Warning: What follows is an example of shameless self-promotion. The 2009 children’s Christmas service from Northwestern Publishing House (NPH), authored by yours truly, was just released. You can follow this link for further information.
This service, titled “Come, Lord Jesus,” is the last resource produced in conjunction with the 2008 release of Christian Worship: Supplement. I served on the supplement’s introduction committee along with fellow pastors Jon Zabell and Joel Otto. Our committee came up with the idea of a children’s Christmas service centered around several hymns from the supplement as a way to introduce and teach some of the supplement hymns to WELS congregations. The service was put together in a flexible way so that congregations that prefer not to use the supplement hymns will be able to easily adjust the service for their use, but I hope that the inclusion of several hymns from Christian Worship: Supplement will produce some new “favorites” in WELS congregations.
Since the service has the additional feature of modeling new supplement hymns to WELS congregations, I prepared an author’s introduction to the service that explains this aspect of the service. These comments included in the service kit. You can also find these comments from the PDF sample/preview files on NPH’s website (link). As a preview of the service, I’ll reprint those comments here as well:
Christian Worship: Supplement is the new hymnal supplement produced by the WELS Commission on Worship and published by Northwestern Publishing House in 2008. In conjunction with the supplement’s publication, a three-pastor committee was appointed to produce resources and ideas that would help acquaint WELS congregations with the many new hymns and resources available in the supplement. This year’s children’s Christmas service, “Come, Lord Jesus,” is the final resource produced by the introduction committee to help congregations familiarize themselves with Christian Worship: Supplement.
Besides the most important purpose of proclaiming the Christmas gospel in readings and songs, this Christmas service is also intended to acquaint congregations with some of the supplement’s new hymns. All of the children’s songs are taken from the supplement. However, congregations are not bound to only use supplement hymns for the children’s songs. Alternate suggestions for the children’s songs are given, taken from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. Generally, two suggestions are given, and at least one of the alternate song suggestions should be familiar to nearly all congregations. Congregations may also choose other appropriate suggestions, including hymns from Christian Worship: Supplement, which are not proposed here. For example, another Advent hymn from the supplement could substitute for “My Soul in Stillness Waits” (the last song in part one).
In order to sample a wide variety of supplement hymns, the scope of the service covers the Advent, Christmas, and End Time seasons of the church year. The Advent section (part one) focuses on the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Savior. The two Christmas sections (parts two and three) focus on the angel’s announcements to Mary and Joseph, followed by Luke’s birth narrative. The End Time section (part four) focuses on the Second Advent of Christ at the end of time. The inclusion of sections reflecting the First and Second Advents make this service suitable not only for Christmas Eve, but also during the Advent season. A few minor adjustments to the prayers would need to be made if a congregation chooses to use this service prior to Christmas Eve, but the service itself will work well for a midweek Advent service or the Sunday prior to Christmas Eve.
Although the main song suggestions come exclusively from the supplement, those who plan the service in their own settings may want to use fewer supplement suggestions and more traditional hymns. Some congregations have come to expect that the children will sing one or more specific Christmas songs each year (such as “Silent Night”), and there is no reason to supplant those local traditions to expose people to multiple supplement hymns. It may be wise to follow the “less is more” principle, and to have the children sing a few new songs mixed together with standard Christmas hymns.
Conversely, congregations that do not plan to purchase Christian Worship: Supplement should not feel that they will not benefit from using supplement hymns in their service this year. Variety is the spice of life, and many worshippers will find an enjoyable experience with a mixture of traditional Christmas songs and excellent new compositions. All “old” hymns were “new” at some point. Exposure to new hymns provides an opportunity for new songs to be added to our repertoire of Christmas favorites, and, in this service, may spark interest in the supplement as a choir or congregational worship resource.
The goal of using multiple hymns from Christian Worship: Supplement resulted in a service that is slightly longer than the typical children’s Christmas service. For that reason, the fourth part of the service is listed as optional. Congregations that prefer a shorter service, but that want to retain all four sections of the service, may also abbreviate the service by omitting the sections that include Matthew 1:18-25 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and adjusting the narration sections that follow as needed.
The electronic resources that accompany Christian Worship: Supplement offer instrumental music that can enhance the performance of many supplement hymns. Those who plan this service are encouraged to explore the resources on the supplement’s accompaniment edition CD and make use of them in their settings.
There is no substitute for experiencing excellent worship. The author hopes that this service will encourage congregations to experience a number of excellent new hymns and, consequently, encourage congregations toward a standard of excellent, Christ-centered Lutheran worship in their settings.
-Pastor Johnold Strey, author