Choral Speaking for Advent Readings

This information about choral speaking came from Gerry Hendershot during our October 2016 roundtable on Advent and Christmas planning resources.


My contribution to the discussion of Advent planning was “choral speaking” of lectionary readings.  I learned about this liturgical practice in a course at Wesley Seminary in DC taught by Frederika Berger, then a professor of liturgical arts.  It was once very popular in schools and churches in the U.K., and is still popular in some parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia.

There are many styles of choral speaking, but all comprise scripted and rehearsed performance of a poetic text by multiple readers. Here is a short example:

As the example shows, a few readers with a little practice can create a dramatic effect.

We have done choral speaking of Advent scripture at Pilgrims (www.churchofthepilgrims.org) about eight times since 2001.  I have been the director during those years and have honed a process that works for us. Here is a script that illustrates how the lines of scripture passage can be divided, assigned to speakers, choreographed, and spoken.  The format is cryptic, but I explain it to the readers.

I have found that we can do successful choral speaking at Pilgrims with as few as four readers, and as few as two short rehearsals—one after worship the week before, and another before worship on the Sunday of performance.  If your congregation is small, like Pilgrims, it may be difficult to line up readers the first time.  But my experience is that once they do it, they are eager to come back.  After doing it a few years, we have a “stable” of willing readers.

Choral speaking is one way to include poetry in liturgy.  With my partner Nancy Arbuthnot at Western PC in DC, we promote use of poetry in liturgy, education, and spiritual formation.  Our web site is www.verseandvision.org and we have a Face Book page.

A Whisper of Hope

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Lori Raible

What is saving my ministry right now? Under the veneer of the rosy-cheeked, puffed-up, perfect show? Under the wide blanket of collective anxiety and fear? Just under the surface of baby-joy? Under the frenetic pace of life as we plead with the dusty donkey to pick it a bit?

The donkey seems so slow.

I would by lying if I said it is the innocence of my children’s faces. I would be faking it if I said it is the anticipation of joy, or the expression of community as we prepare to celebrate. It would be dishonest to say it is giving and receiving.

star ornamentsOf course the collective measure of such blessings express a truth that otherwise may not be evident. But right now, in this moment, it is a desperate hope that saves my ministry. A hope that the promise of the incarnation is not only true, but also conjoined to the promise of the cross: Already, and not yet.

I will not leave you, ever.

The promise itself is strong enough, but sometimes my hope feels flimsy.

If we make it to the manger, will we find Job there? What about poor Jeremiah sinking in the mud? King David in his grief over the death of his son? Hannah weeping in despair for a child she cannot conceive? Guilt-ridden Peter? Lost Judas? Doubting Thomas?

I wish Herod would change his mind. Can you imagine?

Already and not yet.

This year I have no words. Trust me, this is a miracle in and of itself. Call me Zacharias, but this is the type of yearning that is better sung than spoken.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a singing voice either. What sustains me is that other people do. That’s the thing about church. When I can’t gather the courage to ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain,’ I hear choirs singing on my behalf.  Three year olds sing off-key: ‘clop, clop, clop, little grey donkey.’ Willa May Young, Ellen Harris, Joanne Cole, Ed Thomas, and Ed’s dad, Herman who is 88 at least, they make magic with Comfort, Comfort You my People.

I have no words to match the truth one hears between the notes. Between the words of those advent hymns, I hear a whisper of hope that is so deep and so profound that I am left speechless. Shamelessly I rely on a host of angels, to sing the words so I can listen for the promise of delivery in the face of what seems to be an unimaginable labor.

Still. Still. Still,

Wouldn’t that be something?

O Come. O Come Emmanuel,

My heart aches with that hope.


LRaibleLori Archer Raible is an associate pastor at Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. A graduate from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, Lori is passionate about connecting people to one another through faith and community. Most of her free time is spent running both literally as a spiritual discipline and metaphorically to and from carpool lines. Deep within her is a writer vying for those precious minutes. 

Greatest Hit: Advent Worship Planning and Sermon Themes

This fall, in addition to sharing reflections on “what is saving your ministry right now?”, we are also bringing back some of our most popular posts over the last couple of years. We hope these “greatest hits” will allow you new insight in this busy time of year. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

This post on Advent worship planning is one of our most popular posts in the history of the NEXT Church blog. We’ve updated it slightly below in hopes it becomes a fresh resource as you look towards December.

