Hanging of the Greens
A TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
Scriptures, Carols, Symbols
Selected Christmas Music (Band, orchestra, choir, ensembles, or recorded music)
PURPOSE EXPRESSED IN SONG
O Come All Ye Faithful; Joy to the World
THE CHRISTMAS STORY
IN SCRIPTURE AND SONG
Scripture: The Announcement by the Angels, Matthew 1:18-25
Carol: O Little Town of Bethlehem; Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Scripture: The Birth of Christ, Luke 2:1-7
Carol: O Holy Night; Emmanuel; Silent Night; Mary, did you know?
Scripture: The Shepherds, Luke 2:8-20
Carol: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Scripture: The Wise Men, Matthew 2:1-12
Carol: We Three Kings
Scripture: The Dedication, Luke 2:22-30
Carol: Good Christian Men, Rejoice!
Scripture: The Good News, Romans 10:14-17
Carol: Go Tell It on the Mountain; Come to the Manger; His Name is Wonderful
THE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
IN CUSTOMS AND CAROLS
The Christmas Wreath
Reader: The green color of the holly wreath is lovely but when you try to handle it to put it into an arrangement you find that lovely holly leaves are also very sharp and sometimes painful. The prickly leaves remind us of the Crown of Thorns which were placed upon Jesus’ head before His crucifixion. The red berries represent drops of blood pressed from His brow. As Christmas approaches you may know someone for whom the holidays will be painful—Jesus came to share that pain. In wearing the crown of thorns, He died on the cross to turn our sorrows into joy.
Carol: Master, Redeemer, Savior of the World; The Old Rugged Cross
The Christmas Angels
Reader: Angels, angels everywhere! An angel announced the conception to Mary and then related the event to Joseph. An angel announced the birth of Jesus from the heavens surrounded by an army of other angels. An angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to flee the murderous King Herod. An angel ministered to Jesus after His temptation. An angel was at the tomb after the resurrection telling the women, “He is not here; He is risen.” And the Apostle Paul tells us to not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
Carol: Angels from the Realms of Glory; Angels We Have Heard on High
The Christmas Tree
Reader: Modern Christmas trees originated during the Renaissance of early modern Germany. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther, who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree. We use them as Christmas decorations to symbolize our Savior’s undying love for us. If we give them proper light and water, their leaves remain a healthy green—a sign of life. The Word of God describes God’s people as being like trees planted by the River with leaves that do not wither. As we look at our Christian brothers and sisters, we see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives—fruit that grows as a result of being planted by the River of Life. When we look at the Christmas tree this year, let’s remember the faithfulness of God to give us life everlasting.
Carol: O Christmas Tree
The Christmas Lights
Reader: The lights of Christmas represent Christ as the Light of the World. This life gives light to all mankind. His life is the Light that shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never put it out. The real Christmas experience for everyone is the turning on of the light within our heart. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Before we continue with Christmas preparations, let us ask ourselves whether the real Christmas Light has come to us; and if not, let us invite Christ into our hearts right now. (Turn tree lights on.)
Carols: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear; Jesus, the Light of the World
The Christmas Star
Reader: Through the dark of night, after centuries of anticipation, a unique star appeared in the sky and was seen by some highly educated men who rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. They believed it announced the birth of the coming king about whom they had studied. Although their journey was long, the star led the wise men to the house where they found the newborn King. The Bible is our star—it leads us straight to Jesus Christ. We must study it, meditate upon it, and follow it for direction in our lives and it will lead us to the King of kings!
Carol: Star of the East
The Christmas Tree Ornaments
Reader: One way to get the attention of those around us and direct them to the Word of God and to the faithfulness of God is for them to see the gifts of the Spirit at work in our lives: Symbolic of these gifts, we place ornaments on the Christmas tree.
Carols: O Come all ye Faithful
The Christmas Poinsettias
Reader: In many countries around the world, the treasured poinsettia has become one of the traditional Christmas flowers. It blossoms in beauty and nearly sings as it unfolds. Most flowers seem to share happiness, but the red of the poinsettia at Christmas time seems to shout JOY. We can only have true joy if we have the source of joy planted in our heart—His Name is Jesus. (If desired, include the legend and history of the Poinsettia. See below.)
Carol: All Hail King Jesus
The Yule (Christmas) Log
Reader: Throughout the Bible fire has served as a symbol of the presence of God: the flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden; the burning bush from which the Lord called Moses; the pillar of fire with which God led his people out of Egypt; the tongues of fire on believers on the day of Pentecost. Fire has always served God’s people as a reminder that we have God with us. To the Scandinavians Yule actually means “Christmas,” so we call this our Christmas log for it will burn to demonstrate the warmth of the soul who has accepted Christ into His heart.
Carol: Deck the Halls, v. 2: See the Blazing Yule Before Us…
The Christmas Cards
Reader: Christmas 1843 was an historic time in London. Sir Henry Cole was having an artist friend design a Christmas greeting to send to his friends. This came to be known as the first Christmas card. It was printed in black and white and colored in by hand. After about thirty years, Christmas cards came to be popular. They were first introduced to the United States just a little over one hundred years ago. This year as we address our Christmas cards, let’s pray over each one of them that they will bear witness of Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate on this day. Pray that ours won’t be just another card, but a card with a special message that will encourage, inspire, or even change the life of the person who receives it.
