This article is from Issue 19 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
Lord Jesus, we remember
that you were born into this world
on the first Christmas day.
Help us to remember,
that you were born in a stable
and cradled in a manger,
and so keep us from coveting wealth
and comfort and ease and luxury
which you never enjoyed.
Help us to rernember,
that there was no room for you
in the inn,
and grant that our lives
may never become so crowded
that there is no room in them
Help us to remember,
that to you there came the shepherds
and the wise men,
and grant that learned and simple,
high and humble,
great and small,
may be joined in worshipping you
and loving you.
Help us to remember,
that you grew up in an ordinary home,
and went to school
and worked in a carpenter’s shop;
and so grant that we may think
task too humble and too common
our hands to touch,
when you, the Lord of Glory,
lived among the common things.
This we ask, for your love’s sake.
WORLD CHRISTIAN ACTION
Wor1d Christian Action (Australia) or Christian World Service (New Zealand) offer resources and suggestions to ministers and churches, some related to the Christmas Bowl appeal and other ways of relating Christmas to the needy of the world.
The broadsheet, Christian Action News,.was incorporated in a congregation’s worship last year, rallier than simply handed out at the end of the service. Attention was drawn to some of the articles, excerpts read. and these then formed the basis for the intercessory prayers.
SPEAKING TREES A dramatic segment for a carol service was devised by C. Adams and K. West in South Australia. A cradle, a boat, a cross and a decorated Christmas tree are arranged at the front [of the worship space]. Each is spotlighted in turn as each “speaks” of itself as a tree and the use made of it by Jesus, with the Christmas tree a reminder of all that the other trees represent. The effect is enhanced if actors mime the event being described.
CHRISTMAS GIFTS SERMON
Here’s how one minister developed a special Christmas sermon. He walked down to the decorated tree near the worship centre and opened a series of gifts which were placed under the tree. The first present was a stuffed dove, and the minister talked about peace from a Christian perspective. Other gifts were a candle (light), a Scripture verse (the Word), a ring (eternal love), etc.
ADVENT WORSHIP AND THE CHILDREN
St. James’, Wattle Park (Victoria) found a way to bring to the children’s talk during the four Sundays of Advent and on Christmas Day, and at the same time added colour totheir grey concete brick building. “Jesus banners” were brought in, an additional one each Sunday, until on Christmas Day all five were hanging and reminding the congregation of what Jesus means to his people.
The banners used some of the sacred monograms, symbols, and names of Jesus Christ: XR (for XRISTOS, meaning Christ), IHS (for IHSOUS, meaning Jesus), Alpha and Omega, and the fish IXTHUS (Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour). The brief teaching period spoke of the symbol, the names of Christ and their meaning, and led into a suitable song of praise.
Strips of vinyl wallpaper, about ten feet long in bright colours provided the basic material for the banners. Large reproductions the symbols and names were cut out in contrasting colours and pasted on.These were hung in the church and a new one added each week during Advent, until by Christmas Day, all five were displayed.
SERVICE OF NINE LESSONS AND CAROLS
This service has become well known from its use at the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. It has also been recorded. It can be found in Prayers for the Christian Year (Church of Scotland) page 34, or Todd’s Prayers and Services for Christian Festivals page 136.
THE CHRISTMAS-EASTER TREE
If you use a Christmas tree in your church during Advent and Christmas, you might keep it for Lent and Easter also. When the time comes to take down the tree after Christmas, trim off the branches and transform the trunk into a rugged cross. (You may need to lash one of the branches on again to make the crosspiece.) It is fitting that the Christmas tree should be used in this way, for Christmas has meaning only in relation to the message of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.
The denuded trunk of the Christmas tree is an apt symbol of the rejection of our Lord. On Good Friday it could be veiled in black, and after sunset on Saturday, decorated with fresh or artificial flowers to symbolise the joy of the Resurrection.
For one or more of the Christmas readings use the pattern of a narrator, with other voices for the spoken words of the Bible characters. If desired, other actors could be dressed and mime the action as it is read.
O COME, EMMANUEL
Structure one of the four advent services around the, hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel”. The service may bea brief worship occasion, a regular Sunday service or the service of the word proceeding a celebration of the sacrament [of Holy Communion].
The pattern is a rhythm of brief prayers, invitations to rejoice, then a verse sung, one at a time. Before each verse, there is a prayer addressed to God in the title used in the first line of the verse of the hymn which is to follow, e.g., Rod of Jesse, Dayspring, etc. and an invitation to take heart and rejoice. The following is a sample which can proceed the verse, “O come, O come, thou Lord of might “If there is someone here, who has stayed behind in slavish Egypt, or who is fearful of the desert of [their] own responsibilities . . . someone who sees no one to lead [them] past the law of Sinai to the promised land of hope, then let us say to [them] as our brother in Christ: That God, born under the law to redeem those under the law, is with us — Emmanuel. So rejoice!”
Before concluding, make sure that the good news is set forth in the gospel and received with joyful response in affirmation or praise.
On the Move, November 1973, contained some Christmas worship material, including details of making Advent Wreaths, and the use of advent candles in church services or the home.
And here’s one from Issue 21:
STUMPS AND SHOOTS
A major segment in the Christmas family service at Mylor, a small town in the Mount Lofty Ranges near Adelaide, was based upon the theme, ‘The Branch from the Stump of Jesse’ (cf. Isaiah 11:1f.).
An important background to this worship segment is the proximity of the church to the Echunga goldfields, centre of a number of minor gold rushes in the nineteenth century. Many of the families attending worship lived on or close to roads with names reminiscent of those times, such as Kangaroo Reef Road and Diggings Road.
I commenced this segment with the participative telling of the story of the Echunga goIdfields and the role of the charcoal-burners in the smelting process. This led up to the focal point of the story, which was the existence of many trees with multiple trunks that had originated as shoots from the stumps of trees (especially stringy-barks) cut down by the charcoal-burners.
Following the story, I sent the children out to see if they could find any trees that had grown from the stumps of the original trunk (there were some on the church property). While the children were out we had the notices and prepared the people for a move out of the church. When the children returned I asked them to show us where the stumps were. Three children led the way, carrying the unlighted Advent candles, which were placed on tree stumps. (I had already cleared the area of dead grass and timber, and prayed that there would be no fire ban!)
When the congregation was in place I read Isaiah 11:1-3a and talked briefly about its meaning (Jesus coming from a ‘broken down’ family and nation that had once known greatness, and suggesting that the basic Christian proclamation was that out of the place of despair hope comes). I also explained the meaning of the Advent candles as a traditional symbol of preparing for Christ’s coming. We sang ‘O come O come Emmanuel’ while the candles were lit.
After a prayer and another hymn, we processed back into the church, with the candles leading the way.
— JOHN CRANMER