By Rev Scott Elliott
based on NRSV texts Matthew 1 & 2 and Luke 1 &d 2
Presented Christmas Eve 2016 at 1st Congregational UCC, Mt. Vernon, OH
Reader: Kris Sullivan
Preacher: Scott Elliott
Angel Gabriel: Cliff Davis
Actor#1: Bryan Bartsch
Mary: Destany Stoneburner
Joseph: Jacob Lebold
Magi A: Tami Anderson
Magi B: CeCe Bartsch
Magi C: Megan Chnberlin
Shepherds: Cole Bartsch, Bryan Bartsch,
Choirs: Chancel, Middle School
On the chancel or stage an empty a simple Nativity setting is set and lit–as the play progresses the Nativity scene is filled in with the actors and eventually the audience. Advent candles can be off to the side already lit or lit in a “ceremony” before the sermon drama begins, additional choir anthems or congregational carols can also occur before the sermon drama.
Mary, a young adult, is seated in the front pew amongst the congregation. She is dressed in ordinary modern clothes which suggest she comes from a home of modest or humble income. Joseph, a young man, is a scrubbed up carpenter in humble clothes. Gabriel is dressed in a flashy white suit or tuxedo or some other fashion which suggests a bit of a showman/woman. Gabriel carries a trumpet slung around her/his shoulder with a sling . Gabriel is confident, warm and very personable with a great deal of respect for Mary and Joseph and the message she/he brings. The Carolers can be a robed choir or a group dressed in winter clothes, their singing is meant to lead the audience and the preacher and/or music director should feel free to encourage audience participation during the carols.
PRELUDE: ORGAN CHRISTMAS MUSIC 6:30pm to 7pm
M: God is good
ALL: All the time
M: All the time
ALL: God is good
M: Merry Christmas!
ALL: Merry Christmas!
GREETING: Say “Merry Christmas” to those around you
Preacher: Thank you. Please return to your seats. We are very glad to have you with us tonight. We have special service that tells the Nativity stories with a modern humorous twist (please feel free to laugh) and we have lots of carols to sing as we move toward setting up a traditional live Nativity scene and candle lighting ceremony with “Silent Night” and end with “Joy to the World.” Kris will start us off with a call to worship.
CALL TO WORSHIP: Kris Sullivan
OPENING PRAYER: Kris Sullivan
CAROL #1 : O Come All You Faithful
Reader: Luke 2: 1-14 (ending with “Glory to God in the highest heaven, on earth peace . . .”).
Joint Choirs (on chancel steps): “Star Carol”
Preacher: That was beautiful. Thank you. Some instructions on the carols tonight. Please join in with us from your seats when its noted that we all join in and sing carols. The words to the carols and the order we will sing them are right there in the bulletin. The cue for carols will be the piano starting to playing the music.
We will sing the carols seated until we get to “Silent Night.” When we get to
Silent Night and the candle lighting we will all be playing the role of the multitude of the heavenly host that appeared that first Christmas night, Then we will end with three carols the last will be an awesome rendition of Joy to the World that Laura will lead. Okay lets sing . . .
CAROL #2: . . . IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR
Preacher: Sometime near the very end of the period we refer to as B.C. the Angel Gabriel appeared in a small town called Nazareth to a young woman, a girl really . . . What might that most unusual conversation look like today? SIT
Gabriel has entered the sanctuary and is walking up the aisle looking for Mary. Gabriel can be male or female and she/he is carrying baby shower and celebration balloon(s). This entrance should resemble a singing telegram delivery. Gabriel can ask a couple of folks who are not “plants” where Mary is, but the last person should be a “planted” actor.
Gabriel: Hi. I ‘m Gabriel. Excuse me Mam/Sir, can you tell me which person is Mary? No? (Goes to next person then to the planted actor). Ahh, you, Sir/Mam, can you tell me where I can find Mary?
Actor#1 Umm, yeah, she’s up there.
Gabriel Thank you.
Gabriel goes to Mary. Mary is looking forward towards the altar or cross or a Bible and has not been paying attention to Gabriel, until she/he addresses her.
Gabriel: Excuse me. Are you Mary, Joseph’s fiancee?
Mary is taken aback by this public inquiry in the midst of a service. She is embarrassed by being
put on the spot.
Mary: Huh, yeah, . . . um. . . my name is Mary.
Pleased to have found Mary, Gabriel bows grandly and presents the balloons. Gabriel takes Mary onto the chancel/stage, bows and speaks with a flourish.
Gabriel: Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.
Mary stands and looks dumbfounded. She is greatly troubled by the statement and keeps pondering what could possibly be going on.)
Sings and dances to tune of Yankee Doodle (or some other obviously non-Christmas tune) as best as can be done in the hokey fashion of singing messages. Blows -poorly and out of tune- the trumpet for a note- as if it were a pitch pipe. A magician’s appearing cane or other such tricks can be added to the song & dance)
Mary, do not be afraid,
For you have found God’s favor
My news for is you’ll conceive the Lord, God our Savior
He will be a son, you hear, and you shall name him Jesus
He will be called Son Most High,
And His Kingdom shall never leave us. (Gabriel appears to end song, then starts back up as Mary tries to sneak away)
Mary you’ll be pregnant. Mary you’ll have a baby
Mary you’ re the chosen one, Or my name ain’t Gabie.