Starting from scratch this Advent?

  • Mark Davis put together this presentation to help guide worship planners to develop themes for Advent.
    • Here’s a sneak peek of the process:sneakpeek

Need some theme suggestions that are little more concrete?

  • LeAnn Hodges connected Advent to adaptive leadership for a sermon series:
    • “Living in a Time of Adaptive Challenges”
      • Pay Attention
      • Wilderness (We Can’t Support Ourselves…)
      • Joy in the midst of Uncertainty
      • Let it be with me…
  • Fairfax Presbyterian Church (Fairfax, VA) presented Advent as an antidote to the exhaustive and escapist behaviors that so often accompany the holidays:
    • During Advent and Christmas we often turn to exhausting, escapist behavior; however, the season offers us an invitation to wait, to prepare, to hope… At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus only insofar as it reminds us that he implanted a new vision on our hearts and has promised to return. This promise to return is what we base our hope upon.
      • …ever watching for Christ to break in
        • Bonhoeffer said it is easy to look around and to see the ruins to which Christ must come again. Given a season of holidays in which the lonely are lonelier and the broken have wounds open again, we are tempted to ignore the season completely or to turn to exhausting, escapist behavior…to escape the depression of unfulfilled watching. Advent challenges us to keep watching and keep hoping because Jesus coming again is not a fantasy but a reality ever-available to our imaginations as we live in the already and not-yet.
      • Opening ourselves to the transforming moments of conversion
        • Turn around. Repent. Perceive a new way. These are the invitations of the second week of Advent. We need to be converted over and over again in our lives because we keep losing the vision of God’s kingdom and determination to live toward it. “Conversions proceed layer by layer, relationship by relationship, a little here and a little there, until the whole personality is re-created by God.
      • Letting go
        • We are in the last week of pregnancy in the Advent season. Our desire and anticipation are at a high. The time for Christ is come feels urgent to us in our watching. But, as with all new parents, we have no idea how drastically this new life will change us. We have not concept of how little control we actually have in the human journey. If we did, we might not be as eager. But the journey of the pregnancy has given us new eyes to see, a new practice of conversion. Perhaps we are ready. The invitation of this week is to let go of control, to learn not to do all the things we think we must do to save ourselves (like the illustration of floating), but to trust that God is still coming to create, redeem and sustain our living.

No time? Here are some liturgies that are ready to go:

How about adding some music?

  • To accompany candle lighting, some congregations write a song based on the year’s theme; others add new verses to familiar seasonal songs. If the muse has abandoned your resident aspiring songwriter, try these hymns from the Glory to God hymnal:
    • #467: “Give Us Light”
    • #103: “Come Now, Prince of Peace”
    • #85: “Light One Candle to Watch for the Messiah”
  • If you are trying to looking to get away from the Christmas favorite that over-saturate the airways between October and New Year’s, incorporating jazz standards to express the moods of Advent can be an unexpected variation of your theme.
  • For alternative arrangements to carols, check out the You Call that Church Music? archives.
  • If you are struggling with arguments for and against singing Christmas carols during Advent (“But the children will never learn these songs if we don’t take time to teach them!” and many others), check out this NEXT Blog post by MaryAnn McKibben Dana that works through some excellent points.

Other resources

Advent: Worship Planning and Sermon Themes

Starting from scratch this Advent?

  • Mark Davis put together this presentation to help guide worship planners to develop themes for Advent.
    • Here’s a sneak peek of the process
      sneakpeek

Need some theme suggestions that are little more concrete?

