AS WE GATHER…The days and weeks preceding Christmas are full of hustle and bustle for many. Between parties and shopping, cooking and baking, wrapping and card writing, along with many more things, we are occupied and busy as we anticipate this night and the assured joy to come celebrating the Savior born for us. Over two thousand years ago, though, that wasn’t the case. Nobody was prepared for what was to take place. Yet everything soon changed in that little town of Bethlehem. Quietly, unexpectedly, even “like a thief in the night” was born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, our Lord. Tonight we gather amid the busyness to reflect, rejoice, and ponder anew the joy of our Savior born and to prepare our hearts to receive the greatest gifts ever given and received by and through Him—hope, forgiveness, newness, and an assured promise of eternal life through faith in Him.


CHORAL ANTHEM: “The Wonderous Story” By: Don Besig & Nancy Price

CHRISTMAS EVE CAROL CELEBRATION                     Luke 2

L:  We hear again the Good News from the Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 2.  Following each section of the reading, we sing songs of Christmas joy, echoing the sounds of the angels on that first Christmas night. 

R: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

A Christmas visit to the little town of Bethlehem by Rev. Phillips Brooks of Pennsylvania in 1865 led to his writing one of the most beloved of all Christmas hymns.  We reflect on the importance of that special place.

CAROL: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”                        LBW 41

O Little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us, we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

Oh, come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!

R: And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

L:  Although “Away in a Manger” has been called “Luther’s Cradle Hymn” by some people, its actual Lutheran connection comes from the fact that is was first published in a Lutheran Sunday School hymnal in Philadelphia in 1885.  It was not translated into German until 1934, but since then has become as well-loved by Christian people in the “Old World” as it is here in the “New Word”. 

CAROL: “Away in a Manger”                                          LBW 67

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,

The Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;

The stars in the sky…..looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay

Close by me forever and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in your tender care

And fit us for heaven to live with you there.

R: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you:  you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

L:  There are many Christmas songs and carols that include references to angels and the angelic hosts.  Nearly two centuries old, “Angels We Have Heard on High” was written by James Chadwick, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, in northeast England. The song describes the moment in which the shepherds outside of Bethlehem encounter a multitude of angels singing and praising the new child. We now take a moment in joining the angels in their singing.

CAROL: “Angels We Have Heard on High”               LBW 71

Angels we have hard on high, Sweetly singing o’er the plains,

And the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo; Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be Which inspire your heav’nly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo; Gloria in excelsis Deo.

R: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

L:  Some of the Christmas songs we cherish have deep historical roots.  “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” dates back to the thirteenth century so it would have been known by Martin Luther and his family in Wittenberg.  Originally, the lines of the song alternated between Latin and German.  Together we raise our voices to heaven as we join the “multitude of the heavenly host” in holy song.


CAROL: “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”             LBW  55

Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;

Give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today;

Ox and ass before him bow, and he is in the manger now.

Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;

Now ye need not fear the grave; Jesus Christ was born to save!

Call you one and calls you all to gain his everlasting hall.

Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

R: When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherd said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

L:  Almost a century old now, the text of “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” was written by Joseph C. Cook for a carol-writing competition in 1919.  It won the competition and was printed in the Christian Guardian magazine the following year and then, about ten years later, it appeared in a Canadian hymnal.  The words, which have been set to a melody from the sixteenth century, create for us a vision of that marvelous birth, complete with the shepherd and angels. 

CAROL: “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child”

Gentle Mary laid her child Lowly in a manger;

There He lay, the Undefiled, To the world a stranger,

Such a babe in such a place, Can He be the Savior?

Ask the saved of all the race Who have found His favor.

Gentle Mary laid her child Lowly in a manger;

He is still the Undefiled But no more a stranger.

Son of God of humble birth, Beautiful the story;

Praise His name in all the earth; Hail the King of glory!

