Carols, Candlelight, and Tableau

Inspired by the Children and Worship story approach, the Rev. Douglas Fromm developed the tableau of the nativity to tell the story of Jesus' birth at the early Christmas Eve carol and candlelight service in his church. The style of the readings and the wondering questions are similar to the Children and Worship stories, except that in the tableau, people rather than wooden figures help to tell the story.

A tableau is a dramatic scene in which the players are both silent and motionless. The players move into a pose and then stay in that position during the reading. Candlelight or other lighting can be used to direct the focus to a particular scene.

For this tableau you'll need the following players in addition to the reader/storyteller, choir, and six candlelighters: prophet, Mary, angel Gabriel, Joseph, and shepherds. Props include a manger and four (4) candelabra, one placed to the left and one to the right of the communion table to form a triangle and two placed near the manger.

A SERVICE OF CAROLS AND CANDLELIGHT
AND THE TABLEAU OF THE NATIVITY
FOR CHRISTMAS EVE

THE VOLUNTARIES

Sinfonia from "The Messiah"

Handel

(During the organ voluntary, the sanctuary will be in semidarkness.)

THE CHORAL CALL TO WORSHIP

"Silent Night"

Laubengayer

*THE CAROL IN PROCESSION

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

Mendelssohn

(The choir, readers, and clergy will process and take their places in the chancel.)

*THE SENTENCES FOR CHRISTMAS EVE

*THE COLLECT (people uniting)

God of light and truth,
You are beyond our grasp or conceiving,
Before the brightness of your presence
the angels veil their faces.
With lowly reverence and adoring love,
We acclaim your glory and sing your praise.For you have shown us your truth and love
in Christ Jesus, our Lord,
Whose birth we remember and celebrate this holy night.

*THE GLORIA

"Angels We Have Heard on High"

French Carol

(Sung by the choir and congregation.)

Come to Bethlehem and see
him whose birth the angels sing;
come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

THE CHRISTMAS PRAYERS

*THE CAROL

"Infant Holy, Infant Lowly"

Polish Carol

OFFERTORY SENTENCES

ANTHEM AT THE OFFERTORY

"O Holy Night"

White

*PRESENTATION OF THE OFFERINGS OF THE PEOPLE (All stand and sing.) Engelberg

Let all the world, to God, sing praise this night!
All give to God, the glory that is right;
For now we know the holy gift of light.
Alleluia!

The promise kept as prophets did proclaim,
The word in flesh, Christ Jesus, is the name;
And we are one, our certain hope the same.
Alleluia!

Then let all here come to this festive time;
With joyful adoration to our Lord!
And hear the Holy Story most sublime.
Alleluia!

--written by Douglas Fromm

TIME OF GIFTS FOR THE CHILDREN

(At this time the minister will come to the center of the chancel and invite all the children of the congregation to come forward to receive a gift.)

*CAROL

"Joy to the World"

Antioch

THE TABLEAU OF THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST

A READING

Once in a time, a long time ago, God determined to
show LOVE to the world, in a way never before shown.
The showing of God's Love is called CHRISTMAS!

It is a wonderful story!
It is a mystery which unfolds before our eyes!
Tonight we hear it told again, for us, here,
in this place said to be Holy,
because we are here and God is here, with us,
as together we go to Bethlehem.

THE CAROL

"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

St. Louis

During the singing the candle lighters will process down the center aisle and take their places in the chancel by the candlestands.)

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

A READING

The story begins with the prophets.
Prophets listen to God and are messengers for God.
A long time ago, ISAIAH was a prophet who listened
and spoke the word of God.
This is what ISAIAH said: listen. . .

THE PEOPLE WHO WALKED IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT;
THOSE WHO DWELT IN A LAND OF DEEP DARKNESS, ON THEM
HAS LIGHT SHINED...FOR TO US A CHILD IS BORN...

The prophets said that the Christ of God would be born to a young woman.
His name would mean, GOD WITH US!
And that all would take place in a little town called Bethlehem.

THE CAROL

"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Forest Green

(During the singing of this carol, the prophet processes down the center aisle, carrying the Christ candle. He goes up into the chancel and places the Christ candle on the communion table or in the Advent wreath. He then moves back down the steps to his left and stands off to the side.)

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

REFLECTION

I wonder how the prophets listened to God?
I wonder how they knew it was God who spoke?
I wonder if there are still prophets today who can show us the way to Bethlehem?
I wonder what the way to Bethlehem is like?

A READING

God uses other messengers too: they are called ANGELS.
There was an angel, a messenger from God, called Gabriel.
He carried a most important message...from God...
to a young woman whose name was...Mary.