  • LeAnn Hodges connected Advent to adaptive leadership for a sermon series:
    • “Living in a Time of Adaptive Challenges”
      • Pay Attention
      • Wilderness (We Can’t Support Ourselves…)
      • Joy in the midst of Uncertainty
      • Let it be with me…
  • Fairfax Presbyterian Church (of Fairfax, VA) presented Advent as an antidote to the exhaustive and escapist behaviors that so often accompany the Holidays:
    • During Advent and Christmas we often turn to exhausting, escapist behavior, however, the season offers us an invitation to wait, to prepare, to hope… At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus only insofar as it reminds us that he implanted a new vision on our hearts and has promised to return. This promise to return is what we base our hope upon.
      • …ever watching for Christ to break in
        • Bonhoeffer said it is easy to look around and to see the ruins to which Christ must come again. Given a season of holidays in which the lonely are lonelier and the broken have wounds open again, we are tempted to ignore the season completely or to turn to exhausting, escapist behavior…to escape the depression of unfulfilled watching. Advent challenges us to keep watching and keep hoping because Jesus coming again is not a fantasy but a reality ever-available to our imaginations as we live in the already and not-yet.
      • Opening ourselves to the transforming moments of conversion
        • Turn around. Repent. Perceive a new way. These are the invitations of the second week of Advent. We need to be converted over and over again in our lives because we keep losing the vision of God’s kingdom and determination to live toward it. “Conversions proceed layer by layer, relationship by relationship, a little here and a little there, until the whole personality is re-created by God.
      • Letting Go
        • We are in the last week of pregnancy in the Advent season. Our desire and anticipation are at a high. The time for Christ is come feels urgent to us in our watching. But, as with all new parents, we have no idea how drastically this new life will change us. We have not concept of how little control we actually have in the human journey. If we did, we might not be as eager. But the journey of the pregnancy has given us new eyes to see, a new practice of conversion. Perhaps we are ready. The invitation of this week is to let go of control, to learn not to do all the things we think we must do to save ourselves (like the illustration of floating), but to trust that God is still coming to create, redeem and sustain our living.

No time? Here are some liturgies that are ready to go:

How about adding some music?

  • To accompany candle lighting, some congregations write a song based on the year’s theme; others add new verses to familiar seasonal songs. If the muse has abandoned your resident aspiring songwriter, try these hymns from the Glory to God hymnal:
    • #467: “Give Us Light”
    • #103: “Come Now, Prince of Peace”
    • #85: “Light One Candle to Watch for the Messiah”
  • If you are trying to looking to get away from the Christmas favorite that over-saturate the airways between October and New Year’s, incorporating jazz standards to express the moods of Advent can be an unexpected variation of your theme.
  • For alternative arrangements to carols, check out the You Call that Church Music? archives.
  • If you are struggling with arguments for and against singing Christmas Carols during Advent (“But the children will never learn these songs if we don’t take time to teach them!” and many others), check out this NEXT Blog post by MaryAnn McKibben Dana that works through some excellent points.

Advent Devotions

Here are some devotionals recommended by our Church Leader’s Roundtable for personal and congregational use!

Multi-Media Resources for Advent

Looking for media to complement your Advent worship services? Here are some resources for videos, pageant scripts, storytelling, and sanctuary decor!

VIDEO

PAGEANTS

STORYTELLING

DECOR

  • Create a star by drilling holes in a piece of plywood. Hand out glow sticks to congregants, and invite them to come forward to light the star.
  • Feature a Jesse tree: plant a dead branch in the middle of the sanctuary and decorate with ornaments representing the old testament stories leading up to Christ’s birth.
  • Make candle-light services safer for kids by offering battery-operate candles for little ones to hold.

ACTIVITY STATIONS

  • Try targeting experiential learners (millennials and toddlers alike!) with an interactive Advent experience. Create contemplative prayer stations that are sensory driven–textures (straw or hay from the manger, lamb’s wool, pine needles), tastes, smells (frankincense, myrrh, pine, cinnamon), and sounds that connect to the holiday season and the Christmas story.

Christ the King: Lessons and Carols Liturgy

Thanks to LeAnn Hodges for sending us this liturgy for Christ the King Sunday that takes a Lessons and Carols approach to teaching the liturgical calendar!

WE GATHER AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD

FOR YOUR REFLECTION The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. ~ Joan Chittister

WELCOME

OPENING VOLUNTARY CALL TO WORSHIP

L:         Who are you?
C:         I am a child of God.
L:         Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”
C:         Let us, God’s children, answer God’s call.
L:         Let us worship God, our Creator and Savior.

OPENING PRAYER
L:         Let us pray:
C:         God of majesty, you love us more than we can imagine. In Jesus Christ you reconciled the whole world to you and claim us as your own, so that we may live as Christ’s body on earth. We give you thanks for the lives we have been given. We pray in your holy name, great Trinity of Love. Amen.

