Under ConstructionWorship Aids for Pulpit Vacancy
Details for Christmas

Contents
Introduction

This page covers matters related to the Dodekaemeron of the Nativity of Our Lord.

If you have not reviewed the general information on planning liturgy, worship appointments, etc., please do so at our Worship Aids for Pulpit Vacancy page.

Order of Service

For Sundays without Holy Communion

For Sunday mornings when there is no Lord's Supper, three options for liturgy present themselves...

  • Matins: a service of morning prayer found in the LBW, pp.131-141. This is an appropriate service to use when no preacher is available. Congregations should not cancel worship for lack of a preacher. Gathering for prayer, the recitation of the psalms, and the reading of Holy Scriptures has long sustained the church in desperate times.
  • Service of the Word: a less complicated service than Matins found in the LBW, pp.126-130.
  • Ante-communion: essentially, the Service for Holy Communion without Holy Communion. This was the liturgy commonly used on non-communion Sundays.

Matins (Morning Payer)

Presented here is the service of Matins (a.k.a. "morning prayer") keyed to the LBW. The service is appropriate when no preacher is available. It may, however, be used when a preacher is available, following the option for a sermon found in this matrix. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue. Additional information is found in the footnotes (*, †, ‡, **, ††, ‡‡, ***, and †††).

Liturgical Element
LBW
Versicles ("O Lord, open my lips..."),
Gloria Patri ("Glory to the Father..."), and
Alleluia
p.131
Venite exultemus ("Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord...") * with invitatory antiphon ("The Word was made flesh, and we beheld his glory.") †† p.132 | or #4
Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Psalm Prayer (optional; each psalm and its associated psalm prayer is found in the "Altar Book")

Psalm (optional) †††
Dec 25 - Ps. 2
Dec 26 - Ps. 116
Dec 27 - Ps. 34
Dec 28 - Ps. 2
Dec 29 - Ps. 96
Dec 30 - Ps. 93
Dec 31 - Ps. 98
Jan 1 - Ps. 98
Jan 2 - Ps. 48
Jan 3 - Ps. 111
Jan 4 - Ps. 20
Jan 5 - Ps. 99
Psalm Prayer (optional)

Laudate Psalm 150 (optional) †††
Psalm Prayer (optional)
p.289
Old Testament Canticle (optional)
#8, #14, #15, #16, #18, or #19
Office Hymn ‡‡
Old Testament Lesson (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Gospel (optional; as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Responsorium breve ("In many and various ways...") ***
p.133
Benedictus ("Blessed be the Lord...") *
p.134 | or #2
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Other Prayer(s) (optional) pp.42-53
Office Prayer ("O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us in safety...")
p.136
Lord's Prayer
p.136
Benedicamus ("Let us bless the Lord...")
p.137
When there is a sermon... (optional) **
  • Offering
  • Hymn
  • Sermon
  • Sermon Prayer
p.137
Paschal Blessing ("As many as have been baptized into Christ..."),
Alleluia, and
Resurrection Gospel according to St. Luke ("On the first day of the week...")
p.138-139
Te Deum ("You are God...") *
p.138 | or #3 or #535
Closing Prayer ("O God, for our redemption...")
p.137
Benediction ("The Lord almighty bless us...)
p.141

* Some congregations my find the liturgical music challenging. The Venite exultemus, Benedictus, and Te Deum are set to psalm tones in the canticles section of the LBW. Additionally, LBW #535 is a hymn paraphrase of the Te Deum.

For each psalm, there is an associated psalm prayer. The psalm prayers are found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition and also the Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Desk Edition). Locate the required psalm, and you will find the psalm prayer printed immediately below it. The psalm prayer may be omitted. As an alternative to the psalm prayer, one may add the Gloria Patri, at the conclusion of each psalm in one of the two following manners:

        Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Hóly Spirit;*
            as it was in the beginning is now, and will be forevér. Amen.

    or

        Glory be to the Father, and tó the Son*
            and to the Hóly Spirit;
        as it was in the begínning is now,*
            and will be forevér. Amen.

It is encouraged to include an additional prayer here but not required. Select a collect from any one of the many found in the LBW s.v. "Petitions, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings" (pp.42-53). Rubric #9 indicates several options beyond the offering of a simple collect, but this is much more complicated; consult your interim before taking this option.

** A sermon at Matins is by no means required, the heart of the liturgy being recitation of and meditation upon the psalms. Still, if one is desired, the sequence of offering, hymn, sermon, and sermon prayer is used. After the sermon prayer, the liturgy proceeds immediately to the paschal blessing. Instead of a sermon, a short reading from one of the Patristic writers or a spiritual master may be used; consult you interim for recommendations.

