a basic plan for the pieces needed to complete the service, get together a group of volunteers and delegate the various tasks. Some suggestions for getting the word out: announce that there are opportunities for members to be involved in the season’s preparation and establish a task force to accomplish them. Make it fun! Host a brainstorming party at your home, call for a logistics planning meeting at your local coffee house, and invite volunteers to a decorating party that includes refreshments.
Once you have set dates and times for your service(s), make sure to advertise your event well ahead of time using your website, Facebook, flyers and announcements at church. If you are sending out postcard invitations, now is the time to get them out. Start creating awareness ahead of time and continue throughout the season.
Start early. Don’t wait until the weekend before your special service to begin decorating. Decorate now with theme and focus in mind. If you are doing a pageant, use a nativity scene that can be visible all season. You can build anticipation by starting with an empty scene and adding a few items at a time – perhaps with some explanatory text in your bulletin or service. If you find yourself spread thin in resources and funding, employ the help of the church members to bring in special ornaments: homemade or hand picked – something that represents the member, the member’s family or a memorial to a loved one who has passed. Bring in color and sparkle with swags of evergreen, bunches of poinsettias, and strings of lights.
Décor outside is as important as décor inside. Lights, banners, garland and ornaments can serve as a warm welcome to those who pass by. An outdoor sign, announcing the Christmas service(s) dates and times can act as a non-invasive invitation. Playing Christmas background music around the church property is a nice way to kindle the holiday spirit. Speaking of music, let’s talk about the music for your Christmas program.
Music is an act of worship to God and a wonderful part of the Christmas celebration. This is the time of year to encourage talents and gifts to be exercised for the glory of the King. Is there anything that the children and/or young adults can contribute to the program? Think about special music. Don’t just present the music to the audience but also plan ways to engage them. Invite participation during corporate worship by singing tried and true classics like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night”. Christmas hymns that contain the gospel message are an effective way to remind people what Christmas is all about. This is not the best time of year to introduce too much new material to the congregation, especially if you are a little behind in your planning and are expecting there to be a lot of visitors. Even if you choose to have a program that includes performance music by a choir or soloists, everyone enjoys the time honored traditional carols that evoke warmth and memories of past Christmases.
Make the message relatable. I am not suggesting compromise here, but try to eliminate “Christianese” terminology. Include a teaching message or sermon for sure, but consider making it a little shorter than usual in favor of other activities like a play, special music, video or other helpful presentation. This is the one big attendance day for many of our “un-churched” family members, friends and neighbors.
The birth of Jesus Christ was surrounded by awe-inspiring events of majestic and miraculous proportions; from the sudden appearance of the angel Gabriel to the young Mary, to the hard-to-imagine stable birth of the King of Kings. This is the celebration – the messiah has come! May the simple truth of salvation be the anchor of joyous services throughout the world this Christmas!
Consider spreading the Christmas celebration out over a couple weeks instead of trying to cram a million things into one service. The church I attend has a Christmas presentation every weekend of December until Christmas so that there is a lot of opportunity to invite friends, neighbors and relatives to be a part of the celebration during this busy season.
I hope these tips are helpful. Please feel welcome to leave a comment if you have any other ideas to contribute to the rest of us.
Oh, and one last “M”…
Merry Christmas everyone!