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This is an order of service. It is not a program. The word program suggests too much of theater and concert associations; it always savors of entertainment; and this Children’s Service is not for entertainment. It is an order of service for divine worship, as every church service should be.

It is a liturgical service, in distinction from the catechetical service form, which is still too much in evidence in the church. The place for catechetics is not the church but the school. The catechetical service form will always partake of the nature of an examination, and center the hearer’s attention on the child and child’s knowledge, thus thwarting the spirit of true devotion; for in the house of worship the attention of the hearer should be addressed solely to the Word, or what the word stands for: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All oratory, elocution, vestment, music, architecture, painting, that offends against this fundamental principle of all true art and beauty (let alone Christian art), if anywhere else, surely has no place in the sanctuary.

In regard to the traditional form of worship, which is part of the heritage too, of Luther’s Conservative Reformation, it may be briefly said that it is composed of the two elements of sacrament and sacrifice. The sacramental acts are those which proclaim and bestow the Gospel gifts of grace, to wit: the Absolution, the Scripture Lessons, the Sermon, the Benediction, Baptism, and the Communion, which naturally are administered by the minister. The sacrificial parts are the prayers, confession, responses, and hymns of the congregation, which it renders in response to the preaching and administering of God’s grace and of the forgiveness of sins.

For the congregation’s opening and closing service, in the following, we have not observed the traditional Vesper Service order, because the celebration of Christmas Eve in our day has taken on the importance of a main service; the children’s part may be considered as replacing the sermon of the main service, a “preaching out of the mouth of babes.” Our printed form leaves it entirely to the imagination of the local organizers of the service, in which way to assign the various parts; it is only the leader whom we would caution to remember that he is not directing a program but reading a service, and that his every action should be in keeping with this thought. The texts to be read by the leader are indicated by capitalized first words: the children, of course should recite from memory. Fuller notes on the Service may be found in Faith-Life, Vol. II, No. 15, under the heading “Unsre Weinachtsliturgie” (Our Christmas Celebration). As will readily be seen, our Service can be used with any number of children, in a congregation with no children of speaking age at all, and in the family circle.

May the “Faith-Life Children’s Christmas Service” make for greater dignity in the observance of Christmas Eve and serve the spirit of the Introit: O thou wondrous hour of blessing, when, with heart and voice professing and our gratitude confessing, we the Christ Mass celebrate.

Karl Koehler

 

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