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The following 4 lesson plans teach and rehearse a traditional "lessons and carols" Christmas Eve service.

It includes a “script” for the service itself. Based on a traditional "lessons and carols" style of Christmas Eve service, the readings and parts are highly adaptable. You could turn this into an intergenerational evening of lessons and rehearsal in preparation for conducting a Christmas Eve service.

Thank you Anne Camp for originally posting this!

Included below:

  • Step By Step (Directions)
  • Material List
  • Week 1 Lesson
  • Week 2 Lesson
  • Week 3 Lesson
  • Week 4 Lesson
  • Additional ideas
  • Christmas Eve Script


Secure Permission

Secure the approval of appropriate church leaders for having the children lead this service, for the participation of a pastor, for the text and hymns to be used, for the participation of children’s choir(s) if possible and what anthems they will sing, for the collection and designation of an offering, and for candle lighting during the service.

Select the Scripture

This lesson plan assumes that you will use the NRSV, New Revised Standard Version, translation of the Bible.  However, it is not the most child-friendly option.  The Contemporary English Version – CEV – eliminates some the “word previews” needed before reading through the Bible story.  For example, “fruit of your womb” in the NRSV becomes “the child you will have” in the CEV.  Although the script provided uses the NRSV throughout, another translation can be substituted.

Communicate with Parents

Notify prospective participants and their families that you will be rehearsing for the Christmas Eve family service during Sunday School. Indicate which rehearsals are required prior to participation. This should include a “dress rehearsal” in the worship space. Because our sanctuary is in use during Sunday school, we schedule this rehearsal immediately after worship on the last Sunday before Christmas. The children’s choirs also participate in this rehearsal. We provide a very light finger food snack while the sanctuary is emptying; the full rehearsal takes about an hour, but the actual service only lasts about forty minutes. We also do a final run-through beginning one hour before the service is scheduled to start. We want to give enough rehearsal time to offer our very best to God.

Send a letter to parents explaining what you are doing and requesting that they notify you if their children will NOT be able to participate. Ask the parents to help the student memorize his or her lines. Include the verses of the hymns you will be singing and encourage parents to practice singing these verses with their children. If they’re not completely sure of all the tunes, these are available at Attach a copy of the individual student’s lines to this letter.

Determine Service Participant Selection Process

Agree upon a way to decide who will be selected to read which part. You may want to announce that everyone who participates will have written parts, but the goal is for each student to memorize his or her lines. Assure non-readers that they can be very successful in memorizing short lines. Because the narrators’ lines are longest, you may want to invite only older students to take these. We included four-year-olds in our service and they easily learned their parts.

Prepare Parts

As written, the script includes thirty-five possible speaking parts plus a family to light the Advent wreath and the pastor.  Some parts are extremely short and could easily be combined.

The total includes two parts for groups of speakers  -- angel host and shepherds.  These could be assigned to the youngest class.

There are four individual costumed speakers and one part that has not lines, but needs to be costumed:

Gabriel: three speeches [two long]
Mary: three speeches [one long]
Elizabeth: one speech [long]
Second Angel: one speech
Joseph has no lines, but needs to be costumed to accompany Mary

There are four longer liturgical parts: one for offering, one for prayer, and two for candle lighting.  These could be done by an older group.

The remaining twenty-five parts are narrators.  These lines could easily be combined if you have fewer participants to read them.

The longest speeches are in Sections B, C, G, and H. These sections could be assigned to older students. Mary speaks in both B and C so these sections need to rehearse together. Sections A, D, E, and F contain shorter speeches and can be rehearsed together.

Duplicate three copies of the script for the initial preparation.  One copy should be cut into Sections; one copy should be cut into individual speaking parts.  Keep the third copy whole for the director.  Once the director’s copy has been marked with any changes or special stage directions, the pastor, choir director, organist or pianist, and any technical assistants will also need copies.

Invite Worship Leaders

During Week Two, invite a pastor or music leader to help your students think about preparing to lead worship. Encourage them to help the students practice some vocal exercises so that they will be able to be heard well. Especially emphasize speaking slowly so that the people in the pews will have time to figure out what’s being said.

Choose Costumes

Decide what, if any, costuming you will use. Because the majority of our participants also sang in our children’s choirs, we limited costuming to a suggestive bare minimum that would work with our choirs’ robes.

