Lessons and Carols for Christmas Eve

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[This service is a simple retelling of the entire Christmas story. It accommodates a variable number of children: narrators in white robes who read the lessons, and children in costume who act out the tableaux silently. Adult participants includes a reading coach, two or three costumers and dressers, an organist or pianist, and a director to coordinate entrances and exits.

[Choose one or two of your best readers to understudy the other narrators. With a good reading coach, even the younger children can read the simpler passages.

[Members of the tableaux cast are the Angel Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, Simeon, Angels, Shepherds, and Children. Be sure to designate a head angel, head shepherd, and head child.

[All the carols are sung by the congregation. Children enter and exit while the carols are being sung.

[Your pastor may choose to insert a short homily after the opening prayer.]

Entrance Hymn

LBW 51 From Heaven Above

(Narrators enter)


Leader: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

Congregation: The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

Leader: Those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness,
on them light has shined.

Congregation: We have beheld Christ's glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Leader: For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given.

Congregation: In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

Opening prayer

Almighty God,
you have filled us with the new light of the Word
who became flesh and lived among us.
Let the light of our faith shine in all we do;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The King Will Come from Bethlehem

Lesson Micah 5: 2 , 5a
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

And he will be their peace.

WOV 643 Once in Royal David's City

(Mary and the Angel Gabriel enter)


The Annunciation to Mary

Lesson Luke 1: 26 - 35, 38
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.


LBW 40 What Child Is This

(The Angel Gabriel exits)

(Joseph enters with the Baby Jesus and gives him to Mary)

The Birth of Jesus

Lesson Luke 2: 1 - 7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


LBW 71 Angels We Have Heard on High

(The angels and shepherds enter)

The Shepherds Go to See the Savior

Lesson Luke 2: 8 - 16

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.


LBW 70 Go Tell It on the Mountain

(The angels and shepherds exit)

(Simeon enters)

Jesus Receives His Name

Lesson Luke 2:21 - 36

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

(Simeon exits)

(The children and wise men enter)


LBW 559 Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

The Magi Follow the Star

Lesson Matthew 2: 1 - 11

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

"In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.


LBW 52 Your Little Ones, Dear Lord

(The children and the wise men exit)

(The angel enters)

The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents

Lesson Matthew 2: 13 - 18
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

(Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus exit)


WOV 639 Oh, Sleep Now, Holy Baby

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Lesson John 1:1 - 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


LBW 39 Joy to the World

Lessons and Carols , Cycle B, Mark, 1996 - 1997 (New International Version)