Let Jesus' Birth Move You

Christmas can be a beautiful time to incorporate movement into your worship gatherings. Christmas Eve candlelight services provide an especially wonderful atmosphere for introducing a simple dance done either in a group or solo. Christmas programs are also a perfect time for children to lead movement and get comfortable worshiping through motion. And what better occasion than Christmas Day, the birth of our King, to get the whole congregation involved in a processional with simple side steps and clapping?

Here are three songs and accompanying movements that would work well in these settings.

“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

LUYH, PH 5, PsH 341, TH 193, WR 232

Let’s start with the candlelight service. “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” can be sung as a congregational song or by a soloist; or the melody could be played by a solo instrumentalist (such as a cellist). With simple movements, done standing, the pairing of the melody with dance and candlelight paints a hauntingly beautiful picture. Let’s try these movements while thinking about a solo melody and the words to the first verse:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
Right arm out; left arm out; bring hands to your mouth, palms facing you, elbows open.

and with fear and trembling stand;
Cower down, knees bent, bringing hands over head; confidently stand with chest lifted and arms slightly open and at your side.

set your minds on things eternal,
Bring right arm to forehead with palm facing you; flip palm away from you as you push your hand up and away from your body.

for with blessing in His hand
Bring left arm out with palm facing away to match the right; gather hands together in front of you.

Christ our Lord to earth descended,
Bring arms up (still together), open up palms to congregation, and slowly drop arms softly in front of you, ending with hands at your sides.

came our homage to command.
Open arms and bow your upper body, with head down, knees bent.

“He Came Down”

SFL 136, SNC 92, SWM 91, WR 402

The next song is a simple, repetitive song for Advent that children can learn. “He Came Down” is a fun, upbeat song that could be part of the repertoire for a Christmas program (see RW 97, p. 28). When you are thinking of songs to add movements to, especially when working with children, remember that repetition is easiest for everyone.

In this song, the lyrics are the same for each stanza, with the exception of the last word, which changes each time.

Here are suggested movements for the first stanza using the key word “hope”:

First line:
Right arm over head, bring it down to heart

Second line:
Left arm over head, bring it down to heart

Third line:
Both arms over head, bring them down to heart

Fourth line:
Wave arms overhead, and scoop palms to praise—arms raised up.

The initial movements stay the same for each stanza; the secondary movements in italics change for each key word. Here are the movements for the key words in the following stanzas:

Peace
Arm(s) open to the side

Joy
Jump! Arm(s) extended strongly up

Love
Same as “hope”

Life
Same as “joy”

If you find that the kids have a hard time remembering the order, you can create different movements for “love” and “life.” But it’s always fun to let kids jump and celebrate the birth of our King!

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child”

LUYH, SNC 108 (See “Noteworthy,” p. 40)

This is a great song to use on Christmas morning. To get your whole congregation involved and moving, introduce this song as a time to celebrate and to enjoy God’s presence, have fun, and worship! To warm your congregation up to the idea of moving during worship rather than watching (if you come from more of a sit-and-stand-and-that’s-it congregation), try getting them to sway and clap to this song.

The simpler the movement, the better: during the whole song, until the final line, have the congregation step together side to side on beats 1 and 3, and clap on beats 2 and 4 (try it yourself with the music; it’s not as complicated as it sounds). On the final line—“‘Glory, glory, glory,’ let the heavens ring!”—have them keep swaying side to side as they lift their right arm on the first “glory,” their left arm on the second “glory,” and both arms on the final “glory,” then go back to clapping for “let the heavens ring.”

If raising their arms seems too intimidating for some, suggest that they can simply continue to clap rather than adding in the arm raises. Suggesting movement options to your congregation creates an attitude of hospitality and trust. For some people, this might be the most they have ever moved during worship. But there’s no better time to do that than during the celebration of Christmas morning!

I like to think that the angels danced when they were singing “gloria in excelsis deo.” We too need to spread the news of the birth of our King, so let’s dance!

Julia K. Start Fletcher is a dance instructor for training and collegiate programs in West Michigan.