The Cross in the Christmas Tree

All carols unannounced

*Congregation standing


"O Little Town of Bethlehem" Manz
"Sinfonia" (Christmas Oratorio) J. S. Bach
"In Dulci Jubilo" Dupre

Choral Invitation and Processional:

"O Come, Little Children" Schultz
"Once in Royal David's City"
(The congregation shall rise and join on stanzas 5 and 6.)


I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.
Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth,
for I am God, and there is no other.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.
But when the time had fully come, God sent his
Son, born of a woman, born under law, to
redeem those under law, that we might receive
the full rights of sons and daughters.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.

*Hymn: "Beautiful Savior"


"Christmas News"
"Glory to God in the Highest"
"Rock-a-by Jesus"
Poem: "A Baby Jesus"

*Hymn: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus"

Offertory Prayer

Offertory: "When Lights Are Lit on Christmas Eve" Held

Grades 1-6: "Light One Candle" Sleeth
(Children take their places on the platform and remain there.)

Choir: "The Star Carol" Burt
(The sanctuary lights are dimmed.)

The Meaning of the Christmas Tree— Grade 6

(Some sections are spoken by individuals, others by the group.)

The Christmas tree means many things
to people everywhere;
to some it means a festive time,
to some a Christmas prayer.

It is our wish on this blest night
to tell you people here
the purpose of the Christmas tree,
and why it brings good cheer.

As we behold the Christmas tree,
we think of many things—
of toys—and games—and Christmas treats,
and all the joys they bring.

These lights should tell us more than this
as we their radiance view;
they tell us of the coming Lord,
which men of old foreknew.

Through God's own inspiration
Isaiah did foretell:
"A virgin shall bring forth a Son,
his name—Immanuel."

Hymn: "O Come, O Come, Immanuel"

The Prophets Tell of God's Salvation— Grade 5

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a
son, and will call him Immanuel."

Isaiah told his people more
about this virgin's Son:
he shall be called the "Prince of Peace,"
for he's the Mighty One.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

It was the prophet Micah
who told where he'd be born—
in Bethlehem of Ephrathah
so early in the morn.
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are
small among the clans of Judah, out of you will
come for me one who will be ruler over Israel."

These lights upon the Christmas tree
should speak to everyone
the prophecies of men of old
as they foretold God's Son.


"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Jesus is Born—Grade 4

Another group of lights, reminds us one and all, how God gave his own Son, born in a lowly stall.

The listing of the people, the trip to David's town, the inn so overcrowded; a stable then was found.

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

The Announcement of Jesus' Birth— Grade 3

We place more lights upon our tree,
but they are all in vain
unless the Savior's birth we see
in every shining strain.

Attending Jesus' wondrous birth
were miracles divine;
the shepherds in the fields did quake
as angel voices chimed.

"And there were shepherds nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night."

Hymn: "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night"

A Sign is Given—Grade 3

As we add still more gleaming lights
to our large Christmas tree,
the message of the Savior's birth
the eyes of all must see.

" This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying:

" 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.' "

Hymn: "Angels We Have Heard on High"

Grades 1-6: "The Birthday of a King" Neidlenger
"You Are the King of Glory" Ford

The Shepherds See God's Salvation— Grades 1 & 2

"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child."

Hymn: 'That Boy-Child of Mary"—Grades 1 & 2

The Kings Follow the Star—Grades 5 & 6

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.'

"When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

" 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written:

" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'

"Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'

"After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped overthe place where the child was.

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."

Hymn: "As with Gladness Men of Old"

Grades 1-6: "Born Today" Eilers

Christmas Wishes—Grades 1-4
The message of the Savior's birth
To you we did repeat;
The lights upon our tree are lit,
Our program is complete.

A parting hymn we'll sing for you,
In closing prayer we'll bow;
And as you leave we bid to you,
A Merry Christmas now.

The Reason for His Coming—Junior High

I beg your pardon, please—
We cannot leave this evening,
for there are some of us
who'd spend our Christmas grieving.
We told of Jesus' birth
and praised his holy name,
but one thing we forgot—
The reason why he came.

Look at the lights again
upon our Christmas tree.
There's something hidden there,
its form you cannot see.
It's been there all the time,
not visible to you;
the other lights upon the tree
have hidden it from view.

Choir: "What Is This I See?" Johnson

The lights upon this tree
are like our cares external,
that rob each Christmastide
from things that are eternal.
Our Christmases would be
much more beautiful
if we could only see
the Gift that's spiritual!

The decorating of the tree
with lights and tinsel bright,
greeting cards and gifts to buy
before that Christmas night;
cooking, baking, planning meals
for friends and relatives—
these are the cares that hide the Lord;
we hardly know he lives!