* OPENING HYMN “We Gather Together” #336

WE LISTEN TO GOD’S WORD

Advent

Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ: preparation to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, to receive faithfully the risen Christ who comes to us in Word and Spirit, and to await with hope Christ’s coming in final victory. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.”

Dates of the Season: Advent is the four weeks, including the four Sundays, before Christmas Day.

Colors for the Season: The color is purple, which symbolizes both penitence and royalty.

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” #88 (Stanza 1) O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that morns in lonely exile here until the son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Christmas Season

Christmas Season is the time of celebration, thanksgiving, and praise for God present with us in Jesus Christ. Christmas Day was first celebrated on December 25 in Rome sometime between 336 and 354 C.E. A pagan winter solstice festival, the birthday of the unconquered sun, was already celebrated on December 25. Christians adopted that date to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. Christians have often adapted and transformed the customs of the world around them.

Dates of the Season: Christmas Season begins with Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and continues through the Day of Epiphany, January 6.

Colors of the Season: White and gold

Scripture: Luke 2:1-7

Hymn: “Joy to the World” #134 (Stanza 1) Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Epiphany

The word Epiphany is from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means “manifestation.” On the Day of Epiphany, January 6, we celebrate Jesus being revealed to the world and the visit of the wise men, the first gentiles to whom he was made known. Scripture doesn’t say how many wise men came to Bethlehem. At various times tradition has set the number from two to twelve. However, because three gifts are mentioned, we usually think of three wise men or Magi.

Celebration of Epiphany: When January 6 falls on a weekday, churches that do not have services on the 6th may celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday before or after.

Colors for Epiphany: White and gold

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

Hymn: “What Star is This, with Beams So Bright” #152 (Stanzas 1 & 2)

Lent

Lent is a season of preparation for the celebration of Easter. The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon lencten, which means “spring,” the time of the lengthening of days. At first Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism on Easter Eve. Eventually, Lent became a time of reflection and self-examination for all Christians.

Days of Lent: Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Saturday before Easter. Lent lasts forty days, not counting Sundays. Sundays aren’t counted because Sunday always celebrates Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

The Color for Lent: Purple, a royal color that also signifies penitence and preparation.

Scripture: Mark 8:34-37

Hymn: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” #223 (Stanza 1) When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count by loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Good Friday

In Old English usage good meant “of God.” Good Friday is God’s Friday: Jesus’ death shows God’s salvation.

The Date of Good Friday: Good Friday is the Friday before Easter.

Colors for Good Friday: The worship space is either void of decoration and color, or black is used.

RECONCILIATION
L: With sincere and repentant hearts, let us name our sins against God and one another. Join me as we pray in silence.

SILENCE FOR INDIVIDUAL PRAYER AND MEDITATION L: Amen.   ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
L:         This is the good news: God remembers!  Not our sins, not our foolish lives, not our rebellion. God remembers us –  and redeems us!
C:         God prepares the way for us – the way to grace, to hope, to new life.  Joyfully, we offer our thanks to God. Amen.

SINGING WITH THANKSGIVING “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” #223 (Stanza 4) Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

The Easter Season

The Easter Season, also known as the Great Fifty Days, begins at sunset on Easter Eve and continues through the Day of Pentecost. At this season we celebrate with joy Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit on the first Easter (John 20:22-23) and on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Date of Easter: Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or next after March 21, the spring equinox. Easter can be any time from March 22 through April 25. The date may differ in Orthodox Churches.

Colors of the Easter Season: White and gold  

Scripture: Luke 24:1-9

Hymn: “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” #232 (Stanza 1 & 2)

Pentecost

Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter, comes from the Greek word for fiftieth, pentekoste. Greek-speaking Jews called the Jewish Feast of Weeks the Day of Pentecost. Acts tells how the anxious and fearful disciples, who had gathered on the Day of Pentecost, were filled with the Holy Spirit and thereafter preached boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Date of Pentecost: The fiftieth day after Easter.

Colors for Pentecost: Red or red on white. Red, the color of fire, represents the Holy Spirit.

Scripture: Acts 2:1-4, 41-43

Hymn: “On Pentecost They Gathered” #289 (Stanza 1) On Pentecost they gathered quit early in the day, a band of Christ’s disciples, to worship, sing, and pray. A mighty wind came blowing, filled all the swirling air, and tongues of fire aglowing inspired each person there.

