Planning for Christmas Eve — Re-Working a Traditional Song

It’s been my practice for several years now to hold two services on Christmas Eve–an early one that is more family/kid friendly and a traditional lessons and carols late (at 11 p.m.). The late service is always the easier one to plan, for it really just involves readings and hymn selections. However, designing a service that is more geared toward kids is always tougher, for I want to tell the story of Christmas in language that the average third grader can follow.

In previous settings I have had access to video projection equipment and have used visuals to great effect, but the church I now serve hasn’t progressed to that yet (we’re working on it). We don’t have a drama contingent, and so the challenge becomes sharing a familiar story in a way that connects with the kids.

This year I have enlisted the help of a creative layperson who will join me sitting in the front of the church in easy chairs telling the Christmas story, interspersed with carols and special music. It is, in fact, lessons and carols, but wit the lessons written in kid friendly language and told as stories, not presented as “scripture readings.” We will be inviting the kids to sit up front on the floor around us and inviting questions and comments along the way.

One of the things I struggle with is that most of the carols that our kids know (in a traditional, organ hymn based church) are pretty . . . traditional. For many of them, that isn’t a problem. However some are musically a bit more challenging and in some cases don’t really jibe musically with the air of celebration that we are looking for in the service.

I find that especially true with the hymn “My Soul Gives Glory To My God,” (words by Miriam Therese Winter). Lyrically it is a wonderful adaptation of the Magnificat, which I want to include as part of Mary’s story. However musically (and yes this is a matter of personal taste) it’s in a minor key and while pretty, doesn’t seem to capture the audacity and energy that would be coming from a teenager singing about God’s blessing upon her and her beliefs about who this child will be.

So leave it to me to take a perfectly beautiful song and mess with it to make it more contemporary….

This is a bad, first draft recording on the computer with one harmony track added for fun. It ain’t going to win any awards, but I think it will work for our intentions on Saturday night.


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