Worship Order for Sunday

Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Long Green & Kanes Rds., near Glen Arm, Md.
Worship 7:00pm

Celebrating Christmas Around the World
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2006

  Prelude / Lighting the Christ Candle


  A Time of Preparation

  Traditions in Texas

  Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38 - The Angel Gabriel visits Mary
           In Spanish                             (Israel)
           Translation in English            (Russell)

  Bell Ringers                 "Angels we have heard on high"

  Scripture Reading: Luke 1:39-56 - Mary Visits Elizabeth, Mary’s song
                                                    (Kyle Ann)

  Traditions in Africa

  Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-7 - Joseph & Mary go to the stable
                                                      (Mike K.)

  Traditions in Italy

  Hymn:                                  "Away in a manger"                                  194

  Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-20 - Shepherds Visit
                                                      (Dave R.)

  Traditions in Britain

  Hymn:                                   "What child is this"                                    215

  Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12 - Magi bring gifts to Jesus

  Traditions in the Philippines

  Hymn:                                   "We Three Kings"


  Traditions in France

  Special Music:                          "O Holy Night"                   Meghan Knight

  Traditions in Germany

  Candlelighting Service

  Hymn:                                "Silent night, holy night"                              193


#'s are from Hymnal: A Worship Book

Worship leaders - see basic guidelines


         O Lord, you are not a distant God who keeps us guessing about your love. No, you come to us in flesh and blood in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ. May our hearts be filled with praise like the shepherds, who could not wait till morning. Stir us to a life of praise and gratitude. Amen.

Ed Poling, pastor and spiritual director
Hagerstown, MD Church of the Brethren
Church of the Brethren Living Word Bulletin
Anchor/Wallace, Sleepy Eye MN 56085, "The Living Word Series"

A Time of Preparation
(Sharon K., who pulled together this service)

         We spend a great deal of time preparing for events in the future. We plan our vacations, our children’s birthday parties, and surprises for our friends. We know that to share fully in an important event, we must plan and prepare for it. Yet somehow, we don’t always act on what we know. We neglect to intentionally set aside time to prepare ourselves spiritually for hearing and receiving the good news of Christmas.

         When people learn the art of parachuting they learn how to pack their own chute as well as how to jump and land without becoming entrapped. Why? Because their life depends on the parachute that is strapped to their back. They take time to make sure that they are properly prepared for the big jump.

         During Advent, one of the greatest gifts that we have is the twenty-four hours that lie just ahead of us. Time is a precious commodity. We can choose to set aside a portion of each day to prepare ourselves for the journey to Bethlehem. We can choose to take time to read the Bible and pray as if our very lives depend upon it, because they do!

         Tonight, we are preparing for an important event—Jesus’ birth. Even as we look ahead with anticipation, we also need to look back, and look around. Our theme tonight is "Celebrating Christmas Around the World " I encourage you to listen with an open heart to how some of our friends celebrate Christmas. Join with us in worship, and wait with bated breath for our Savior’s birth.

Traditions in Texas
(as shared by Nancy Rosas, read by Rebekah)

         Even though it’s part of the United States, spending many of our Christmases in south Texas is like living in another culture! Early on Christmas Eve, the ladies in Israel’s family gather to make about 150 dozen tamales—a cornmeal and meat mixture wrapped in a corn husk that is steamed. This is done in an assembly line fashion while others clean pinto beans. We cook a big pot of them, usually in a big black kettle over an open fire.

         The men are in charge of the meat—which is Bar-B-Que. If you are invited to dinner in Texas, chances are it will be Bar- B-Que, and NOT on a Weber grill! We barbeque over open pits in the ground with mesquite wood or in an oil drum cut in half. The meat is beef, steak, ribs, chicken, or deer. A favorite dessert we eat is a small rich cookie called pan de palvo. It’s so delicious because it’s rolled in sugar and cinnamon.

