Planning for Advent and Christmas can be stressful, and like so many things it can be something we keep “meaning to work on,” and then, suddenly, the Season(s) are upon us. In smaller churches, churches in transition and/or without regular clergy this effect can be magnified. In all churches it can be hard to know how to truly welcome visitors and invite them to connect more deeply with the parish.
What follows are some ideas (many specially focused on children) and helps for Advent and Christmas:
- Have an all-church Advent wreath making event after the service so people can take home the wreaths. This can be very simple or can involve making traditional Advent wreaths with fresh greens. The point is to get people together to have fun, and to encourage individual households to take on the devotion of lighting the wreath in their homes at advent. Here is a simple household liturgy that you can photocopy and hand out that has been adapted by Canon Wright. You can talk to people during the event about how Advent is the beginning of the Christian year, and invite them to think and pray about how they want to go more deeply with God this year, and how they want to share their gifts in the parish and the world. Small children can be given an image of a wreath to color.
- Children like to see the progression of Advent, handing out Advent calendars can be a fun and cost-effective thing to do, or a mini fundraiser. There is a variety of choices on Cokesbury.com. Also, if a creche is set up (without the baby Jesus) in Advent it can be fun to have a procession of the Magi that begins late Advent with the King figurines “processing” through the church until Epiphany when they arrive. It is also a fun thing to have children process with figurines of shepherds, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus during the opening hymn at the Christmas Eve service and place them in the creche near the altar. This can be followed by “Station at a Christmas” which is found in the Book of Occasional Services, 2003 edition, page 36. This would take place before the Opening Acclamation if there is a Eucharist. If using the liturgy linked below you would have the children come up to the altar during the lighting of the candles and then do the Station.
- Another good source for all-church Advent (and other church season) activities is messychurchusa.org.
- If your church is not able to schedule a priest to be present on Christmas Eve, here is a reproducible Order of Worship for Christmas Eve adapted by Canon Wright from the Book of Common Prayer. Also, sometimes families with children come to church for the first time on Christmas Eve, having a box of new Children’s Bibles or special Christmas picture books, with a message from the congregation, to give to children is a wonderful way to send something meaningful home.
- Simple ways to do a “Christmas Pageant” on Christmas Eve of Christmas day include having an older child read the nativity story while younger children take their places in costume and “freeze,” creating a “tableau.” It is also neat to do this on Epiphany instead and include the Magi. If you really don’t have many kids, or it isn’t possible to put together a pageant, a nice option is having children dressed as Magi come in during the singing of “We Three Kings” on Epiphany Sunday. (More ideas for Epiphany later!)