Throughout the history of our church, our annual Christmas Candlelight service is an opportunity to quiet our hearts and worship the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the order and mediation that we use in church. I thought it might be something that would help with family on Christmas Eve or perhaps in your own church. We used to have a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, but now we simply hold the service on the Sunday evening prior to Christmas Eve.
The service begins with quiet Christmas hymns played on the piano about 15 minutes before the opening prayer. I ask for cleansing and that the worship and attitudes of our hearts be acceptable in the sight of God. I simply state the theme of the meditation as the beginning of the program: “Our victorious Christmas is our meditation on the Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown.”
Born (Luke 2.1-40)
I begin the meditation by reading the birth narrative with the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2.1-16). This is followed by the congregational singing of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. The Scripture reading continues with Luke 2.17-40. The congregation sings “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.
To Die (John 19.1-30)
Scripture reading continues in the Gospel of John (John 19.1-13). This is followed by the congregation singing “What Will You Do with Jesus?” Two of our deacons come forward at the conclusion of the hymn in order to help with the distribution of the Lord’s Supper.
I announce to the congregation why we are distributing bread and how that element represents the body of Jesus Christ which was broken for us. I make sure that the congregation knows that we will partake together and remind them that we practice close communion and closed communion.
This explanation is followed by prayer. “Father, we ask that you would help us to remember your great sacrifice as Your Son stood before the place called the Pavement. He paid an incomprehensible debt that we could not. We are grateful for the death of Your Son and the mercy and grace that flowed so freely from His precious blood.”
The piano meditatively plays hymns concerning the death of Christ. I simply say once the elements are distributed: “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.'” I exhort the congregation to obey what the Lord instituted that evening during the Last Supper and ask, “Shall we partake and remember together?” This is followed by silence for a few moments and this prayer: “Father, we thank you for this memorial and what it represents. May You be pleased with our inward thoughts this evening. We come to You in sincerity and truth. We love You and thank You for our Redeemer. We pray to You in His wonderful, matchless Name, Amen.”
Scripture reading continues in John 19.14-22. The congregation sings “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. The deacons distribute the grape juice which memorializes the blood of our Lord Jesus which was shed on the cross for us. We all receive the juice and drink together. In the quietness that follows my prayer, we express our love to the Lord in the stillness of our hearts.
This is followed by prayer: “Father, we are grateful for the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin – past, present, and future. Until our understanding of and belief on the finished work of Christ, He was no King to us. We ruled at the thrones of our own hearts. Our appropriation of the finished work of Christ makes us realize that Your Son must rule. We commit our lives to You afresh. We remember Your great sacrifice in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
I then state, “On the same evening, curing the Lord’s Super, Jesus ‘took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to [His disciples], saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you: for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.'” I then bid the congregation to drink remembering this covenant together. This is followed by this prayer: “Father, we claim by Your grace that our Lord Jesus Christ is our King. Allow us to be useful vessels of His grace as we live out our lives in the years to come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
We continue reading John 19.23-30. This is followed by the congregational hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross”.
And Rise (John 20.11-17)
John’s account of the resurrection is then read (20.11-17) followed by the hymn, “Christ Arose!”
And Reign (Revelation 19.11-16)
Revelation 19.11-16 is a powerful reading. It is about the beginning of the earthly rule of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is followed by a solo or choir arrangement of “O Holy Night!” This is powerful combination of Scripture and musical text. I exhort at the conclusion, “Our Lord will reign upon the earth on the throne of David. He will reign 1,000 years over a Kingdom that was promised to David and will serve as the commencement of Christ’s eternal reign. Joy belongs to those who know Christ as Savior. Joy will about when the earth one day receives her King. The Savior with reign, sin will be judged, sorrow will cease, and the wonder of His love will be manifest to all mankind.”
The congregation then sings “Joy to the World”. The program concludes with prayer: “Father, we are grateful for the fact that we have trusted in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, we will not face the fierceness of Your wrath. He, indeed, is our great KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. May we glorify His name this evening, next year, and for all eternity. We pray in the precious name of Your beloved and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.” We then dismiss.
This simple meditation has brought me to the brink of tears some years. When heavily burdened, I’ve not been able to hold back the tears on certain years. The key to any meditation that we practice together is that we prayerfully prepare our hearts ahead of time. May God richly reward you as you meditate upon the cradle, the cross, and the crown.