Gabriel told Mary that she was very special to God.
She was the woman who would give birth to a child.
One day he would be called THE CHRIST OF GOD.

ANTHEM

"David's Little Town"

Steele

(During this anthem, Mary proceeds down the center aisle. She moves up the chancel steps and kneels facing the communion table. After she is in place, Gabriel enters and blesses Mary. They both leave down the center aisle with Gabriel going first.)

(While Mary and Gabriel are moving into place, the two candle lighters nearest the communion table light the candles in the candelabra from the outside to the center.)

REFLECTION

I wonder how angels listen to God?
I wonder if there are still angels who are messengers from God?
I wonder where they are today, and what messages they have for us?

A READING

Mary, and Joseph, to whom she was engaged, are on their way to Bethlehem.
They hold a great secret in their hearts.

It is the secret of the angel, the one who came to Mary and said:
DO NOT BE AFRAID MARY! BE JOYFUL!
YOU WILL HAVE GOD'S SPECIAL SON.
YOU WILL NAME HIM JESUS.

That night, a long, long night ago, they were
given shelter in an old barn.
It was filled with the warmth of the animals and
the smell of cattle feed and straw.

It was there that Jesus was born.

THE CAROL

"Away in a Manger"

Meuller

(During the singing of this carol, Mary and Joseph proceed down the center aisle and take their place in the chancel.)  

(While Mary and Joseph are moving into place, the two candle lighters nearest the manger light the candles in the candelabra, from the outside to the center.)

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes,
but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
and stay by my side until morning is nigh.

REFLECTION

I wonder how Mary felt when an angel spoke to her?
I wonder how Joseph felt?
I wonder what it would be like to have God's special child, Jesus?
I wonder if they realized how special this night would be?

A READING

There are shepherds in this story.

That long ago night, they were just doing what
shepherds do...KEEPING WATCH OVER THEIR SHEEP,
PROTECTING AND CARING FOR THEM.

The shepherds have good news to tell.

Another angel, another messenger from God, came to them,
out there, in the fields
and said: DO NOT BE AFRAID! BE JOYFUL!

TODAY, A SAVIOR, GOD'S SPECIAL CHILD, IS BORN IN BETHLEHEM.
YOU WILL FIND HIM LYING IN A MANGER, IN A CATTLE FEEDBOX,
ALL TUCKED IN WITH CLOTHS TO KEEP HIM WARM AND SAFE.

THE CAROL

"What Child is This?"

Greensleeves

(During the singing of this carol the shepherds make their way toward the chancel and take their places near the manger.)

What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
on Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?

Refrain:
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the Son of Mary!

Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
the silent word is pleading. (Refrain)

REFLECTION

I wonder what the shepherds felt when an angel spoke to them?
I wonder how they felt on the way to Bethlehem?

A READING

Tonight we come to the manger's side, offering our
gifts; our time; our service, even our very lives.
But the promise of Christmas has never been the gifts
we bring, even the gifts we give to God.

The promise of Christmas is God's gift to us;
The gift of HOPE AND JOY, PEACE AND LOVE,
JUSTICE AND MERCY.

When the child grew up and became all that God
intended him to be, he said:

I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD,
WHOEVER FOLLOWS ME WILL NOT WALK IN DARKNESS,
BUT WILL HAVE THE LIGHT OF LIFE.

THE CAROL

"Silent Night"

Stille Nacht

(At this point, the organ begins the introduction to the carol. As the organ begins, the two candle lighters at the top of the chancel steps, proceed to the center aisle and begin lighting the candles of the congregation.)

(The candlelighter next to the choir, lights the candles of the nearest choir member.)

(After lighting the candles, the candlelighters return to their places.)

Silent night! holy night! All is calm, all is bright,
round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! holy night! Son of God, love's pure light
radiant beams from thy holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Silent night! holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our king;
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.

A READING

God's glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
under the rafter of a barn;
Eternal peace is sleeping in the hay.
And wisdom's born in secret
in a straw roofed stable.

--written by Howard Thurman

*THE CAROL IN PROCESSION

"O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Adeste Fideles

(On the second stanza, the tableau characters will quietly leave the chancel and proceed down the center aisle.)

(The choir will process on the last stanza.)

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!
Come and behold him, born the King of angels:

Refrain:
O come, let us adore him;
O come, let us adore him;
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the virgin's womb;
Very God, begotten, not created. (Refrain)

Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above:
"Glory to God, in the highest!" (Refrain)

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born that happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be all glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing: (Refrain)

*THE BENEDICTION

THE ORGAN VOLUNTARY

"Toccata from Symphony No. 5"

Widor

*All who are able please stand.

Thank you to Douglas Fromm for making this service available for the website.