What Child is This? A Christmas candlelight service
The following worship service took place at the Ridgewood Christian Reformed Church of Jenison, Michigan, on the Sunday evening before Christmas—traditionally a candlelight service involving the adult choir. This year we wanted to expand the involvement to include the junior choir and as many teens as possible. Since Christmas is a family time, we felt it was important to include all ages and make it a family gift—our gift to God, celebrating his gift to us.
Picture your sanctuary adorned for Christmas. Begin with window candles lit, the Advent wreath lit (except for the Christ candle), and the overhead lights dimmed by a third, just enough to allow people to read the bulletin. All the choir texts were printed in the bulletin. One item from the service that we have omitted printing here was a poem on the meaning of Christmas written and read by a fifth-grade child of the congregation. Other congregations may wish to ask for a similar contribution from one of their children.
Greeters and ushers for the service were teens from the congregation and were named in the bulletin.
"One Small Child" Meese
"O Holy Night" Adam
piano and violin (teen violinist)
Choral Introit: "Isn't He?" Wimber, Mercy Publishing
A dialogue between women's voices in front and men's voices in balcony.
Congregational Introit: "Emmanuel, Emmanuel" TWC 140
Sung three times: first by two teens; second by choir; third by congregation.
Call to Worship: "O Come, All Ye Faithful" PsH 340, PH 41, 42, RL 195, TH 208, TWC 173
Greeting and Welcome
By youth pastor.
Hymn: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" PsH 328, PH 9, RL 184, SFL 123, TH 194, TWC 133
The Christmas Story: Luke 2:1-7
Read by a teen.
Choir Anthem: "Little Wayfarin' Stranger" Ruth E. Schram
Carol: "What Child Is This, Who Laid to Rest?" PH 53, RL 217, th 213, twc 150
Reading: "Twins in a Manger"
From Christmas in All Seasons by Geneva M. Butz (Cleveland: United Church Press, 1995; pp. 42-44).
Carol: "The First Nowell" PH 56, RL 223, TWC 162
Reading: "In the Beginning"
From The Manger Is Empty by Walter Wangerin (HarperCollins).
Read by three teens.
Choir Anthem: "Down from His Glory" Booth Cliborn/di Capua
The Christmas Story: Luke 2:8-14
Two teens reading parts of narrator and angel.
Choir responds with "Glory to God," PsH 214; other settings include PsH 215:6 or "Glory, Glory, Glory" by Pablo Sosa—see p. 32.
Choir Anthem: "Amen" arr. D. Hamilton (Word Music)
Choir Anthem: "In the Bleak Midwinter" Herold Darke (Galaxy)
soloist: a young girl
violinst: a teen
Received by teens named in bulletin.
Offertory: "Advent Medley" ("Away in a Manger," "We Shall Behold Him") Marilyn Ham
[As the offertory ends, the overhead lights dim to two-thirds and the Christ candle is carried in by a teen and placed on a pedestal at the front of the chancel.]
Scripture: Revelation 21:22-27
Sermon: "By the Light of the Lamb"
Choir Anthem: "O Holy Night"
[As the choir begins to sing from the rear balcony all sanctuary lights dim except those over the choir. At the of the anthem those dim also. The adult choir walks forward down the center aisle by the light of the window candles, the Advent wreath, and the Christmas tree lights. They light individual candles from the christ candle help by the pastor, then move to fill the outside aisles with lit candles.]
"Away in a Manger" PsH 348, 349, PH 24, 25, RL 213, 214, SFL 129, TH 204, 205, TWC 147, 149
"Silent Night" PsH 344, PH 60, RL 216, TH 210, TWC 164
[As everyone quietly begins singing, the choir members light the end candles of each row of the congregation, and the light is passed down each row . You may want to include the following instruction in the bulletin: " To prevent dripping, keep lit candles vertical. Hold unlit candles horizontally to approach lit candles."]
Anthem: "Every Day Christmas" Ed. Rosiek
[The junior choir, seated in the first rows with their families, come forward with battery-powered candles and begin tne anthem. They a. joined by the adult choir on the chon.s, and the congregation on the choms after the second stanza.]
[After the benediction the people extinguish their candles and exit in silence as the lights return to one-third.]