R: And when the shepherds saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

L:  Each generation adds to the list of favorite Christmas songs as different nations and cultures enrich the repertoire.  The spiritual “Go Tell It on the Mountain”, for many years limited to African American songbooks, has become a treasured addition to hymnals not only in the United States but worldwide.  The shepherds glorified and praised God as they returned to their fields and their lives.  We shape our worship and lives with praise to God for the gift of the Savior, the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. 

Carol: “Go Tell It on the Mountain”                             LBW 70

Go tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and ev’rywhere;

Go tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born!

While shepherds kept their watching O’er silent flocks by night,

Behold, throughout the heavens There shone a holy light.

Go tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and ev’rywhere;

Go tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born!

Down in a lonely manger The humble Christ was born;

And God sent us salvation That blessed Christmas morn.

Go tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and ev’rywhere;

Go tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born!


OFFERING            with special music performed by: Dan Johnson

w/ Bryson Skaar accompanying


L: Let us pray for God’s great mercy, asking that He would hear our petition and grant them according to His gracious will.

L: As we recall the first Christmas, Lord, we thank You for the gift of Jesus Christ.  Give us faith to never forget the magnitude and importance of His sacrifice for us in coming to earth to be our Savior, our Brother, and our Friend.  Lord, in Your mercy,

C: hear our prayer. 

L: As we remember Mary and Joseph, we thank You for the gift of family.  Give us hearts to fully appreciate the gifts we receive through them and seek to be those who cherish and nourish our family associations.  Lord, in Your mercy,

C: hear our prayer. 

L: As we echo the song of the angels, we thank You for the gifts of poetry and music and for all of the writers and composers who have enriched our celebration with their devotion and creativity.  Give us eagerness to ever seek to bring You all that is the best and most beautiful in our worship.  Lord, in Your mercy,

C: hear our prayer. 

L: As we think of the shepherds to whom the angel brought the greatest news, we thank You for those who serve in the various vocations of life, including those whose daily work often goes unnoticed.  We commend to Your special care, Lord, those in the military, our first responders and medical personnel, and all whose labor on our behalf is specially challenging or hazardous.  Lord, in Your mercy,

C: hear our prayer. 

L: As we consider those who were at the inn surrounding Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, we pray for all situations and conditions of people, especially those on our hearts at this time (moment of silence).  Be with them and bless them according to their needs, Lord, and give us opportunities to be of comfort and assistance in Your name.  Lord, in Your mercy,

C: hear our prayer. 

L: As we pray, gracious God, we remember our dear ones who have completed their earthly lives and now are in Your eternal keeping.  As the brightness of the light of Christ shines on them, may we follow their footsteps in ways of peace and love throughout our lives as we live to Your glory.  Lord, in Your mercy,

C: hear our prayer. 

L: These and any other things You would have us ask of You, heavenly Father, grant to us for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C:  Amen. 

ALL:      Our Father who art in heaven,

                        Hallowed be Thy name,

                        Thy kingdom come,

                        Thy will be done on earth

                                As it is in heaven;

                        Give us this day our daily bread;

                        And forgive us our trespasses

                                As we forgive those

                                Who trespass against us;

                        And lead us not into temptation,

                        But deliver us from evil. 

                        For thine is the Kingdom

                        And the power and the glory

                        Forever and ever.  Amen. 



 L: Luke writes that Mary “treasured up all these things in her heart.”  That phrase “all these things” includes her personal experience of that first Christmas night with the angels and the shepherds and the promise of God coming true.  God has kept His covenant with His people, and we are blessed by it.  With renewing faith, growing hop, and expanding love on this most holy night, we sing.

Individual candles will be lit during the singing and extinguished after the Benediction. 

Those with lit candles remain still as those without lit candles bend their candles to receive the light.

CLOSING CAROL: “Silent Night, Holy Night”         LBW 65

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 pea ce.

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!

Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from your holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at your birth, Jesus Lord, at your birth.


L: Let us pray.  O God, You make this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light.  Grant that as we have known the mysteries of that light on earth we may also come to the fullness of His joys in heaven; through the same Jesus, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C: Amen.