Secure Equipment

Determine what equipment and technical assistance you will need. We used two hand-held microphones, one on either side of the chancel, and a spotlight. The shape and access of your chancel will dictate how your children are seated and where they need to come to speak. We assigned colors to each section of the script. At the beginning of their section, each group of students lined up in speaking order behind the microphone assigned for their group. Each spoke his or her lines, passed the mic to the next speaker, and went to the back of the line. When the entire section had spoken, they returned to their seats together often as the introduction to a hymn or anthem was being played.

Recruit Helpers

If the service is being rehearsed in a single class, recruit a total of four leaders to rehearse the four different sections of the service. It is also possible, and helpful, to recruit a helper or leader for each section of the script.  These folks will also be very valuable for crowd control and direction during the service itself.

Assign Parts

If the service is being divided among a number of classes, assign one “section” to each class. The classes will come together for a run-through at the end of Week Three and the beginning of Week Four. Group Two is probably best suited to the youngest class. You may want to further subdivide several Group Two speeches into a single sentence to accommodate the youngest students.

Especially in Week One, you may want to leave some unassigned parts read by leaders so that newcomers can be welcomed during Week Two, but after that, you will want to be sure all parts are assigned.

Provide Activity Centers

After the rehearsal portion of each week, provide age-appropriate activities for each group to choose from . Our experience was that rehearsal is hard work and students work better if they know they will have a chance to relax and chat among themselves later.

Suggested activities: a drawing center with paper and markers where students can illustrate a favorite scene; a play dough center where students can work together to create a nativity; a puzzle center where students can work together to assemble seasonal jigsaw puzzles. You may need additional or different activity centers for Week Four since the students will spend less time in actual rehearsal, anticipating the dress rehearsal after worship. This might also be a good time to read a book like The Lion Storyteller Christmas Book by Bob Hartman, Mary, the Mother of Jesus by Tomie DePaola, or The Voices of Christmas by Nikki Grimes.

Materials List

  • Advent wreath and candles
  • Bibles
  • Bulletin covers, blank
  • CD player [Optional]
  • Copy machine
  • Costumes
  • Equipment
  • Letter to pare
  • List of speaking parts
  • Liturgy for candle lighting
  • Markers, colored pencils, or crayons
  • Matches
  • Materials for activity centers
  • Music for selected songs, including:
  • “Angels from the Realms of Glory”
  • “Angels We Have Heard on High”
  • “Away in a Manger”
  • “Joy to the World”
  • “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
  • “Silent Night”
  • “What Child Is This?”
  • Nametags
  • Paper, 8 ½” x 11” – colored and white
  • Pins
  • Script for service


Open by singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “What Child Is This? – Verse 1.

Use the Call to Worship from Christmas Eve and then light the Advent Wreath, using your congregation’s liturgy.

Invite the students to remember past Christmas Eve services and inform them that they have been invited to lead the service this year.

Ask the students to list what the purposes of this service are. Be sure that primary among the purposes is something like “worshiping God by celebrating God’s gift of God’s only son Jesus to us.”

Ask the students to list the elements of this service. You may need to prompt them by asking how it begins, what story is told, what is sung, and so forth.

Ask the students where we find the words for the story that is told during this service.

Read and explore the text.

Focus on the “wondering” explorations. Ask fewer comprehension questions as appropriate for your age group and attention span.

Distribute Bibles or ask the participants to use their own. Invite the students to find Luke 1:26-34.

Preview words:

  • “virgin” (unmarried woman)
  • “favored one” (someone who has received a special blessing)
  • “perplexed” (puzzled)
  • “pondered” (thought about quietly)
  • “womb” (where a woman carries an unborn baby—belly)
  • “house of Jacob” (all the Jewish people).

Read the text in sections.

Ask some comprehension questions/ explorations:

  1. Where was Mary living when the angel appeared to her? [Nazareth]
  2. What did the angel call Mary? [“Favored One”] What do you think this means? Have you ever been a “favored one”?
  3. Wonder about why God would choose such a young woman to be the mother of the “Son of the Most High.”

Preview the words:

  • “barren” (has no children)
  • “let it be with me according to your word” (let it happen as you have said).

 Invite the students to continue reading Luke 1:35-38.

Ask additional questions, such as:

  1. Who else will be having a baby? [Mary’s relative Elizabeth]
  2. What’s surprising about Elizabeth’s baby? [Elizabeth is too old to have a baby.]
  3. What does Mary mean when she says, “Let it be with me according to your word”?
  4. Wonder about how Mary could accept the angel’s announcement for her.

Preview words:

  • “the fruit of your womb” (your baby)
  • “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (The Lord has blessed you because you believed that he will keep his promise).

Invite the students to continue by reading together Luke 1:39-46.