         Luckily, South Texas is usually warm, and by late afternoon a large crowd gathers. There is a pińata hanging from a tree for the children. They take turns trying to break it to get the candy inside. Afterwards, the children go inside to see Santa Claus dressed in a very old, well-used suit. Santa gives each one an orange and a small bag of candy. The grandparents usually open their gifts at this time, too. One year, Israel dressed as Santa, because the kids didn’t know him.

         There is lots of food and conversation (90% of it in Spanish) all evening. Around 10:00 p.m., families head back to their own homes. We look forward to future trips and the fellowship of all of the relatives as we continue this wonderful tradition. They make us "snow birds" (their term for the Northerners who travel south for the winter) feel very welcome!

Traditions in Africa
(as shared by Eugenia Eze, read by Lydia & Jeannie)

         Christmas is the time when Christians all over the world, including those in Nigeria, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. During the time before Christmas, families and friends gather together in towns and villages. But Christmas Eve is not as big a celebration as it is in America. Customs, like Santa Claus, Christmas trees and gift giving are not really part of the Nigerian Christmas celebration. But, of course, there has been some influence—children are bought new clothes and shoes, but no toys.

         Christmas is not nearly as commercial as it is in America. The emphasis is on the religious aspect of celebrating the birth of Jesus. On Christmas Day, Christians go to church to worship and sing. Afterwards, most people celebrate with dancing, wrestling, parades, drumming, and feasting with friends and family.

         The African boy listened carefully as the teacher explained why people give presents to each other on Christmas Day. "The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship with each other," she said.

         When Christmas Day came, the boy brought the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. "Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?" the teacher exclaimed. The youth named the spot—a bay several miles away. The teacher was touched. "Why. . .why, it’s gorgeous. . . wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me."

         His eyes brightening, the boy answered, "Long walk part of gift."

–Gerald Horton Bath

Traditions in Italy
(read by Chris W.)

         St. Francis of Assisi was born in 1181, the son of a wealthy merchant. Growing up, he had all that he needed and enjoyed many things that only wealth could afford. When he turned 20, Francis became a soldier and he was captured. During his imprisonment, Francis became sick and believed he heard voices. Those voices told him to give up all of his worldly possessions and travel the world to share the word of Christ. Francis obeyed and devoted the rest of his life to helping outcasts and lepers, restoring ruined churches, and preaching about Christ.

         While in Palestine, he visited the birthplace of Christ and was so moved by the experience. His greatest desire was to share the wonder and miracle of Christ’s birth. He wanted new believers to witness the story as it really happened, to show them that Christ came from poor, humble beginnings, just as they did. Francis sent a message to a nobleman of the region and asked him to help arrange a special celebration. He wanted to show how the infant, Jesus, was born in Bethlehem, how cold it was, how poor the shelter was, and how the infant was warmed in a manger by the breath of oxen and donkeys.

         The nobleman loved the plan. He agreed to provide a manger filled with hay and live animals. All of the people from the countryside came, carrying torches and candles. During the service, the friars sang hymns as Francis held a Mass under the stars on Christmas Eve and told the story of Jesus’ birth. As he spoke, villagers arrived and acted out the parts of shepherds, Mary and Joseph. They brought sheep, oxen, and a donkey. The participants must have felt like they had been transported back in time to the original manger scene. Francis gently placed a small wax figure of Jesus into the manger. He was so moved by the beauty of the whole experience that he wept with joy.

         Francis died in 1226 and was declared the patron saint of Italy two years later. His humble re-enactment of Christ’s birth became a tradition that has spread throughout the whole world. In France, it is called a crčche and in Spanish, a nacimiento. Our Savior came to earth as a tiny baby to bring peace, hope, and joy to our world. This wondrous event is cause for celebration, whether it is the year 1200 or 2006.

