Christmas Eve services can be a beast for pastors and worship leaders. Typically, my does the nativity scene tableau–people love it, but it’s more of a logistical headache than planning Christmas dinner. Even though the Christmas Eve service is always full, it’s difficult to pin down who will attend, and you can only arm-twist so many adults into playing Mary and Joseph.
After two years re-sizing angel costumes and stockpiling bathrobes, this year, we looked for an alternative. I found one service that used the alphabet as a frame for the worship–using each letter of the alphabet to tell the Christmas story. However, the text itself was short and not very compelling. So I took the bare bones of the text and revised it, creating a rhyme scheme, fleshing out the story, and adding a sense of humor at times to keep the story interesting.
We divided the ABC’s of Christmas in six segments, interspersing carols and Scripture. We also had a poster for each letter, hanging them on a frame as we read. And of course, we ended the program with a candle-lit “Silent Night.” The service received generally positive feedback (no one I spoke to missed the nativity scene, at least not enough to volunteer to lead it next year). I’m not sure we’ll do it again (perhaps we will, with a revised text), but I highly recommend the service for overbooked or small congregations with few Christmas Eve volunteers. The text is below–you can adapt as necessary for your congregation.
A is for the angel, Gabriel was his name.
He visited Mary and told her God’s claim:
“Hail, Miss Mary, do not be afraid
by your holy child, the world will be saved.”
This child is Mary’s, but he’s also God.
Is he human or heavenly? That’s very odd.
B is for Bethlehem, where Joseph was from.
It’s where the story ends, but not where it begun.
It begins in Galilee, a po-dunk little place
where Joseph and Mary had just got engaged.
C is for census (that means a counting of all people)
from babies to grandpas, even their cows and their sheeple.
Bethlehem is the city where the king held the census.
Everyone went there, even though it didn’t make senses.
D is for donkey. Click-clack his feet sounded
as he carried the family on their way to be counted.
E is for exhausted, that’s how everyone felt when the arrived—
hungry and sleepy, but glad they survived.
F is for family: Mary, Joseph, and their baby son
both human and divine, born in Bethlehem.
G is for the Good News Jesus shares with the earth:
God’s kingdom has come and conquered sin’s curse.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, that’s what happens next.
On Christmas Jesus is just a baby, in his manger at rest.
H is for herds, all the animals that were present at the stable.
Even the shepherds heard the news and ran as fast as they were able!
They shouted “Hallelujah!” for Jesus is born!
“Let’s run to the stable to arrive before morn!”
I is for our imaginations, stirred by this story!
We praise God—what amazing goodness and glory.
J is for the joy that Jesus will bring
healing and helping every little thing.
He will work miracles, yes he will!
And in God’s name, miracles happen still.
K is for kindness the innkeeper showed to the family
in his small stable Mary and Joseph slept soundly.
There was no other place to stay, no room at the inn—
Bethlehem was crowded, filled up to the brim.
L is for love, for God so loved creation
He sent his son Jesus as a sign of salvation.
God loves us in all our quirks and our faults
God has big plans for us—do you hear the call?
M is for manger, that’s where you put food for cows—
but see on this Christmas, Jesus is sleeping there now.
M is also for magi—sometimes we call them wise men.
But we don’t really know—maybe some were women.
N is for Noel, another word for Christmas. It means new birth.
And that’s what Jesus did, bringing joy to the earth!
O is for offering. The magi brought gifts for the baby:
even gold and perfume, though it sounds a little crazy.
The perfume was frankincense, it smells very sweet.
Better than the stable, which smelled like cows’ feet!
P is for prayer and pondering and praise—
why is it that God lived among humans in those days?
We ask, what wondrous love could this be
that God is born in flesh, to guide you and heal me?
Q is for quiet, the deep peace Christmas brings.
It’s a time to reflect and think about holy things.
I take a deep breath—take one with me.
And think about baby Jesus as I sit and I breathe.
R is for revelation, which is a pretty big word.
But it means God guides us, we don’t have to be scared.
It means God shows us the things we don’t know
and God will lead us on the right path to go.
S is for surprise, it was what no one expected
Who thought that our God, so awesome and respected
Would come to earth as a baby, so soft and small?
This baby our strength so we won’t stumble or fall.
T is for trust, that’s the confidence we have in God
who will bring us safely through the rough ground we trod.
U is for unity. That means you next to me
and all people together living in harmony.
We might still argue once in a while,
but when we think of God, we all smile.
V is for vulnerable, a little child who needs care.
Who can he depend on? Will you be there?
Jesus will grow up to spread God’s wonderful news—
but only because his parents were there to help him through.
W is for wonder. What do you think?
If you listen real close, can you hear God speak?
X is for X-mas. The x comes from the Greek.
It stands for Christ—he’s the one that we seek.
Y is for you! Here to celebrate and adore.
As we wait for Christmas, let’s celebrate some more.
This day is about Jesus who taught us to love—
not about presents or toys or that stuff.
Presents are great, but what makes them better?
Having parents and family and friends all together.
Z is for zeal, the passion we feel inside
when think of that silent, holy night.
God calls us today to rise up and share
the good news of Jesus with everyone, everywhere.
Christmas is here, that’s why we come to church today
to join with our friends and loved ones, to celebrate.