Worship Planning for the Holidays

The seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with Christian history.  We know that our Thanksgiving holiday in America is directly the result of the Christian influence on our early heritage.  The first Americans expressed their thanks to God for the provisions and care He supplied throughout the year, and we have done the same ever since.

Christmas, of course, carries within it the very name of Christ.  In fact, the word “Christ” and the word “Mass” were brought together to form the word.  The “Mass” is a term that the church of the Middle Ages used to describe its church services.  Thus “Christmas” is in fact the season of church services specifically about Christ’s coming to earth.

As full and rich as the history is behind these seasons, worship planners and pastors often come to this season wondering how to bring a fresh perspective, or a new insight, into this age-old story.  I’d like to suggest some ideas, and give you the permission to use them, change them, or re-create them as you would like and need for your congregation.  These are ideas I’ve used at one point or another in my worship planning.

Ideas for Thanksgiving

For many years I have planned the largest and most involved service of the year to be the service just prior to Thanksgiving Day.  I found that the people participating in this service had plenty of time prior to Thanksgiving for rehearsals, planning and preparation.  However, once Thanksgiving Day was upon us everyone’s schedule became so crowded that trying to plan a big Christmas service became really difficult.

Short testimonials of thankfulness are excellent during these services.  This helps congregational members to connect with their own instances of God’s care in their lives.  There are also plenty of musical selections geared toward thankfulness and praise to God for all that He is and does.

One might organize a Thanksgiving service thematically.  For instance, spend time during the service thanking God in three areas:  1) for redemption in Christ, 2) for family and friends, and 3) for daily needs supplied.  There are any number of themes that can be used for this.  Supplement each theme with Scripture readings, songs, testimonies, and short sermonettes.  Repeat the same flow three times—once for each theme.

Sometimes it’s good to use Scripture as a jumping point.  Psalm 107 is an excellent passage that has built-in repetition of specific stories, how God met the needs of His people, and then a response of thanksgiving for His work.  This worship flow works well and is already planned for you!

Ideas for Christmas

Think of the Christmas season as a multi-week discovery and consideration of the meaning of Christ’s coming to earth.  Use the Sundays between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day to gradually build expectation from week-to-week in preparation for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services (if you have them).

I’ve written previously about celebrating the Advent season with its candle wreaths, colors and weekly themes.  Information on how to do this and what it means is readily available on the internet—along with lots of ideas on how to implement these services.  Celebrating Advent is the classic style of building anticipation for the coming of the Christ Child.

Another four week idea (there are usually four Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas) is to explore the offices of Christ each subsequent week.  The four offices of Christ would be Prophet, Priest, Judge and King.  One topic for each week.  What did it mean for Christ to fill these offices?  How was He the fulfillment of each one?  What does it mean for us today as we remember His birth?

On a more practical level, I have found that enlisting the help of other worship planners for this special season really has its benefits.  By having four different people plan the four services, we have variety in style and thought that permeates the season.  This reflects the variety we find in the body of Christ, the church!  I will often give overall guidelines, Scripture references and thematic descriptions—and then set them loose!

Overall, the burden that pastors and worship planners feel during these yearly seasons can be lifted by trying some of the ideas I suggested.  It will also provide for the purpose of our discussion—to find a fresh voice to remind us of these important Christian seasons.  May your celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas bring you ever closer to the God Who has demonstrated His love toward us so faithfully.


Posted on November 17, 2015, in Arts, Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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