Traditions in Britain
(read by Judy)

         Caroling is one of Britain’s oldest customs, dating back to the Middle Ages. At Christmastime, beggars would wander the streets singing songs in return for money, food, or drink. Carols were often sung between the acts of plays. Minstrels traveled from castle to castle singing Christmas songs. In Britain, nearly everyone goes a-caroling during the Christmas season. They sing at schools, civic groups, homes, on street corners, and in every church. In London, Christmas music is shared daily in midnight services at Westminster Abbey and at midnight mass at St. Paul’s. The well-known songs include "The Twelve Days of Christmas", "Good King Wenceslas", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In".

         Another well-known hymn from the English is "What Child is This?" It was written as a poem by William Chatterton Dix in 1865, titled "The Manger Throne." The poem gives a unique view of the birth of Christ, as it is written from the point-of-view of a confused observer. Dix imagined how the shepherds felt as they looked upon the tiny infant in the manger. He wrote about the infant’s birth, life, death, and resurrection and declared the infant’s divine nature.

         Dix published "The Manger Throne" in England just as the U.S. Civil War was ending. It quickly grew in popularity as a poem in both the Northern and the Southern states. Though it was used in newspapers and magazines, it wasn’t until it was joined with the fragile, yet haunting melody of "Greensleeves" that it became popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Dix lived long enough to see his "Manger Throne" poem become the well-loved Christmas carol "What Child is This?" Its unique melody lends itself well to guitar and a cappella singing, as well as to grand choirs and orchestras, making it an unforgettable song.

Traditions in the Philippines
(read by Paula)

         The symbol which captures the heart of the Filipino Christmas season is the bamboo parol, or star lantern. The parol has its beginnings in the Mexican pińata. The pińata originated in Italy during the 1300’s and then spread to Spain, Mexico, and the Philippines. The Filipinos changed the pińata so that the inner pot holds a candle instead of sweets. The shape became a five-pointed star to represent the star of Bethlehem. Over the years, the lantern designs have become more elaborate—wire has replaced the wood, lightbulbs replace the candles. Each star has so many lanterns that they often have their own generators and safety boxes. The lantern frame is often lined with gold or silver foil and then wrapped with colorful cellophane which has been crumpled to give just the right effect. Rotors in the lanterns make 1,500 light bulbs blink to the music of brass bands. These labors of love are paraded through the streets during festivals before the Christmas Eve mass. Parols are on display everywhere during the Christmas season to brighten Filipino homes. Their warmth and spirit spread to every corner of the nation, reminding everyone of the star of Bethlehem that guided the magi so long ago.


         Just as the wise men brought gifts to the infant Savior, it’s our turn now to give a portion of what God has given to us. Will you please pray with me?

Gracious God,
         You have given us so much this Advent season. You have given us joy, peace, love, and hope. Now, it is our turn to give you the gifts and resources we have so that all people everywhere may come to know you, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ushers, will you please come forward to receive our offerings?

music - "Mary did you know?"

         note - the special offering this evening will go toward purchasing items for and sending health kits through Church World Service. We assemble these after Sunday School periodically throughout the church year.


Traditions in France
(read by Daniel)

         Nöel is the beautiful French word for Christmas. Meaning the "birthday of Christ," it shows how the French celebrate this day with deep religious devotion. Religious dramas were first performed in France during the Middle Ages. These plays acted-out Christ’s life and were used to teach the Bible to the French people—most of whom could not read or write. The earliest nöels, or Christmas songs, also appeared around this time.

         One of the most famous, and most beloved is "Minuit, Chretiens!" It was written by Placide Cappeau, the mayor of the small town of Roquemare. Cappeau was a wine seller who amused himself by writing poetry. In 1847, the parish priest asked Cappeau to compose a poem for the Christmas mass. He knew that his poem had to be religious, focus on Christmas, and be based in scripture. Cappeau turned to the Gospel of Luke for inspiration. He imagined witnessing the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. These thoughts inspired him to write the poem we now know as "Oh, Holy Night." In France, the song is sung at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve and has become one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever created.

