Churches all around the world will meet several times over the next few days – for Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and then the weekend after Christmas. For many worship leaders and music ministries this is one of the busiest times of the whole year. Extra services, concerts, rehearsals, new arrangements, long days, late nights, and a lot of little details.
I’ll be helping to lead the music at a number of services at my church starting tomorrow. I thought it might be helpful to share a few things I try to keep in mind this time of year.
There will be more non-believers in the room than usual
I’ve already received a number of emails from people in the congregation who are bringing their non-Christian family members to our Christmas services. This is incredibly exciting, and my sincere prayer is that these people will not leave the building without having heard the Gospel clearly presented to them through every part of the service.
With a good number of non-believers in the room, I need to be aware as I’m leading that I am going to be looking out at some people who really want to be there, some who don’t want to be there at all, and some who are really nervous about what their brother or sister is thinking of the whole thing. My confidence is not in my ability to change people’s hearts or get a certain reaction – my confidence is in the power of the Gospel and in the work of the Holy Spirit (however obvious or hidden it may be).
We will be singing songs full of rich Gospel truth that people hear while shopping for shoes
“God and sinners reconciled.” “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.” “Come and behold him, born the King of angels.” “He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found…” Does Wal-Mart have any idea what amazing bible truth it’s playing through its speakers as people shop for the latest flat-screen TV? Probably not. Do most people give a second thought to the idea that God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus as they sing this song for the hundredth time? Probably not.
Do whatever you can to help people see and celebrate the truth we’re singing. Either by you or your pastor saying something very briefly, or more likely through yours and your worship team’s visible and genuine engagement with God as you sing, you can help these great songs not seem so much like harmless little jingles.
People are more emotionally charged at Christmas time than they are the rest of the year
Family is flying into town. Where will Uncle Steve sleep? Do we have enough ham? Will it feel less awkward this year than it did last year? Why did I put so much on my credit card?
I wish I had a family. Should I invite myself over to someone’s house? What will I say when people ask what I did for Christmas? No one loves me.
Every single person who steps onto this campus tomorrow night will have their own joys, their own sorrows, their own emotions, and their own secrets. I will never know even a fraction of what people are experiencing, whether joyful or difficult.
As a worship leader, it’s good for me to be aware of this for two reasons: First, I’ll lead more effectively and with more sensitivity if I’m seeking to care for and feed my fellow sheep. Secondly, I’ll be more eager to point people to Jesus – Immanuuel – God with us – the one who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.
Keep Jesus central
Shame on any music ministry or worship leader who set out to dazzle with their creativity, impress with their musical polish, delight with their pomp, or entertain with their talent. They’re like a grand canyon tour guide who can’t stop talking about his shiny name badge. He distracts from the main attraction and reveals his own vanity. Compared to the splendor of the grand canyon, his name badge is nothing. People come to the grand canyon to see the grand canyon, not the tour guide. An effective tour guide points people to the main attraction and steps out of the way.
This Christmas, and all year round, point people to the greatness of God as revealed in his Son Jesus Christ, and then step out of the way. O come, let us adore Him.
One thought on “Things to Keep in Mind When Leading Worship on Christmas”
Our Christmas Eve service turned out to be lovely and meaningful.
The only (good) problem we failed to foresee was that there would be more people wanting to worship on Christmas Eve since we’re the only evangelical church in the area that holds such a service, so we saw our worship hall in a standing room only state and our two main lobbies filled. We shold have scheduled 2 services. True enough, there were more yet-to-be believers in the congregation. A Christmas service is always an evangelistic event.
We sang all of the choruses, hymns and carols in moderate tempo with a Christmas feel because we didn’t want to rush through the singing. And our goal was achieved, a lady came to me to say, “I love how we sang the songs, it gave me time to really process the truths in my head and my heart.”
To visually enhance our worship experience, we placed at the very center of the stage a manger filled with straw, white cloth, and a crown of thorns- symbolic of the truth that the manger is empty and so is the cross. Standing high behind the manger was the Christ Candle, symbolizing Christ’s pre-eminence. A par lamp spot was on it the entire time, while the rest of the stage was dimly lit.
Over all, it was a lovely and meaningful, Christ-centered worship.
The Christmas Eve service was followed by a Christmas dinner for our church members and people in the area who need company at Christmas time. Some foreigners, some singles, some families with struggling to make ends meet, with church leaders, all gathered for dinner.
Happy Christmas, Jamie!