The air is getting crisp, the leaves are falling, and before you know it the Christmas season will have arrived. As worship leaders, these next few weeks tend to sneak up on us. December suddenly appears and we scramble to pull together meaningful worship sets that honor the birth of our Savior. But with some advance preparation and planning, we can give ourselves the gift of time and enter the Advent and Christmas seasons with rich, thoughtful worship ready for our congregations. Here are some tips to get you started.
Choosing Songs for Christmas Worship Sets
The Christmas season offers so many opportunities for powerful worship through music. As you begin selecting songs, consider including a balance of classic carols along with more contemporary Christmas worship songs. While you may have your personal preferences, remember that offering a mix will allow more people to connect. The traditional Christmas carols often bring up fond memories and connect people to the history of the faith. Carols also tell the Christmas story in a memorable way that people of all ages appreciate. Blending these classic songs with new yet meaningful worship songs gives congregations a taste of the past and present. It provides familiarity along with fresh praise.
As you make your song choices, focus on those that specifically highlight the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation and birth. Songs centered on general winter themes or secular celebrations will fall flat. We want lyrics that glorify God’s redemptive plan enacted through Jesus’ arrival as Emmanuel, God with us. Pick songs that cover different tempos and moods. Include upbeat, joyful praise songs but also more thoughtful and reflective hymns. Jesus’ birth makes us feel many emotions – excitement, thankfulness, wonder and awe. Our worship sets should make space for all those reactions.
Showcase the Musical Gifts in Your Congregation
The Christmas season presents a beautiful opportunity to incorporate special musical elements that showcase the many gifts God has given your faith community. Consider inviting skilled musicians from within your church to contribute their talents – for example, a classical guitarist offering a sacred instrumental piece during the prelude, Christmas Eve or Communion. The holidays are a fitting time to step outside your normal band-led worship sets and allow members to minister through music in different ways. Whether through vocal or instrumental offerings, Christmas provides a meaningful chance to highlight the diverse musical gifts the Spirit has placed within your congregation.
Building Your Christmas Worship Team Schedule
As you look ahead to the Christmas season, mark your calendar with any extra services, rehearsals, or special events you’ll need to plan for. Most churches add at least a Christmas Eve service, if not more. You may also have extra rehearsals, holiday concerts, children’s programs, and more that require your team’s participation. With all the busyness of December, confirm your worship team members’ availability as early as possible. Make sure to ask for any known conflicts like travel or family commitments. Knowing ahead of time will allow you to recruit fill-ins if needed.
As you build the schedule, be aware of the busy nature of December. While people are often willing to serve more during this season, be sensitive to overloading schedules already filled with parties, shopping, travel, family and more. Spread responsibilities evenly so that no one person bears too much. This may mean being strategic in how you schedule individuals – saving your top vocalists to anchor Christmas Eve worship rather than tiring them on less prominent dates. Honor the time and energy people are giving by not pushing beyond reasonable expectations.
Preparing for Christmas Eve Services
For many churches, Christmas Eve services provide a pinnacle moment for celebrating Jesus’ birth through worship. Start your planning by deciding how many services you’ll offer on Christmas Eve and the timing of each one. Often churches hold multiple services to allow for larger crowds and meet varying needs – such as an earlier children-focused service and a later one centered more on Communion, candles and reverence. Once those logistics are mapped out, it’s time to focus on content.
What is the theme or central idea you want to convey on this holy night? Do you want worship to feel celebratory and upbeat, focusing on the joy of Christ’s arrival? Or will it have a more reflective, reverent tone pointing to Jesus as the long-awaited Savior? Your songs, readings, and other elements should all work together to create the intended flow and feel. Lean on your creative team members and volunteers as you plan out components beyond just the music. Consider different ways you could incorporate things like video testimonies, candle lighting ceremonies, art displays, drama sketches based on the Christmas narrative, and more to make it a multidimensional worship experience.
Above all, bathe your Christmas Eve planning in prayer as a team. Pray for wisdom, unity and God’s guidance. Pray that He will use each piece of your service to draw people closer to Christ on one of the most sacred nights of the year. While thorough preparation is key, remember that it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit that will lead people into transformational encounters with their Savior. Seek God’s heart first, and allow all your planning to come alongside His purposes. When you combine spiritual discernment with practical preparation, your Christmas Eve services will provide rich soil for God to work wonders in people’s hearts.
The Christmas season reminds us of the glorious gift of Jesus coming to dwell among humanity. Taking time to prayerfully and thoroughly plan your Christmas worship services now will guarantee your congregation is led into powerful times of praise and reflection during this special season. May God guide you as you steward the responsibility and privilege of ushering people into true worship this Christmas!