Traditions in Germany
(read by Nicole & Marian)

         Many of our Christmas traditions come from Germany, including Christmas trees, Advent wreaths and calendars, gingerbread houses, the celebration of Epiphany, and Christmas carols. The German carols originated from Latin hymns which proclaimed the birth of Christ. Modern carols, however, are usually more festive than the Latin hymns. For example, Martin Luther wrote "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come" while he was rocking his infant daughter to sleep. He also wrote the well-known song, "O Tannenbaum" or "O Christmas Tree." In 1599, after a plague killed many members of his congregation, Philipp Nicola, a German pastor, wrote another Christmas carol. In the midst of his sorrow, the words to "How Brightly Shines the Morning Star" came to him. Some of the German hymns in our own hymnal are "Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming", and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!". This second song was written by Charles Wesley of England, but it became popular after it was set to music by the German-born composer, Felix Mendelssohn.

         Our final hymn this evening comes from one of Germany’s neighbors, the country of Austria. It began as a poem written by Joseph Mohr, a young pastor in the town of Oberndorf. It was the frigid winter of 1818, and Mohr was finishing his plans for the Christmas Eve service, one that he had been writing for months. As he was preparing the sanctuary, he realized that the organ was broken. No matter what he did—pressing pedals, fiddling with the stops, or crawling behind the console… nothing worked. Mohr prayed and asked God to show him a way to bring music to his congregation on this holy night. Digging through his desk, he found a poem he had written about two years earlier. He took the poem to his good friend, Franz Gruber, and asked him to set it to music. The tune had to be one that the choir could learn easily and one that could be accompanied by a guitar. A few hours later, the completed song was rushed to the waiting choir members. In the little time left before the service, Mohr and Gruber taught the choir members the words and the four part harmony to the last two lines of each verse. Just after midnight, Mohr and Gruber stood in front of the main altar and introduced this simple song to their congregation, never realizing that "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht" would be remembered two hundred years later, and sung around the world.

Candlelighting Service
(Pastor Pete)

         Silent ... Holy ... This night we pass the light from the Christ candle around this sanctuary. Little ones, be very careful, for a flame is not a toy - allow your parents to help you. Big ones and little ones alike, open your eyes and hearts, but be silent, be still as the light is passed from one candle to the next. Listen to the organ, which is not broken here on this evening, as it reminds us of that "little town of Bethlehem" and a "rose e'er blooming." Then be prepared to sing two verses of that song written long ago by Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber, the words to which are on the banners up front. Pass on the light.

(Mike H.)

         We want to hold on to the old customs and traditions because they strengthen our family ties, bind us to our friends, make us one with all mankind for whom the child was born, and bring us back again to the God who gave His only begotten Son, that "whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

So we will not "spend" Christmas. . .nor "observe" Christmas.
We will "keep" Christmas—keep it as it is. . .in all the loveliness of its ancient traditions.
May we keep it in our hearts, that we may be kept in its hope.

–Peter Marshall

(para traducir a espańol, presione la bandera de Espańa)



Christmas in Britain. World Book, 1996 ISBN: 0-7166-0874-x

Christmas in France. World Book, 1996 ISBN: 0-7166-0876-6

Christmas in Italy and Vatican City. World Book, 2006

Christmas in the Philippines. World Book, 1998 ISBN: 0-7166-0853-7

Christmas in Today’s Germany. World Book, 1998 ISBN: 0-7166-0893-6

Christmas is. . .. Honor Books, 2006 ISBN: 6-1250-3866-1

Collins, Ace. Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas. Zondervan, 2001 ISBN: 0-310-23926-5

England: A Portrait of the Country through its Festivals and Traditions. Grolier, 1999

ISBN: 0-7172-9329-7

Germany: A Portrait of the Country through its Festivals and Traditions. Grolier, 2001

Volume ISBN: 0-7172-9109-X

Showalter, Cinda, et al. Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren Advent Booklet. 1993

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