Season of Pentecost

The Season of Pentecost, called Ordinary Time, is a period of growth. Churches emphasize Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God. They engage issues of daily life and concerns of the community, nation, and world. The Season comes after we have remembered Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday and celebrated his resurrection on Easter and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Easter and Pentecost.

Dates of the Season: From the day after Pentecost through the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent.

Colors for the Season: The basic color is green symbolizing growth in Christ. White is used on Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, and Christ the King Sunday.

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

Hymn: “Now Thank We All Our God” #643

Christ the King

This last Sunday of the Christian Year celebrates the coming reign of Jesus Christ.

Date of the Season: The Sunday before the Season of Advent begins, and the last Sunday of the Season of Pentecost.

Colors for the Season: Gold and white  

Scripture: Psalm 100

Hymn: “Raise a Song of Gladness” #155 Raise a song of gladness, peoples of the earth. Christ has come, bringing peace, joy to every heart. Alleluia, alleluia, joy to every heart! Alleluia, alleluia, joy to every heart!

WE RESPOND TO GOD’S WORD

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

OFFERING The Call to Give
L:         Let us offer ourselves and our gifts to God, with gratitude and praise.

* SINGING WITH THANKSGIVING

Response        “Rejoice”

* PRAYER OF DEDICATION
L:         Let us pray:
C:         Holy God, use us, and these gifts, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and honor your presence in all people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

NEWS OF THE COMMUNITY

* HYMN TO SEND US FORTH “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” #82

* CHARGE AND BLESSING

CLOSING VOLUNTARY Please be seated for silent reflection.


For a great reflection on the liturgical year (and another source of inspiration) check out Jerome W. Berryman’s The Complete Guide to Godly Play Vol. 2!

"No Practice" Christmas Pageant

Thanks to LeAnn Hodges for sharing this Pageant with us at the Online Church Leaders’ Roundtable!

Overview: The following is written to serve as a come-one, come-all, “no practice” Christmas pageant. The participants move and respond to lines prompted by the Narrator. The script is adapted from Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of the gospel narrative in his book The Message.

Cast:

  • narrator
  • Mary, Joseph and Jesus 
  • Herod 
  • camel 
  • camel herder 
  • shepherds – congregation
  • angels – congregation
  • wise people 
  • star

Props:

  • star
  • halo each for angels (50)
  • head scarf for sheepherders (50)
  • crown for Herod
  • camel costume (for two)
  • chair for Mary
  • manger for baby
  • 3 crowns, 3 capes, 3 gifts for wise men
  • Reserved seats for worship leaders & cast

The Pageant

The Narrator speaks from __________________. Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the camel, the star, Herod, and the wise ones are in the narthex, ready to enter from the back.

Narrator’s Introduction

Following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem we hear about visits from shepherds, angels and the wise. This morning we will re-tell the story involving everyone. Shepherds will be all of you with cloth headbands, and angels are all of you who have halos. In the pageant you will be directed to say short lines by saying: the angels said, or the shepherds said, then you are simply invited to respond by repeating your lines.

Gabriel’s Announcement, Luke 1:29-38

Narrator: In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph and the virgin’s name, Mary. (Mary enters and comes in and stands ______________________.) Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty. Beautiful inside and out!” And the angels said, “God be with you.”
Angels: God be with you.
Narrator: She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. “Mary, you have nothing to fear,” the angels said to her. “God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call him Jesus.” As angels often do, the angels said, “Do not be afraid.”
Angels: Do not be afraid.
Narrator: After a short discussion with the angel, Mary knew it would be OK, saying “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me, just as you say.” Then the angel left her. (Mary departs, returning to the narthex.)

Carol 16 (stanzas 1 &3)   The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came The angel Gabriel from heaven came, His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame; “All hail,” said he, “O lowly maiden Mary,” Most highly favored lady, Gloria! Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head, “To me be as it pleases God,” she said, “My soul shall laud and magnify God’s holy name.” Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

The Birth of Jesus, Luke 2:1-7

Narrator: About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancé, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

Away in a Manger #115 (After song, Mary, Joseph and Jesus enter, going to the chair located ___________________.)

