This Christmas Eve service tells the story of God’s salvation plan from the Garden of Eden to Jesus’ resurrection. It shows how all of Scripture is one big story of God calling his people back to him. The service is appropriate for people of all ages and all stages of the faith journey, and can be used in a wide variety of settings.
For this service, you will need ten readers plus a young woman to read the part of Mary. Reader 1 has lengthy passages to read, so an adult may be the best choice. For readers 2-10, choose people representing a variety of ages and backgrounds.
Rather than having the readers find their passages in a Bible, consider printing the passages on cardstock for them. Make sure each reader has a copy of the order of service so he or she knows when to read.
At our church, we darkened the sanctuary and had lots of candles burning in the front as well as down the side aisles where possible. We placed small clip-on lights on the stands for the readers and musicians.
We also incorporated the lighting of the Advent wreath at two points in the service, so plan to have a wreath and candles in place, along with a lighter.
Opening Song: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” (st. 1) LUYH, CH 259, PH 22, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189
Song: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” (st. 3-4)
Reader 1: Tonight we’ll share with you an old, old story. It is a story of love, of sacrifice, of mystery. It’s a story about bravery and death, and about conquering evil. It’s about joy, a baby, and even some angels.
[Reader 2 lights the first four candles of the Advent wreath as Reader 1 speaks the following paragraph.]
This story, God’s story, reminds us that Christ brings us the hope that there is more to life than this world. It reminds us that Christ will give us a peace that defies all human reason, that God’s love is unconditional and eternal, and that the joy God offers is indescribable!
This story has all the makings of great fiction. But it’s not fiction—it’s all true. The most amazing story ever told is not the result of human imagination, but rather the result of divine inspiration and intervention.
Maybe you’ve heard this story so many times that you know it by heart. Maybe you’ve heard the story before but never really understood it. And maybe you’ve never heard this story told quite like this. Whatever the case, tonight it is our prayer that this story will touch your heart as never before.
Solo: “Gather ’Round, Ye Children, Come” (Andrew Peterson, from the CD Behold the Lamb of God)
or Opening Song: “O Word of God Incarnate” LUYH, CH 414, PH 327, PsH 279, TH 140, WR 670
“Open Your Ears, O Faithful People” LUYH, GSW 25
Reader 1: The only logical place to start our story is at the very beginning.
Reader 2: Genesis 1:1, 26-31
Song: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” LUYH, CH 240, PH 309, PsH 342, TH 162, WR 181
Reader 1: In this beautiful creation, God planted a garden for the man he had created. God filled the garden with all kinds of trees that were both lovely to look at and good to eat. Four rivers ran through this garden to keep it lush and green. But God saw that everything was not yet perfect. Adam needed a companion. So God created Eve to work and live alongside him. Sometimes, in the cool of the day, God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. God loved them very much.
Now, in this garden was one tree that God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from. But one day, a serpent came to Eve. As the Bible says, “the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.” And the serpent tricked Eve into eating from the one tree that God commanded them not to touch. Eve brought the fruit to Adam, and he ate too. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. When they ate from that tree, everything changed.
For the first time, Adam and Eve hid from God. They knew God would be coming to walk with them in the garden, and they hid. God knew they had sinned before he went to the garden to find them. God could have abandoned the creation that had abandoned him, but he didn’t. God loved them, and so he went in search of them. There would be consequences for their actions—but only because God loved them so much.
Reader 3: Genesis 3:14-19, 23
Reader 1: After this Adam and Eve no longer walked and talked with God in the garden. God’s whole creation paid the price for that one sin. Nothing would be the same: pain, tears, toil, frustration, fear, and separation from God—this is what sin brought to God’s beautiful and perfect creation.
I wonder if God cried that day, when he had to banish Adam and Eve from the garden that he had made for them. God knew what this sin was going to bring: the wars, the atrocities, and the evil. But God knew something else as well. God knew how much he loved the people he had made. God loves us, the crown of creation. But God also knew the end of this story. When God spoke to the serpent that day, he was saying to Satan, “You may have won this battle, but I will win the war. Today, right here, I will begin my plan to bring my people back to me. I will bring them back to my garden where they will walk and talk with me. You have brought this sin into my creation—but I will send a Savior, a Messiah, to save my people and bring them back. My plan will succeed, and I will be victorious. You may strike my heel, but I will crush your head.”
And so the rest of God’s story is the story of how God’s plan unfolds—one generation at a time. God promised Abraham that he would bless all the peoples of the earth through his descendants, the nation of Israel. During the time of Moses, God showed the Israelites again that he loved them enough to deliver them from the slavery they endured in Egypt. When they wanted kings instead of God, he gave them kings, including King David, from whose line the Messiah would come.
Time and time again, sin and disobedience defined God’s people. God disciplined them, but he never abandoned them. God sent prophets to point the Israelites back to God and call for them to repent.
Reader 4: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; 7:14
Song: “O Come, O Come Immanuel” (st. 1-2) LUYH, CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154
Reader 1: The prophets spoke of a promise that God made thousands of years before—a promise that he made to Adam, to Eve, and to Satan. God promised to bring his people back to him. God made promises to Abraham; to Isaac; to Jacob; to Ruth; to David, whose father was Jesse; and to countless other descendants of Abraham. The Messiah, the Savior, would come from their line—he would be part of their family tree.