†† The seasonal invitatory antiphon (p.175) may be used. Admittedly, doing so may confuse a congregation that infrequently uses matins, but, if matins is used somewhat regularly, the seasonal invitatory antiphon will be a welcome seasonal marker. It may be used with Canticle #4.

‡‡ The office hymn is traditionally one of the hymns appointed for morning. The LBW includes a section, s.v., "Morning," (##264-271), for such hymns. There are, however, other hymns scattered throughout the LBW that are equally appropriate for the office hymn, e.g., #142 which may be used on Easter Sunday, Ascension, and Pentecost. #443 and #465 can be used at any time but also work well for the morning. A hymn other than an office hymn may be used, but some obviously don't work well at Matins, e.g., #272. Some Christmas hymns work well for morning, e.g., #43.

*** While the LBW only presents the responsorium breve (brief response), "In many and various ways...," the tradition for both matins and vespers had a fuller responsory appropriate to the day or season. An example of a full responsory is the In manus tuas ("Into your hands...") found in the compline liturgy (p.156). Some mistakenly think that the "response," as it is called in the LBW rubrics, is a time for a sermon, choral anthem, recitation of poetry, etc.. It is not. Use either the provided "In many and various ways..." or use the proper responsory for the day or the season. While proper responsories help highlight the Scripture readings or themes for the day, this may be a level of complexity ill-suited for pulpit vacancy. Consult your interim should you want to avail yourself of this option.

††† The rubrics state that additional psalms may be employed (as the venite exultemus, Ps. 95, is the first psalm of LBW matins). The number of psalms is discretionary. The template provided already includes one additional psalm, the psalm appointed in the lectionary for the day. The psalms are the heart of the prayer offices, matins being no exception. In the prayer offices, the psalms are the primary presentation of the Word of God. More than being songs of praise rendered by the congregation, they are the center of our holy contemplation. Much could be said about how we might use the recitation of the psalms to our benefit. More psalms is not a bad thing, and a congregation might consider increasing the number of psalms in proportion to the ranking of the day, principal feasts, e.g., Easter, having the most psalms, Sundays in Lent fewer but more than Sundays in ordinary time. We might also note here that antiphons may be employed with the psalms. Those using pericope resources published by the publishing house of the ELCA will have the antiphon (refrain) already printed with the psalm. Other seasonal antiphons can be found in the LBW, pp.174-177.

Service of the Word

Presented here is the Service of the Word keyed to the LBW. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue.

Liturgical Element
LBW
Hymn

Dialog ("Holy is the Lord..." or "Blessed are you...")
p.126
Apostles' Creed
p.128
Old Testament Canticle
#4, #8, #14, #15, #16, #18, or #19
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) p.128
First Lesson (any of the lessons appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday), hymn, or anthem

Second Lesson (any of the lessons appointed in in the propers for the Sunday)
Response
#8, #10, #11, #12
Sermon

Hymn

Offering (optional)

General Prayer
p.129
Lord's Prayer
p.130
New Testament Canticle
#2, #6, #13, #17, #20, #21
Benediction
p.130
Hymn (optional)

Ante-communion

Presented here is the ante-communion liturgy keyed to the LBW. Employing the ante-communion liturgy is not preferred, but it may be the best option given local conditions. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue.

N.B., There are some modifications that must be made when this service is led by a layperson or a deacon. Those are indicated with footnotes (*, †, and ‡). Additional information is also provided in the footnotes (**).

Liturgical Element
LBW 1
LBW 2
LBW 3
Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness (optional) *
p.56
p.77
p.98
Hymn (optional)



Apostolic Greeting ("The grace of our Lord...") p.57
p.78
p.99
Kyrie
p.57
p.79
p.99
Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest...") p.58
p.79
p.100
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with salutation ("The Lord be with you...")
p.62
p.82
p.103
First Lesson (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Epistle (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Verse ("Alleluia. Lord to whom shall we go...") **
p.62
p.83
p.103
Gospel (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with acclamations (i.e., "Glory to you, O Lord," and "Praise to you, O Christ")
p.63
p.83
p.104
Sermon



Hymn (optional)



Nicene Creed
p.64
p.84
p.105
Offering (optional)



Offertory ("Create in me...")
p.75
p.96
p.118
General Prayer ("O Lord our God, you have commanded...") | or Prayer of the Church
p.75 | or p.76 or pp.52-53
p.96 | or p.97 or pp.52-53 p.118 | or p.119 or pp.52-53
Lord's Prayer
p.76
p.97
p.119
Benediction p.76
p.97
p.119
Hymn (optional)



* Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness when led by a layperson or deacon: The second absolution formula ("In the mercy of almighty God...") is used, and the sign of the cross is not made over the congregation. Furthermore, the confessional rite is optional when the Sacrament of the Altar is not part of the service.

