From the Episcopal Church:
[December 17, 2019] The Episcopal Church is offering two, digital Christmas Eve programs on December 24. Available on both the Episcopal Church website and the Episcopal Church Facebook page, these programs makes Christmas Eve worship accessible to those not attending a service or program at a local church.
Both services will be available beginning on Christmas eve: St. Thomas’ at 4:00 pm and St. John the Baptist’s at 12:00 pm as well as at 6:00 pm (all times EST) and then available on demand.
Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue, New York, New York
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is one of the pivotal and most popular choral services of the year. For many, it marks the beginning of Christmas. The service follows a format designed by Edward White Benson, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, in which nine lessons are interspersed among 12 carols, motets and hymns. The lessons – which cover the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus – will be read by nine representatives of the Saint Thomas parish: a chorister, a member of the Sunday School, a gentleman of the choir, the director of music, the headmaster of the choir school, a member of the congregation, a warden of the parish, a priest of the parish, and finally the rector.
Saint Thomas is the only Episcopal church in the United States that operates a boarding school for its choristers. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Saint Thomas Choir School. The Choir of Saint Thomas is steeped in the Anglican choral tradition, offering at least five sung services a week, including weekday Choral Evensongs.
Christmas Eve liturgy
St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, Seattle, Washington
This is a traditional Christmas Eve liturgy with Holy Eucharist and congregational singing of carols, including Silent Night by candlelight towards the end of the service. In an effort to intentionally create more space for silence and listening in the liturgy and worship, following the sermon the congregation will observe a full three minutes of silence and listening indicated by the pealing of bells. The liturgy will be conducted in the expansive language version of the Holy Eucharist Rite Two. This updated version of the liturgical text was approved for trial use at the Episcopal Church’s 2018 General Convention.
The offering collected at this service supports Books and Bricks Global, an international ministry serving students and teachers in rural Kenya. This outreach organization was founded at St. John’s by parishioners Mike and Janet Johnson in 2004. More information about Books and Bricks is available at: www.booksandbricks.org
People choosing to participate in either or both of these services on the Episcopal Church Facebook page are invited to use Facebook Premiere, a feature available through Facebook Watch which offers viewers the opportunity to “subscribe” to upcoming programs before the air date. Subscribers receive a reminder shortly before the program airs and will be able to comment and share their viewing experience with others around the world.
The service will be available, on the same sites, for on-demand viewing following the Facebook Premiere event.
Additional Christmas resources
Continuing the invitation to connect The Way of Love, Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life more deeply to the seasons of the year, The Episcopal Church has developed a Christmas Digital Invitation Kit to help congregations invite people to celebrate the good news of great joy for all people. Resources include: a customizable poster, postcard, and flyer; a social media-ready graphic; and a Facebook cover image. All evangelism resources will be available in English, Spanish, and French here.
Image: St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue; photo by Ingfbruno – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0