Mary: (Mary is quite embarrassed and concerned. She knows its not possible, but she also knows that Gabriel is somehow telling the truth.)
How can this be? I have. . . uh, never even been with a guy. Not even Joseph (Embarrassed, sotto voice) . . . I’m a virgin.
Gabriel(Tenderly, with understanding, walking Mary back to her seat) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason your son shall be called the Son of God. For nothing is impossible with God. Need more convincing?(goes to blow the trumpet again, but, before she/he can sing Mary jumps up and cuts her/him off).
Mary Okay, then. Let me be God’s servant. . . I’ll do it. Okay? (She takes bouquet and gives a look that shoos Gabriel out. Gabriel exists.)
CAROL #3: ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD IN HIGH (1st verse)
During the carol and/or the Preacher’s next lines Mary while seated secretly stuffs a small pillow in her clothes to appear a few months pregnant. As the Preacher says “Mary” the actor playing Mary gets up to go to the restroom taking balloons with her. On the way down the aisle she is met by Joseph around the Preacher’s word “found,” Joseph is entering church late. They reach out and touch hands as they pass. Joseph proceeds to sit where Mary was and Mary goes on out. Joseph has noticed her stomach and realization dawns on him as he reaches the pew. He sits. Then stands on Preacher’s word “made.”
Preacher This is how Jesus came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a man of honor and wanting to spare her publically, decided to divorce her informally. He had his mind made up when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. . . And another interesting encounter unfolded. SIT
Gabriel has entered the sanctuary and walks up the aisle looking for Joseph. As before she/he is carrying balloons. This entrance should resemble the routine done on Mary. Gabriel goes directly to Actor #1 and in loud sotto voice asks.
Gabriel: Hi. Excuse me again. I’m sorry can you tell me where I can find Joseph?
Actor#1 Yeah, same place as you found Mary, up there.
Gabriel Thanks. (Goes to Joseph) Excuse me. Are you Joseph, Mary’s fiancee? (Joseph’s mind is elsewhere and he does not respond. Gabriel takes him by the hand up to the chancel/stage). Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is one who will save people. (Gabriel blows trumpet and sings the following to a the tune of Happy Birthday or Home on the Range, The Greatest of Ease ,or whatever other non-Christmas tune you decide).
Now all this took place,
To fulfill-ill the words,
Of God through Isaiah, the Pro-ah-ah-phet
“The virgin will conceive,
And give birth to a son,
And they will call him Emmanuel.”
(Spoken Loudly) – A NAME WHICH MEANS “GOD IS WITH US.”
Mary has returned to pew and Joseph greets her. They hug and go out down the aisle hand in hand, with Gabriel following with the balloons as the Preacher speaks the next set of lines. Joseph and Mary reenter after the word “birth” in the Preacher’s lines below. They are now dressed in traditional Mary and Joseph clothes. Mary is carrying Jesus with Joseph. Both go up to take their place in a pre-set nativity setting.
Preacher Matthew tells us Joseph did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: He took Mary for his wife and they traveled to Bethlehem for the census which Kris read about. While in Bethlehem Mary gave birth to a son named Jesus and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room at the inn. Sit
CAROL #4: (piano plays once through before choir stands and singing begins) AWAY IN THE MANGER
Preacher According to Matthew, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem. Stay up
Three Magi enter with preacher’s line “behold magi” above as cue to start and Magi A’s first line below as cue to stop .
Their “costumes” suggest exterminators, they should at least have ball caps that have exterminator pictures or words like “We’re Not Nice to Mice” written on them. Perhaps they carry mouse traps as well. But each also has a small treasure box with their gift for the child.
The three magi end up in the front of the sanctuary/theatre and bow as if on cue to the Preacher’s words “behold magi.” The magi then proceed to walk around the audience looking around as the cover music plays and then ask these questions:
Magi A Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?
Magi B We saw this star in the east. . .
Magi C (Spoken as if he/she has a cold, sniffs) And have come doo worship him!
Magi A, B & C Do you know where he is? Where can we find this child?
Have you seen a king around here? (Etc.).
Preacher The magi were summoned to, and met with, King Herod. Then the magi left Herod and Jerusalem and followed the star to Bethlehem. Sit
CAROL #5: WE THREE KINGS (1st verse)
Magi’s search for Jesus all over the sanctuary during song leads them to the chancel/stage. One magi finds Jesus right away and calls to another magi, leaving one alone tot look.
Preacher When the magi found Jesus they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And they fell down and worshiped him; and opening their treasures. These wise men presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (The magi pull out their gifts. Magi A has a mirror, Magi B has a hot dog in a bun and a piggy bank and Magi C has a cold)
Magi A Wise men? Reverend Elliott, we thought you said come as “mice men” that’s why we’re dressed like this. And I thought you said I was to bring a mirror.