Carol: The First Noel
The Christmas Bells
Reader: Christmas Bells ring out joy and celebration. The Bible says that on the bells around the horses will be written, Holiness unto the Lord. Bells were also placed on the hem of the priest’s garment so he wouldn’t die going in and out of the Holy of Holies. This Christmas, every time we hear a bell ring, let’s remember that Jesus came to bring holiness into our lives—to set us apart as His children; and to save us from death—eternal separation from God. May our testimony be like a bell that rings out to call others to Jesus! (See Exodus 39:24-26; Exodus 28:35)
Carol: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day; Come on Ring those Bells
The Christmas Candles
Reader: People around the world place lights in the window at Christmas time and there are many touching stories about how a candle in the window has welcomed a wayward child back home. The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly. (Proverbs 20:27) God uses our spirit to be searchlight to expose our need for His gift of forgiveness. Once this gift becomes a part of our lives, every day is Christmas because every day Jesus is born in the hearts of people who see our light. Let’s continually allow the light of Christ to glow out through us.
Carol: Away in a Manger; What Child is This?
THE CHRISTMAS BLESSING
IN GIVING AND RECEIVING
The Christmas Gifts
Reader: Gift-giving is first found in Genesis and then throughout the Old Testament. Men gave gifts to God from their fields and their flocks. Men gave jewelry of all kinds to the one they wished to marry. When the Queen of Sheba came to visit King Solomon, she brought him large quantities of gold, spices, and precious stones; in return he gave her whatever she desired. However, the greatest gift ever given was when God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, as the supreme sacrifice for our sins. The wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh—somewhat like shower gifts today—to help the young family get established and have what they needed to raise the Christ Child. When Jesus ascended back to heaven after His resurrection, He gave gifts to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Then God sent us His Holy Spirit who comes laden with gifts for everyone. Gift giving continues to be a custom in many countries—especially during the Christmas season. All kinds of gifts are given from the most elaborate and expensive to the very simple but equally meaningful. As we give gifts to others, let us remember that the greatest gift is love.
Carols: The Gift Goes On; What Child is This? Mary’s Boy Child; Sweet Little Jesus Boy
Invitation to the Wassail Table
King Henry VII introduced the Wassail Bowl during the late 1400’s. It contains a mixture of hot spices and toasted apples. The word itself means “Be thou Well”. Often the Wassail Bowl is served with mince meat pies which were made in oblong shape to represent the manger. The spices were used to signify the frankincense and myrrh brought by the Wise Men. A golden candle on either side of the manger represented the gift of gold. As you come to the Wassail Table and share with each other remember Christ came to the world on Christmas Day that you might be well in spirit, soul, and body.
Song: Here We Come A-Wassailing
Fellowship around the Wassail Bowl
1 gal. fresh apple cider
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 6-oz can frozen lemon concentrate, thawed
1 6-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 T whole cloves
1 T whole allspice
1 t. nutmeg
In large kettle combine cider, sugar, lemonade, orange juice. In piece of cheesecloth tie together cloves, allspice, nutmeg and place in kettle with mixture. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Remove cheesecloth bag of spices. Place in bowl, decorate with cinnamon sticks and thin lemon slices. Serve warm. Makes about 16 servings.
MINCE MEAT PIES
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
4 apples peeled & sliced thin
½ cup bread flour
2 28-oz jars mince meat
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 T ground cinnamon
4 T unsalted butter
½ cup chopped pecans
equivalent of 2, 9” pie shells—either homemade or frozen
To make manger pies, cut pie crusts into oblong pieces and place in cornbread-type baking pans.
Combine sugar and cinnamon, butter and ½ the flour until crumbly.
Add pecans. Set aside.
Toss apples with remaining flour and arrange in pie shell.
Top with mincemeat.
Sprinkle crumble mixture over mincemeat.
Bake 10 minutes at 425; reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Recipe makes about 16 mini pies in shape of a manger.
*You may copy, rearrange, and edit any or all of this celebration for use in your family, church, or small group. For permission to reprint this Celebration for publication, please contact the author by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In order to encourage wide participation, it is suggested that you have different individuals read the various parts. Each reader should have a prop to illustrate the topic.
Suggestions for carols or songs are given for each category although many other titles are equally appropriate. You might want to sing only one verse of each song, (or only one song), to limit the time of the celebration. Consider having some of the songs sung by children’s choirs, solos, etc.
Total time for this program – 60-90 minutes depending on how many songs are sung.
© C. Yvonne Karl, East of Bethlehem, Chapter 16. Brentwood Press, 2004. Adapted, 2018. UBP.
Legend of the Poinsettia
A charming legend is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As she walked slowly to the chapel, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back the tears as she entered the small village chapel and slowly knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.
From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season. That night, the legend of the poinsettia was born. (There are variations of this legend, but all have the same ending.)
History of the Poinsettia
Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was appointed as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829) by President Madison. (Mr. Poinsett later founded the institution that we know today as the Smithsonian Institution). While visiting Mexico in 1828, he became enchanted by the brilliant red blooms he saw there and immediately sent some of the plants back to his plantations in South Carolina. They were grown in his hot houses there, and he began sending them to friends and other botanical gardens.
Around 1836, the name poinsettia was given to the plant honoring the man who first brought it to the United States. After his death in 1851, Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day. Since that time, the poinsettia has been known as the Christmas flower, now available in red, pink, and white.
*You can find this information on various internet sites.