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...
Here at Our Savior, Momence, we will have Divine Service at 6:00 P.M. using the propers for Christmas Eve in LSB. We will have The Nine Lessons and Carols of Christmas a la King's College, Cambridge at 11:00 P.M. Instead of a choir, the congregation will sing beloved carols from LSB. I try to follow what Kings does every year. Where LSB does not have the hymn or carol from Kings, I replace it with an appropriate hymn from LSB.
Christmas morning at 9:00 A.M. is Divine Service for Christmas Day with incense (not too much as our building is small).
We have a very large Christmas Eve Children's Vespers at 7 p.m. (you remember, where the bags of candy are given out afterwards?). The place is usually packed to the gills for this, and for the preservice music prior to the liturgy at 6:30. Then at 11 a smaller crowd (just over 100 usually) gathers for the Midnight Divine Service, at which we do use incense and of course candlelight. A jubilant and well-attended Christ-Mass upon the Day follows at 9 a.m. with choir and bells.
It all sounds so nice. I will attend our single 7 pm Christmas Eve (packed) and 10 am Christmas Day service (not so full, but still good attendance. One comment about incense: while I have never liked it (the smell), in the last 3 years it has become more serious as I have developed asthma. I don't think I could even be in the sanctuary when incense is burned - my lungs would close up and I would be wheezing up a storm.
We have usually done the earlier service on Christmas Eve with a slightly modified version of Evening Prayer from LSB, with no opening hymn. We also add more hymns in than usual.
We usually also had a later Divine Service. Christmas Day is Divine Service also.
I should add that on the afternoon of the First Sunday in Advent we always do a choral Service of Advent Lessons and Carols (followed by a potluck!), based largely about Kings, but also drawing from some traditions from CTS Fort Wayne and CLTS St. Catharines. Our children's service is held on a Sunday morning close to Christmas.
Why not simply celebrate the historic WEstern Liturgy instead of worrying about what "you" can do? The rubrics and such were handed down so you don't have to make decisions like this. If people object, then they need to get over it and themselves.
The custom of this congregation is that the Christmas Eve service is a brief vespers service encasing the Sunday School children's program - the most well attended service we have historically. The service ends with a candlelight singing of Silent Night (I have reintroduced doing the last verse in German).
Christmas day was just a TLH page 5, but this will be the 6th Christmas where the Lord's Supper is celebrated (that was something I introduced).
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