It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Though, for church professionals, this often seems like the most stressful time of the year, or the most filled with funerals, or the time that carries the most expectations that we cannot possibly fulfill. How goes this Christmas for you? How is the balance of professional and personal, of business and pleasure? Even in the midst of a busy season, remember that self-care is important!

christmas-silhouetteThe Revised Common Lectionary gives a little less direction on Christmas than during the rest of the year, with three possible options for readings to celebrate The Nativity of the Lord. My guess is that congregational, cultural, or denominational traditions will guide worship planning at least as much as the RCL.

*Note: If you’re looking for discussion on the lectionary texts for Advent 4, see this page.

What is important to your congregation? Candle lighting on Christmas Eve, a pajama party on Christmas morning, a live nativity, something else? Please share your favorite Christmas traditions, so that perhaps we can borrow from one another and all be enriched by new ways of celebrating the birth of Jesus!

Which readings are you using? The Gospel choices are various portions of Luke 2:1-20, or John 1:1-14. While Luke shares the birth narrative, John tells us about Jesus from a theological point of view. The Hebrew Bible choices are all from Isaiah: chapter 9, 52, or 62. All of these have been interpreted as prophesying the birth of Jesus, though of course they would have had a different meaning in the time when they were originally spoken or written. The Epistle options are from Titus or Hebrews, and the Psalm can be 96, 97, or 98. Does your community rotate between the various readings, or hear the same ones every year?

Many preachers are preparing two or three separate worship services for this weekend – Advent 4, Christmas Eve, and/or Christmas Day. Blessings to you whether you have to write one brief reflection, or three full sermons along with three children’s messages! Please share your ideas, resources, and questions below. Happy preaching!


Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor in Madison, WI. Now that the lakes are half-frozen, she’s finally admitting that she’s probably been out in a canoe for the last time this year. After Christmas, Katya hopes to finish updating and re-launching her blog – stay tuned!


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14 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Christmas Edition!

  1. Special rituals – On Christmas Eve we have a child/family procession out to the dark where our Christmas stable is set up since Advent began (with the animals, angel, Mary and Joseph but no Jesus or Magi.) So on Christmas Eve we carry out the Christ Child. On Epiphany we process out again with the 3 Wise Ones.

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  2. Hi, Katya!

    I am preaching on Christmas Day – my first sermon since finishing an interim last year on Christmas Eve. I am using the idea of bringing a baby home as a metaphor for a life change that is not temporary, wondering what our lives and our world would be like if we really let Jesus change us. It’s based on a piece I wrote for Christian Century. I’ll link here, but this one was in the magazine, and I don’t think it’s available to non-subscribers. I’m pretty excited and weirdly nervous about leading this service at my wife’s church. https://www.christiancentury.org/article/living-word/december-2425-nativity-luke-21-14

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    1. The link worked for me – thanks for sharing your reflections on parenthood! I have never brought home a baby (and don’t expect to) but your example still resonates – it reminds me of the stories my mom told of when she brought me home from the hospital.

      I know you’ll be awesome at your first sermon in a year – good luck with the rest of the preparation!

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  3. I had hoped to have two pretty different services on the 24th. The original plan was to do something pretty low key, contemplative, casual, and shorter for the morning service and then full on Christmas Eve in the evening. However, the choir cantata is now the 24th which is the entire Christmas story and so we will repeat the same thing 6 hours later. Sort of bummed about that.

    Christmas Eve is traditionally lessons and carols, communion, and candlelight. Meditation will be short and my sense, at this point, it will be a bit more somber (or reflective, or less rah-rah-rah Christmas isn’t it grand). Time will tell.

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    1. You’re living the experience of Mary and Joseph – you had plans, and then something happened and they all went out the window! Blessings to you in your sermon preparation.

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  4. For the Advent 4 service in the morning, I’m planning a full sermon and short commentary as appropriate during the Lessons & Hymns + Communion + Candlelight service that evening. My congregation expects to hear Isaiah 9 & Luke 2 on Christmas Eve so I always include them.

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    1. Sometimes the text doesn’t need a sermon so much as a sung response and maybe a sentence or two. Hoping that your service of Lessons & Music is wonderful!

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