Apostolic Greeting when led by a layperson or deacon: The formula is modified to "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all."

Benediction when led by a layperson or deacon: the formula is modified to "The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. The Lord look upon us with favor and give us peace," and the sign of the cross is not made over the congregation.

** Proper verses (for each Sunday and feast) may be found in the propers for the Sunday, s.v., "Gospel Acclamation" (n.b., the term, "verse," was used in the LBW for this short passage from Holy Scripture, the term "Gospel acclamations," referring to the introductory, "Glory to you, O Lord," and closing, "Praise to you, O Christ." One needs to code switch between LBW and ELW). The proper verses can also be found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition and it's "desk edition"), but one must, in ordinary time, check to see if the lessons line up, as there was a change in lectionary after the publication of the LBW. While proper verses help highlight the Scripture readings or themes for the day, this may be a level of complexity ill-suited for pulpit vacancy. Consult your interim should you want to avail yourself of this option.

For Sundays with Holy Communion

The full service of Holy Communion may only be used when a presbyter (pastor) or bishop presides. This chart is keyed to the LBW. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue. Additional information is found in the footnotes (* and †).

Liturgical Element
LBW 1
LBW 2
LBW 3
Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness
p.56
p.77
p.98
Hymn (optional)



Apostolic Greeting ("The grace of our Lord...")
p.57
p.78
p.99
Kyrie
p.57
p.79
p.99
Dignus est ("This is the feast...worthy is Christ...") p.60
p.81
p.102
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with salutation ("The Lord be with you...") p.62
p.82
p.103
First Lesson (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Epistle (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Verse ("Alleluia. Lord to whom shall we go...") *
p.62
p.83
p.103
Christmas Sequence ("Of the Father's Love Begotten") (optional)
#42
#42
#42
Gospel (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with acclamations (i.e., "Glory to you, O Lord," and "Praise to you, O Christ") p.63
p.83
p.104
Sermon



Hymn (optional)



Nicene Creed
p.64
p.84
p.105
Prayer of the Church
p.65
p.85
p.106
Peace
p.66
p.86
p.107
Offering (optional)



Offertory ("What shall I render to the Lord....") p.67
p.87
p.108
Offertory Prayer ("Merciful Father,...")
p.67
p.87
p.108
Sursum corda ("The Lord be with you...Lift up your hearts...")
p.68
p.88
p.109
Preface for Christmas



Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy...")
p.69
p.89
p.110
Eucharistic Prayer (#31, #32, #33 or one of those in "Altar Book")
pp.69-71
pp.89-91
pp.110-112
Lord's Prayer
p.71
p.91
p.112 | or p.113
Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God...")
p.72
p.92
p.114
Distribution



Post-Communion Blessing
p.72
p.92
p.115
Post-Communion Canticle ("Thank the Lord...")
p.72
p.92
p.115
Post-Communion Prayer
p.74
p.94
p.117
Benediction
p.74
p.94 | p.95
p.117
Hymn (optional)



Dismissal ("Go in peace. Serve the Lord...")
p.74
p.95
p.117

* Proper verses (for each Sunday and feast) may be found in the propers for the Sunday, s.v., "Gospel Acclamation" (n.b., the term, "verse," was used in the LBW for this short passage from Holy Scripture, the term "Gospel acclamations," referring to the introductory, "Glory to you, O Lord," and closing, "Praise to you, O Christ." One needs to code switch between LBW and ELW). The proper verses can also be found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition or it's "desk edition"), but one must, in ordinary time, check to see if the lessons line up, as there was a change in lectionary after the publication of the LBW. While proper verses help highlight the Scripture readings or themes for the day, this may be a level of complexity ill-suited for pulpit vacancy. Consult your interim should you want to avail yourself of this option.

Proper offertories (for each Sunday and feast) may be found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition and it's "desk edition"), but one must, in ordinary time, check to see if the lessons line up, as there was a change in lectionary after the publication of the LBW. While proper offertories help highlight the Scripture readings or themes for the day, this may be a level of complexity ill-suited for pulpit vacancy. Consult your interim should you want to avail yourself of this option.