Reader 5: Isaiah 11:1-3a
Video: “Matthew’s Begats” (YouTube video by Andrew Peterson, from the CD Behold the Lamb of God; tinyurl.com/mattbegats)
or Song of Response: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” LUYH, CH 255, PH 48, PsH 351, TH 221, WR 190
Reader 6: Galatians 4:4-5a
Reader 1: The time had come; and now we see the next step in God’s plan.
Reader 6: Luke 1:26-38
Reader 1: So there was Mary, unmarried and pregnant. Not a good situation in that day. But her fiancé, Joseph, was a man of faith. After an angel appeared to him in a dream, he took Mary home as his wife. Soon after, the Roman government ordered a census and Joseph and Mary were forced to make a journey.
Reader 7: Luke 2:1-7
Song: “Labor of Love” (Andrew Peterson, from the CD Behold the Lamb of God)
or Song of Response: “Silent Night, Holy Night” (st. 1, 2, 4) LUYH, CH 253, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186
Reader 8: Luke 2:8-16
Song: “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night” CH 272, PH 58, 59, PsH 215, TH 222, 223, WR 228
Reader 8: Luke 2:17-19
Mary Monologue: O Lord, what a path you have taken me on so far. That visit from the angel Gabriel telling me about this little baby—there was so much to take in, so much to think about and do. And now—here I am in this stable, with Joseph and a baby.
This little baby—what am I to think of him? He is mine, but he is yours. He looks like any other baby, but yet he isn’t like any other baby. The shepherds spoke of the angels that came to tell them the news. They were amazed (I know that feeling). Everyone who hears about this baby is amazed, but do they really understand who he is? Do I really understand who he is and what he has come here to do?
Lord, show me how to be a mother to this child. Show me what you want me to teach him. Show me how to encourage him when he is discouraged. Help me to know what to say to him when he feels alone and scared. Show me what I should protect him from.
(As if I could protect the Son of God!)
Oh, child—what will your life be like? How does the Son of God live here on earth? What will you do? Where will you go? What will you teach me? What will you teach us all? I don’t really know or understand what God’s plan is—but I will be your mother. I will do my best. For some reason God chose me, chose Joseph, chose this stable, chose this time. I don’t know why. I guess that’s for God to know and understand.
My child, I want you to know that I will love you forever. Your father and I believe in God and we believe in you. I have no idea what our future holds, I have no idea what your future will be, but we will trust God, your heavenly Father, to know what is best for us.
Now close your eyes and go to sleep, my child. I am here and God is with us—you are safe.
Solo: “Mary, Did You Know?” (Lowry and Greene)
or Song of Response: “That Boy-Child of Mary” PH 55, PsH 352, SFL 130, SWM 100, WR 211
Lighting of the Christ Candle
Reader 9: Matthew 2:1-12
Solo: “Behold the Lamb of God” (Andrew Peterson, from the CD Behold the Lamb of God)
or Song of Response: “As With Gladness Men of Old” LUYH, CH 290, PH 63, PsH 358, SFL 143, TH 226, WR 236
“The Magi Went to Bethl’hem Long Ago/Los magos que llegaron a Belén” LUYH, SNC 118
Reader 1: You see, the story doesn’t end with the baby in the manger. His birth was monumental; but it wasn’t the end. With his birth, God came to earth to continue his plan to bring us back to him. In that plan, this baby—God himself—would grow up to be a man. He would teach people—by word and by example—about what the kingdom of God is like and how people can enter it. He would send his followers out to spread the word in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the world. And he would be accused, arrested, and sentenced to death—a perfect human, a human who had committed no sin. This human, Jesus, went willingly to his death, because he knew it was his Father’s plan. He was beaten and hung on a cross. He prepared to die.
Reader 10: John 19:28-30
Reader 1: Did you hear that? Jesus said, “It is finished.” God’s plan was accomplished. Jesus died on that cross—paying for our sin. But then, three days later, he rose from the dead. He conquered death and made a way for his beloved people to come back to him. If we believe in Jesus, it is as if we never sinned. We can now walk and talk with God. The garden has been opened again. We can be reunited with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The choice is now up to us. If we choose to ask Jesus to forgive our sins, to return to God, to his garden—that choice brings us the greatest joy ever imagined: an eternal, all-surpassing joy.
God created us, we turned our back on him, and he had a plan to bring us back. It was a very costly plan—but it was a victorious plan! It was a plan to bring us joy. And that’s what we celebrate today.
Song: “Joy to the World!” LUYH, CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SFL 137, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179
Closing Invitation: If you don’t know this joy yet, or if you’re still trying to figure out how it can come to you, we hope you’ll talk with someone who knows Jesus Christ and knows the joy that he can bring. Don’t let this Christmas go by without listening to God’s call. God is waiting for you, he’s searching for you—just like he searched for Adam and Eve in the garden. God loves you and he wants you to come back to him. Let’s stand and close with prayer.
Song: “This Is Your God/Meekness and Majesty” SNC 109, WR 97
Doxology: “Jesus, Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child” LUYH, SNC 108 (see “Noteworthy,” p. 40)
Postlude: “Joy to the World!”