Christmas Service to Bless Families

Christmas Service to Bless Families

December 2, 2015 by

Every year, my church hosts a 4 pm Christmas Eve “Twilight Service of Blessing.” The timing fits pretty well between shopping, preparations and the big dinner at home.

The kids are still wide awake—sometimes hyper-awake with excitement about Santa’s impending delivery—so everyone can attend. The nursery is available for little ones who need a quieter environment.

One of the most meaningful features of this service is the blessing of families.

Blessing of Families

Traditionally, Christmas is a time when families gather.

The blessing begins after the readings and sermon. The worship folder explains and invites with this text:

“At Christmas we celebrate the coming of hope—for to us is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And because God has shown us such love and favor, we dare to ask for God’s blessing.

Traditionally, Christmas is a time when families gather. And families take many forms – individuals, closely related groups, persons who live together, and those who are bound together by affection. However your family is composed, we invite you to come forward for a blessing.

There will be five stations in front of the altar rail. Follow the directions of the ushers, and come. You also are invited to visit the live nativity scene in the west chapel and light a candle for peace on earth in the east chapel. Come, let us adore him.”

How the Service Works

Pastors, retired clergy and lay prayer ministers are stationed at the front. Families of every kind make their way forward to the stations.

The family gathers around the minister, with all arms outstretched to embrace the shoulders of those nearest, so that everyone is connected.

The minister begins, “On this holy night, may God bless and keep this holy family.”

Some of the ministers ask if there are any special prayers the family would like offered—an illness or recent death, hope for a child’s success or other concern.

Blessing as the Sacrament

There also are other stations to visit during this time. Worshipers can visit a live nativity, contemplate, take photos, or just admire.

There also is a station for lighting a votive candle and placing it on a stand, to accompany a prayer. As people move about, those in the pews sing carols, in a bit less than full voice.

Holy Communion is not part of this service. The blessing is the sacramental element.

Celebrating the Gift of Family

There is an amazing richness and depth in this experience for families gathered together on Christmas Eve.

One of the most important features of this rite is that non-traditional families are invited forward along with all others who seek this blessing. No one is left sitting uncomfortably alone in the pews, while only more “conventional” families participate.

The entire service draws people into the mystery and joy of Christ’s birth, but for many this blessing rite is the most vivid part of it.

First-time visitors sometimes are surprised by this element in the service, but those who come forward and are blessed find it an unexpected and welcome gift.

There is an amazing richness and depth in this experience for families who are gathered together in church on Christmas Eve.

They share an encounter with the sacred, and sense that God is present and that God’s blessing travels with them and remains on their family, even as they go their separate ways after the holiday.

Ending on a High Note

After the blessing and prayers of intercession, the lights are dimmed, candles lit, and the strains of “Silent Night” begin to rise softly.

As the carol ends, a corporate blessing is offered. Then the candles are snuffed, the lights go up, the organ begins and the congregation stands to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

This is a fitting way to send people out into the evening and on to rest of their Christmas Eve celebrations, as the carillon peals out to the city the joyful news: Christ is born!

With any luck, large, fluffy snow flurries have just begun to drift down outside. God bless us, everyone.

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Photo by Central Lutheran Church
Post By:

Barb VanDrasek

Barb VanDrasek is a member of Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, and recently completed an interim term there as director of communications.
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