Worship Appointments (candles, colors, etc.) for the Dodekaemeron of Christmas

Paraments and Vestments

The color for the Dodekaemeron of Christmas is white.

Luther and
                      Christmas Tree
"Luther Amidst his Family at Wittenberg on Christmas Eve, 1536," steel engraving, Sartain’s Union Magazine of Literature and Art (Philadelphia: John Sartain & Co., c.1860). (Public domain)

Christmas Tree

Erection & Lighting

The Christmas tree was not originally associated with the sanctuary; its place was the home, but it migrated into the sanctuary (though more recently than most people realize). As the name indicates, the Christmas tree is proper to Christmas, not Advent. If the Christmas tree is erected sometime during Advent, consider not lighting it until Christmas Eve as a way of marking the distinction between the two times and as a way of highlighting the high feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. If a Christmas tree is erected in the sanctuary, it is kept up and lit throughout the Dodekaemeron (Twelve Days) of Christmas, beginning with sundown on December 24 and continuing through January 5. Obviously, the lights may be extinguished between services—we prefer not to set the church building on fire. We recommend that the Christmas tree be lit before the people gather for worship and extinguished after they leave.

Ornamentation

Ornamentation for the Christmas tree has varied throughout the ages. Around the 1970s, there was a push for the employment of Chrismons in place of other tree ornaments. There is nothing wrong with Chrismons, but we have noticed that many Chrismons, having been fabricated five decades ago, are reaching the end of their useful lives. A congregation may certainly fabricate replacements, but it is also fine to hang Christmas tree balls. Some of the oldest known Christmas tree ornaments resembled (or were unconsecrated) celebrant's hosts (the large communion wafers used by the pastor at altar). Also among older ornaments were fruits or balls (intended to resemble fruits). The Christmas tree was not simply an evergreen tree brought inside as a pretty plant. It was a symbol of the tree of Paradise, the "tree of life," reported in the Book of Revelation:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves are for the healing of the nations.(Rev. 22:1-2, NRSV)

The use of celebrant's host, fruits, and balls was meant to evoke the twelve fruit of the tree of life. A congregation may want to, in that spirit, place twelve different ornaments on the tree, being careful to pick items that will help bring to mind the tree of life (rather than distract).

Removal of the Christmas tree

The Christmas tree should be removed prior to the Epiphany service. One may burn the Christmas tree and any other greens on the Feast of the Epiphany—this is not recommended if the tree is made of plastic.

The Advent Wreath

As the name indicates, the Advent wreath is proper to Advent, not Christmas. It should be removed prior to the Christmas Eve service. The use of a white candle (as a central fifth candle, sometimes called "The Christ candle") with an Advent wreath is an exceptionally recent innovation and should be avoided as it is explicitly outside of Advent.

Paschal Candle

The Paschal candle is not lit during Christmastide except for baptisms and funerals.

The Paschal candle normally stands by the font even when not in use.

When there is a baptism, the Paschal candle is at the font.

When a funeral is held, the Paschal candle is placed at the head of the casket. If the casket is in the sanctuary prior to the service, the Paschal candle is lit when the sanctuary is opened for the service. If there will be a procession with casket, the Paschal Candle may be either carried in procession or set where (or near) the casket will eventually be placed. In the latter case, it may be prudent to light the Paschal candle after it and the casket have been set in position.

Other Candles

The lighting and extinguishing of candles for the Sunday morning service is a matter of local custom. Some congregations have rather elaborate rituals for doing so. Others struggle to find acolytes. If lighting and extinguishing the altar candles has become a challenge, a congregation might follow the advice found in the Manual on the Liturgy—Lutheran Book of Worship, lighting the candles well before the service and extinguishing them well after the service, doing so decorously but without pomp and circumstance. This, then, can be done by ushers, the sexton, the altar guild, the pastor, etc. without vesting.

Flowers

Flowers are lovely and a fitting adornment. Flowers, however, should not placed on the mensa (tabletop of the altar). Most non-freestanding altars feature a gradine (a raised shelf at the rear of the altar). Flowers may be placed on the gradine along with altar candles. A freestanding altar (or communion table) poses a challenge to flower placement. If there is an old high altar with gradine in the apse or a reredos with shelves for flowers, the problem is solved. Flower floor stands can be used, or the flowers may be simply set on the floor in the front of the altar as it is faced by the congregation, assuming the pastor presides from the other side. Flowers should not pose a fire hazard in their placement or a tripping hazard.

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West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030  +  Porter@WV-WMD.org

Last update: 24 November 2022