The Shepherds and the Angels, Luke 2:8-18

Narrator: There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angels said, “Don’t be afraid.”
Angels: Don’t be afraid.
Narrator: Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger. At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praise. The angels said, “Glory to God!”
Angels: Glory to God!
Narrator: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us. The sheepherders said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem.”
Shepherds: Let’s go to Bethlehem!
Narrator: The shepherds left and they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. The sheepherders said, “Angels told us of the Christ child.”
Sheepherders: Angels told us of the Christ child.
Narrator: All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

“The First Nowell” #147 (Stanzas 1-4) (During the singing of stanzas 3 & 4, Herod walks up the center aisle, and stands in the middle of the aisle, half way down to the front. Star is carried in after him, and the camel and then the wise men down the center aisle to face Herod.)

The Gifts of the Wise – Matthew 2:1-11

Narrator: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory–this was during Herod’s kingship–a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. The wise asked, “Where can we find the newborn king of the Jews?”
The Wise: “Where can we find the newborn king of the Jews?”
Narrator: They had observed a star in the eastern sky (narrator points to the star held by ___________) that signaled his birth. When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified–and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” They told him “Bethlehem.” Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. (Herod moves into the midst of the wise men and pretends to talk with them.) Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.” Instructed by the king, they set off. (The wise and star move down the aisle to the front of the congregation.)  

Anthem “We Three Kings of Orient Are”     Arr. Mark Hayes

Narrator: Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: they were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house… (The star and the wise go to the holy family. The star stands behind Mary and the wise kneel then present his or her gift to Jesus; Mary and Joseph thank each of them.) …and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Narrator: As the wise of old gave their gifts to the Christ Child, we too have gifts to bring, the gifts of our lives, in service to the one who willingly comes to dwell among us.

O Little Town of Bethlehem (While we sing, congregation brings thanksgiving offering of food/money forward)

Narrator: The shepherds and wise ones returned to their homes and the angels returned to heaven, glorifying God and rejoicing in the mercy of God! Christ is born!

“Joy to the World” #134 – Standing

Christmas Trivia Quiz

Need an Advent activity for your youth? Challenge your group to this quiz based on the biblical account of the Christmas story. (From Youth Specialties, modified by Mark Davis)

1. What did the Innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?
a) We have no room for you here.
b) You may stay in my stable.
c) Why don’t you try the Holiday Inn?
d) A and B.
e) None of the above.

2. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
a) An angel.
b) Caesar.
c) A voice in a dream.
d) Elizabeth.
e) None of the above.

3. What did the angels sing to the Shepherds?
a) Handel’s “Messiah.”
b) “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will to all.”
c) “We wish you a merry Christmas.”
d) Nothing.

4. What are “Magi?”
a) Wise men (persons).
b) Astronomers.
c) Astrologers.
d) Oriental Kings (Queens).
e) None of the above.

5. How many Magi came to see Jesus?
a) One.
b) Two.
c) Three.
d) Two hundred and sixty four.
e) Who knows?

6. What is “myrrh?”
a) A perfume.
b) A burial ointment.
c) Money.
d) None of the above.

7. What kinds of animals were in the stable?
a) Monkeys, goats, and narwhals.
b) Cows, sheep, and donkeys.
c) Reindeer, rabbits, and elves.
d) None of the above.

8. How did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
a) A limousine (with all the ‘fixins’).
b) They walked.
c) She rode a donkey, he walked.
d) Helicopter (“Marine One” to be exact)
e) Who knows?

9. What is a “Heavenly Host”?
a) A person who serves drinks in heaven.
b) An angel choir.
c) An army in the heavens.
d) An angel committee, similar to the “Congregational Care Committee.”

10. What was the sign that was given to the Shepherds?
a) A “Yield” sign.
b) A star.
c) A baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.
d) An angel choir.

11. What does the Gospel according to Mark tell us about the Christmas story?
a) Gabriel’s visit to Mary and the coming of the shepherds.
b) Gabriel’s visit to Joseph and the coming of the Magi.
c) The Griswolds’ visit to Wally World and the coming of Christmas.

12. True or False: Mary and Joseph were married when Jesus was born.
T
F

13. This quiz is:
a) Fun.
b) Stupid.
c) Nauseating.
d) All of the above.

14. Discussion Question: What is the central meaning of Christmas?

First Sunday of Christmas Liturgy

Thanks to Doug Brown and Carla Pratt Keyes for this liturgy for the first Sunday of Christmas.