I have to admit that I am torn by the choices of what to do for Christmas Eve liturgy. Part of me wants to have a Service of Lessons and Carols (Kings College, for example). I love this wonderful invention and have used it at other times (though not Christmas Eve). It is a bit of work for the choir, though. I guess a part of me must be English because I listen to these on YouTube all the time (they are hardly broadcast in the US anymore).
Part of me wants a real high mass -- I mean if you cannot do a high mass with smells and bells on Christmas, when can you? But it is more work for me and less work for the choir and living in an area where a lot of my regulars leave to visit family elsewhere, I have a shortage of my best trained acolytes and servers. And though I have a group of folks who like (or at least put up with incense) I know there are others who would have a fit.
Part of me wants something easy on me -- the building is full of strangers who have a marginal connection with the Church and her liturgy and only the barest familiarity with the classic Christmas carols so this means preparing something that accommodates those whom I know will be present (as I said above, a lot of my regulars will be traveling). So this means a spoken order with carols interspersed wherever possible but still the mass form.
Part of me wants to cancel Christmas Eve because, well, I don't like it. I like Christmas morning (and I would have the Christmas Day Mass whether anyone but my family came or not!). Thankfully Christmas morning has grown and we now number about 100 or so (compared to the 500 or so on Christmas Eve). But here we can do a full Hauptgottesdienst without apology (and a small choir will sing there as well). Plus we will sing one of my favs of the newer carols -- Where Lately Knelt.
In my mind I have an image of a late (11 pm or midnight) service on Christmas Eve with the Divine Service sung and the great carols (with at least one newer to our repertoire so that we continue to learn and grow even during Christmas). Then, perhaps due to my Scandinavian heritage, I would like a Christmas Dawn Divine Service -- again with the richest of our ceremonial tradition. I would probably be alone at both of those... Folks in the South do not go for late night services and nowhere do folks relish the thought of being in Church at 6 am.
So we will use a spoken Divine Service with carols substituting for the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei at 6 pm and a continuous distribution (my folks call it the warehouse version) and a more typical version of the Divine Service with sung responses at 8 pm (this one candlelight). And if all goes well, I will be home at 10 or so (or perhaps stopping off at parishioners for some festive ale)... and then back at 10:45 am for Christmas Morning Divine Service... It is not what I would like but an acceptable compromise, I guess...
Strange thing though... after 17 years in this parish, the folks who will come to fill the spots vacated by traveling regulars are actually regulars in and of themselves -- C and E Christians... so I view this as a great opportunity to speak the Gospel to people who do not give themselves much chance to hear it... And you know what, some of them hear... and some of them come back before Easter... testament not to the preacher but to the Gospel preached... just a few thoughts on a Saturday morning as we head down the final stretch toward the Christmas schedule...