Magi B Oh man, I thought you said to bring a (holds up hot dog) frank and (holds up piggy bank) cents. (Shrugs and takes bite of the hot dog)
Magi C Goodnezz, I thawd doo said I was doo give him a code. (Blows nose on Magi A’s coat).
Preacher It’s okay guys. Take off the hats, put these on (hands magi their robes and crowns) look wise and just present the gifts you did bring. Except don’t give him a cold. (To Magi C) You can just give him the box. (To all the Magi) And stand there looking wise. (Actors pose for Nativity scene throughout remainder of service)
A. INVITATION TO OFFERING:
Preacher: As the Magi change we are invited to join then with offerings of our own as we listen to the Chancel choir sing Sussex Carol and the Middle School Choir sing “The Angels Sang.” It is the wonderful tradition at this church that –unless otherwise noted on the offering– that Christmas Eve offerings go to the UCC Christmas fund which provides resources to help retired pastors and their families. If you wish to lay those or other such gifts before Jesus as a modern Magi, you may do so now in the offering plates.
B OFFERTORY: CHANCEL CHOIR (on steps) : “Sussex Carol”
B. PRAYER OF DEDICATION (unison)
What greater gift could we receive than the gift of God’s own child.–a child who is our light and salvation” We who have received so much, are called to join the shepherds in sharing our joy, in sharing peace. May these gifts be like the gifts of the Magi offered to the Christ child in hopes of peace on earth and good will to all. Amen.
MIDDLE SCHOOL CHOIR (on steps): “The Angels Sang”
PREACHER: Please stand with your candles if you are able. After I light the Christ candle Fred will begin to softly play Silent Night on the organ as the CHOIR lights their candles and brings the Christ light out to the congregation. We will pass it to those on the ends. When the light comes to you please pass it to the person next to you until we are each holding the light of Christ. When we all have our candles lit Laura will lead us all in singing the verses of “Silent Night.”
LIGHT CHRIST CANDLE
F. SILENT NIGHT
Preacher LIGHTS CHRIST CANDLE!
INSTRUMENTALIST plays silent night. PREACHER lights his/her candle, passes the light from the Christ candle to the choir director and then to the choir and then they pass it to the gathered. All remain within the congregation during the singing and lights dim.
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.
Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ the Savior, is born!
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
Preacher Luke tells us that in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night.(Gabriel walks in and moves towards the chancel/stage to stand before the congregation. He dressed in a white angelic robe, but she/he still has his trumpet.. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them and the glory of God shone around them! (LOOK AT GABE)(Gabriel makes to blow his trumpet, the actors in the front and the preacher all wince with fear of the noise, the preacher takes the horn away just in time. Gabriel looks around and speaks the following to the congregation.).
Gabriel Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people. Today there is born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in clothes lying in a manger. (Joins in and poses for the Nativity scene)
Preacher And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God. That’s us, that’s you! Here on earth we can be that host and our lights can shine the light of Christ bright on Christmas – and all year long.
X. PASTORAL PRAYER
PREACHER: Please extinguish your candle. You may be seated. Let us take a moment of silence to pray together in quiet solitude for peace, and that God’s presence may be felt; and have a peaceful effect on world leaders and all who are in harm’s way, civilian and solider, friend and foe, adult and child. In this
moment of silence let us each pray in our own way. And I will conclude with a prayer aloud . . . .(SILENCE)
Pastoral Prayer: Good and loving God, we are so grateful to be gathered together here on this glorious Christmas Eve with friends, neighbors and loved ones, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
A birth that took place in a humble stable, without a room at the inn, without a doctor, without a crib, without any of the conveniences we take for granted today. We celebrate those modest beginnings because Jesus grew up from them to live a life of teaching, practicing and preaching peace and love even in the face of adversity, even in the face of death. And that life that Jesus led –which started so humbly in a manger on a stable floor two thousand years ago– created vibrations that continue to ripple through time. We gather today in celebration and in gratitude for that first day of Jesus’ remarkable life and to bask in the sweet joy the vibrations his life bring even here, even now.
We also gather to remember. It is so easy in the rush and busyness of Christmas commerce to forget what Christmas is about. Help us to recall that Christmas is not about getting presents, but about giving joy, that Christmas is not about impressing one another, but about loving one another. And that loving one another means to love not just our families, but our neighbors and our enemies, and you – our good and loving God.
In the name of love, we pray for peace on earth. AMEN.
Stand if you are able . . . and join in the last three carols.
YOUTH CHOIR LED CAROLS (on steps):
HARK THE HERALD ANGELS (1 verse) organ
THE FIRST NOEL(1 verses) organ
JOY TO THE WORLD special version led by Laura with choirs & piano
Preacher Glory to God in the highest heaven, on earth peace. . . Amen. And Merry Christmas to all.
Copyright 2016© by Rev. Scott Elliott, all rights reserved