These things that occupy our hearts
are all important, too,
but like the lights upon the tree
they hide our Lord from view.
Look! And behold what we forgot
and to you have denied:
the reason why our Lord was born
was to be crucified!

Look well upon this lighted cross
and fix it in your mind,
that in the midst of Christmas joys
the cross of Christ you find.
For all our celebration
at Christmastime this year,
unless it centers in the cross,
will give no lasting cheer!

Solo: "I Wonder As I Wander" Appalachian
folksong, adapted by John Jacob Niles

A Crossless Christmas Means Nothing— Grades 3-6

When the cross by itself
is lit on the tree,
its form and its beauty are easy to see.

But when all the lights around it are on,
its beauty is lost—its image is gone.

This tree is your heart on this holy night;
the lights are the joys that make our hearts bright.
There should from this service a lesson remain:
without Jesus' cross our Christmas is vain!

Now join us in song
as our voices we raise;
to him we belong,
to him we give praise.

Hymn: "The First Noel the Angel Did Say"

Christmas Prayer

God, you have gladdened us this night by fulfilling your promise of redemption. For this we have come to offer our thanks. We confess that too often we have let our own thoughts and plans become so important that we have not given time or attention to your will. For this we beg your forgiveness. Sweep out of our hearts, we pray, all selfishness, anxiety, and concern for earthly pleasure so that we may joyfully make room to receive your only begotten Son as our Savior.

Help us to understand more fully how great, how unending is your love for us. Send your Holy Spirit to help us demonstrate your love in our lives so that those around us may learn to know you and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Bless us as we receive him into our hearts and homes. Bless us as we look ahead with hope to the day when he will come to us in glory. Amen.

Grades 1-6: "Be Near Me, Lord Jesus" Kirkpatrick

Benediction—Grades 1-8

(Sanctuary lights are brought back up)
We have seen God's salvation. Let us leave in peace.

Go now to your house and honor his birth.
May the cross of our Lord be the cause for your mirth.
May Jesus, the Savior, who fills us with light, grant a Christ-blessed Christmas to you on this

Quiet Recessional

The congregation is invited to join the choir in singing carols. Please remain seated at the close of the service until your row is released by the candle-bearers.

Notes on the Service

Acknowledgments. "The Cross in the Christmas Tree" was adapted from a children's Christmas service of the same title by Rev. Richard P. Musser, published by Concordia in 1967. That publication is now out of print. All readings (non-Scripture) are reprinted from "The Cross in the Christmas Tree," © 1967 Concordia Publishing House, and used by permission of Concordia. This service may be reprinted for church or school use.

"The Kings Follow the Star" was added by Charlotte Larsen.

The litany was written by Rev. William De Vries, pastor of First Christian Reformed Church, Detroit, Michigan.

Environment. For the candlelight service the Ann Arbor CRC lowers the lights and places a glowing candle in each window. A large, unlighted 20' tree is front right, the manger front center, and the pulpit and Advent wreath front left.

The tree should be prepared carefully before the service as follows: A double-framed cross, formed from stiff wire (coat-hanger wire is ideal) is placed into the front part of the tree. The cross should be proportioned to the tree (about 8' by 4' for a 20' tree).

Decorate the tree with five sets of lights, each on a separate switch so that it is possible to control one set ata time as directed in the service. One set of lights should be arranged on the cross with electrical tape. Someone in the congregation with some knowledge of electrical circuits can be enlisted to build a simple control box.

The lights on the first four strands should be of a variety of colors; the lights on the cross strand, one color. Lights should be turned on at the specified points in the program.

Prelude. The prelude is longer than usual and provides an opportunity for participation by high school and college students. Ann Arbor CRC has used flute, oboe, harp, violin, marimba, piano, and organ in past years. The music is quiet and reflective and provides opportunity for prayer.

Processional. As soloist and choir sing "O Come, Little Children, O Come, One and All," candle-bearers process up the center and side aisles to take their positions. When they are in place, the Sunday school children and staff slowly enter, led by additional candle-bearers, and take their seats in the front part of the sanctuary. The processional concludes with the hymn "Once in Royal David's City."

Drama. Young people who will act out the nativity story during the narration should enter with the processional. A church may decide on many roles (e.g., numerous shepherds, angels, wise men) or few roles (e.g., only Mary and Joseph)—depending on time and number of students available.

At Ann Arbor CRC the seventh and eighth graders serve as actors. Clothed in simple costumes made from sheets, robes, and shawls, the actors should remain seated until their part of the drama. This part of the service may require several rehearsals to ensure a smooth performance. Students should pantomime their character's actions as the younger children read the narration.

Charlotte Larsen is music director of Ann Arbor (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church.


Reformed Worship 9 © September 1988, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.