Opening Doors on Christmas Eve

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When our two grandsons were seven and three years old, they would often race the thirty yards or so from their house to ours. The 7-year-old was faster and taller and would arrive first. He could also manage the mechanics of the storm door handle with ease. The 3-year-old was always about five seconds behind, arriving just as the door snapped shut. He could not reach or maneuver that door handle. Then the younger grandson ingeniously solved the problem. He placed a small step stool beside the door. He steps up on the stool, pushes the button to release the latch, and then — in one deft, well-coordinated movement — holds the door open, kicks the step stool out of the way, and makes his entry. He gets in without any help.

People at Christmas are looking for something of depth and wonder in their life journey. Thus we need to pay attention to our Christmas Eve worship with great care. We need to make entry easy and thoroughly welcoming.

Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to enter your church is able to solve the “open door” problem. A few guests will figure out how to get into your church this Christmas season, but not all who want to will do so. Many people marginal to church life want to be in a church on Christmas Eve. Something about the mystery and drama of the Christmas Story draws them toward a hoped-for encounter with God in this sacred season. People at Christmas are looking for something of depth and wonder in their life journey. Thus we need to pay attention to our Christmas Eve worship with great care. We need to make entry easy and thoroughly welcoming.

Provide worship at early hours on Christmas Eve. The 11 p.m. service is good for the longtime members but not for many others. For many people, services at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., or even 9 p.m. are preferred. Even a 3 p.m. shorter service for households with younger children can meet a need. Spend extra time on publicity, exterior signage, local newspaper and radio ads, and give members attractive cards to use in inviting others. The church facility needs to be especially clean and attractive — inside and out. Recruit volunteer parking lot attendants to be in place. Greeters and ushers need to be reminded that some arriving worshippers are coming to church — or back to church — for the first time in a long time. Write the worship guide with care, reviewing everything from the perspective of the person unfamiliar with the language and practices of your congregation or even Christian worship. And the message needs to reflect God’s presence filled with mystery, awe, and conviction in an uncertain time.

Christmas Eve is only two months away. If plans are not already in place, get a small planning team together and prayerfully brainstorm what might make your Christmas Eve worship this year especially inviting and welcoming. Look at those hours through the eyes of a spiritually hungry soul. Then announce and publicize your Christmas Eve service(s) without apology or hesitation. This is the season when many souls are hungry for a word, a hymn, an anthem, or a litany that comes from God.

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About Author

Brian Bauknight is senior minister emeritus of Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, and coordinator of leadership development for the Western Pennsylvania Conference.


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