I always feel bad that my posting schedule takes such a hit during the holiday season. But then I always remember that the holiday season was filled with lots of cool things at my church and fun things with my family and then I’m not so sad about pulling back on the posts.
However, now that the Christmas season is ending, thought it might be fun to share (and process) some of the unique things we did for worship at Christmas time this year at Bethel. Some of these are standard for us, but this year featured some new stuff, too.
Traditional Christmas Eve
In October, I reached out to some friends to find out what their churches did and was really drawn to the Anglican service of Lessons & Carols. Interestingly enough, I had done a version of this type of service when I worked in the Methodist church years ago, but had forgotten. Once the pastor and I agreed on doing this, my path was set – I planned nine carols as traditionally as I could play them. I arranged them for piano and guitar only and began practicing in late October. (To make sure I knew them!) We did a fairly “traditional” service last year with some special music and full band, but this year was much more simple. At the same time, I decided that I would save these songs for Christmas Eve and not use them in Sunday morning worship. This allowed me to really focus on these songs and not to consider them as simpler versions of stuff we had already planned in the preceding weeks.
This was new for us. I decided that each Sunday of Advent would feature a “special” song as our last selection. This plan didn’t work out quite like I planned due to Communion Sunday and changing our set in light of the shootings in Connecticut. However, we did do Future of Forestry’s “O Holy Night” (Yes, we used a bow) and Jeremy Camp’s “Mary, Did You Know.” This was rare for us – we rarely do performance pieces but on these Sundays, I had our congregation sit and explained that our desire was to really dig into these songs and expand them as best we could. Our congregation loved both offerings and our musicians loved the challenge. Both songs came off even better than I expected.
Advent “Collect” As Call To Worship
We typically do Advent readings every year, but this year I used the “Collects” from the Book of Common Prayer as our opening call. I really like having the congregation read out loud and it was a nice way to start the service. It also gave us more chances to practice “easing into songs.” Lately, I’ve felt that our big songs just start too BIG. For the past couple of months we’ve worked on how to get into big songs with jarring the crowd or making it awkward. These readings to open each service gave us more chances to practice that.
Advent Description Slides
Another new thing this year were “description slides.” Instead of our normal welcome-to-Bethel slideshow that runs prior to service, I built a four or five screen presentation that explained the season of Advent and then would give a brief setup for the current week’s theme/focus. We don’t have a lot of folks that show up early, but those that did had a great understanding of what was going on!
For the past two years, we’ve done an Advent podcast series called “OneWord.” You can find it here. Previously, these were five minute devotionals from our pastor but this year we changed it up and did a series called Christmas @ Bethel. I decided to interview our entire staff (from pastors all the way to maintenance crew) and ask them some of their holiday memories. It turned out to be both fun and meaningful.
What about you? What did you do at your church?