29 December 2013

A crib service

[please bear with me as I come to grips with a new photo editor!] 

Today our congregation held a Christmas carol service. It was broadly inspired by the traditional Anglican service of lessons and carols, but having had an Advent lessons and carols service already earlier in December, Vandriver designed this one around the Christmas story itself. And I, thinking of Berryman's "Children's Liturgy for Christmas Eve" (and of English "crib" services), asked for a table at the back of the chapel to be set up with a purple underlay on it.

Earlier in the week, and again before the service, I explained to children my plan to carry Holy Family figures from "the Advent table" to the altar during our congregational carols. I said they'd be welcome to help me if they wanted.

At first nobody wanted to help. This was something entirely new to them, so I was prepared for the possibility that they might find the idea overwhelming. During our opening hymn I myself brought a sheep and the cow / ox to the altar. 

But during the second carol, after the reading of the Annunciation to Joseph, I was joined, not for the procession down the aisle but at the altar, by the oldest child present (aged 7). Together we placed Mary and Joseph on the altar.

After the reading of Mary's visit to Elizabeth I carried the donkey to the altar, and after the reading of the birth of Jesus, the same child and I brought forward the manger and infant Christ. Next I brought the second sheep and the shepherd. After the reading about the presentation of Jesus in the temple, "seethroughfaith" and I carried the Baptismal dove (in this case representing one of two doves presented as a sacrifice) and a candle (a light to lighten the Gentiles) up to the altar. 

Then it was time for the Christmas Gospel - John 1:1-14. Following this, the child was ready to carry up the figure of the Risen Christ, unbound by time or space. 

We did not have a reading about the magi, since they will arrive "late" (as Berryman has it), which is to say next week. But still, during the closing music, the child and I fetched the magi figures, the last standing on the Advent table. As we walked forward I offered one to another child, who had up until now gently declined any offers to participate. 

This time, it was accepted. 

On the other hand, the child below (aged only 4) continued to decline to join in. Which was also fine! We happened to leave church together so I was able to give this child a little hug and say, I don't really mind whether you carry things up to the front with us or not. The important thing to me is that you were here! 

After all, as I said to the child's mother as we walked along, we don't force all adult congregants to read Scripture or lead intercessions. Why should children be required to take public roles in the service? 

And as we approached the crosswalk, that child (the 4-year-old) took my hand.


  1. "And as we approached the crosswalk, that child (the 4-year-old) took my hand." The children know who is a haven of safety and love, don't they?

    Such a sweet story!

  2. nice ending

    (hope you can find a different way to blur the children's faces as you get to grips with new photo editor. I sent you some pics by email btw)


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