A Celebration For Christmas Eve

     For years, my family traveled from out-of-state, to spend Christmas with our extended family in Pittsburgh.  When my grandparents retired and moved south, we began staying home for the holiday, which took a bit of getting used to.  In an effort to start a few family Christmas traditions of our own, my mother introduced a celebration of Christmas readings and carols, that remind us that Christmas is more than cookies and presents.

     While my brother and I resisted at first, this humble celebration has become a beloved tradition in our home, where the readers change as the family grows.  Our ceremony is conducted each year, in front of our family creche, where the children take turns placing the baby Jesus in the manger.  

Begin with the room dimly lit.  Each person able to read, should have a copy of the celebration.  Preselect readers.  We ask each son-in-law, to read a part.  The manger should be empty of the baby Jesus.  At the appointed time, a preselected member of the family (children love this part) reverently places the infant in the manger scene.

Reader 1:
Shout to the Lord, all the earth;  serve the Lord with gladness.  Come before Him with songs of joy.  Know that He, the Lord, is God; He made us and we belong to Him;  we are His people, the flock He cares for.  Walk through His house giving thanks; enter His rooms praising Him; give thanks to Him, bless His name.  Yes, the Lord God is good! His love has no end.  He is faithful from age to age.  (Psalm 100)

All Sing:
Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
Oh come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Reader 2:
Our Father, we come to you in gladness on this night when we celebrate your son's quiet gift of himself to our world, and we bring this tree, a sign of life everlasting, into our home.  Among its branches, we weave brightness and light.  We drape its limbs with tokens of beauty and joy.  Remember us this night, Father, remember all the days of our lives when the open giving of Christmas was most bright in us.  In the Spirit of your Son, let days lived for others shine ever more clearly in our lives.

All Sing:
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.  Yet in they dark streets shineth, the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.

Reader 3:
Father, your Son came to  his own as a baby - to the poor and uneducated, to those with uncluttered hearts, to those who had the sight to see just how much they needed him.  And again, and again each day, this day, he comes to us in the poor who are still with us, and to each man who is cold and needy in some corner of his heart.

Father/Grandfather or Head of the Household:
And It Came to Pass-
The Gospel According to Luke
     And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

     And so it was, that while they were there, she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. (a child, or grandchild may add the baby Jesus to the empty manger).

     And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

     And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were afraid.

     But the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

All Sing:
Silent night!  Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round Yon Virgin, mother and child - holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born.
Christ the Savior is born.

Mother/Grandmother or Reader 4:
Father, you gave us your own Son to show us that giving has no meaning unless we give ourselves and our love together with the gift.  As we share these presents with one another, help us to learn how to give not just what we have, but what we are; how to be thankful for what we receive, and how to make every day a Christmas for one another.

All Sing:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And Heav'n and nature sing,
And Heav'n and nature sing,
And Heav'n and heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns,
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Note:  to  include more family members, each line of the Gospel may be read by another reader.  Again, this is a nice way to involve children that are able to read.

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