Ask additional questions, such as:

  1. What happened when Mary greeted Elizabeth? [Elizabeth’s baby jumped for joy.]
  2. What does Elizabeth mean when she says “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”? [The Lord has blessed you because you believed that he will keep his promise.]
  3. Wonder about how Elizabeth knew about Mary’s blessing.

Preview the words:

  • “my soul magnifies the Lord” (my soul praises God with all its might)
  • “from generation to generation” (from parents to children to grandchildren)
  • “descendants” (children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren).

Invite the students to read together Luke 1:47-56.

Ask questions, such as:

  1. How does Mary feel? [Amazed and blessed]
  2. What has God done? [Promised that her baby will be the Savior of the world]
  3. What are some of the ways God will save the world? [Scatter the proud, bring down the powerful, lift up the lowly, fill the hungry, send the rich away empty]
  4. Wonder about why God blesses the lowly, like his servant Mary.


Display and review a list of the readers needed for Christmas Eve.

Inform the students about how they are to choose which part they will read. Divide into Sections and read through the Section.

Assign students who cannot be present for Christmas Eve to fill-in for now on unassigned parts.

Divide into Sections for rehearsal --

The longest speeches are in Sections B, C, G and H. These sections could be assigned to older students. Mary speaks in both B and C so B and C need to rehearse together unless you choose to have two Marys. Sections A, D, E, F have shorter speeches and could be rehearsed together. Read through the individual Section twice.

Reserve enough time for the students to relax and process this experience by choosing from the available activity centers.


Sing “Angels from the Realms of Glory” Verses 1 and 4 and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

Invite everyone to close their eyes and listen with their hearts for a Christmas angel’s song.


Welcome any newcomers.

Sing “Joy to the World” and “Away in a Manger” Verse 1.

Invite your returning students to explain what you did last week. Be sure they understand that they are preparing to lead the Christmas Eve service.

  1. Wonder about why God chose an angel to bring his message to Mary.

Assign parts to any newcomers.

Assign students who cannot be present on Christmas Eve to stand in for anyone who is missing.

Receive a visit from the pastor or other worship leader who will help prepare the students to be worship leaders themselves. This visitor’s assignment is to share how he or she prepares for worship.

Practice vocal exercises and holding a microphone at the right distance from the face.

Practice walking in procession.

Preview the words:

  • “Emperor Augustus” (the ruler of all the Roman Empire)
  • “registered” (signed up)
  • “descended” (a great-great-great-great-grandson)
  • “manger” (feed box).

Invite the students to read together Luke 2:1-8. Follow with comprehension and wondering questions:

  1. From whose family was Joseph descended? [King David]
  2. Why did Mary put Jesus in a manger? [She didn’t have a cradle.]
  3. Wonder about why God’s son was born in such a humble place.

Preview the words:

  • “glory of the Lord” (great shining light)
  • “Messiah” (chosen one)
  • “heavenly host” (a whole bunch of angels).

Invite the students to read together Luke 2:9-14.

Ask questions, such as:

  1. Why weren’t the shepherds home in bed? [They were watching the sheep.]
  2. What was the first thing the angel said? [Do not be afraid.]
  3. What did the angel bring? [Good news]
  4. How would they recognize this special baby? [He will be in a manger.]
  5. Wonder about how the shepherds felt.

Preview the words:

  • “which the Lord has made known to us” (the Lord sent the angels to tell them)
  • “pondered” (thought about quietly).

Invite the students to read together Luke 2:15-20.

Ask questions, such as:

  1. What was the shepherds’ first reaction to this amazing news? [“Let’s go see!”]
  2. Tell me in your own words what you think the shepherds explained to Mary and Joseph.
  3. How did Mary react? [She treasured the words and pondered them.]
  4. Wonder about what the shepherds’ return trip to their fields was like.


Divide into section groups and read through the assigned sections twice – using what was learned from the vocal exercises.

Invite students to create a bulletin cover for the Christmas Eve service. Encourage them to use an illustration or a symbol from their section of the service. These drawings can be copied on a color copier in whatever multiples you need for the service. Be sure the students only draw, and sign their name, on the cover. The rest of the bulletin will include the order of worship and names of participants, if possible.


Sing “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” Verses 1 and 4 and “Silent Night.”

Invite everyone to close their eyes and listen with their hearts for a Christmas angel’s song.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer or another closing prayer together.

Send home the letter to parents with the copy of students’ lines.



Welcome any newcomers.

Sing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “What Child Is This?” Verse 1 and “Joy to the World.”

Invite your returning students to explain what you’re doing. Be sure they review what they learned from the worship leader last week.

Assign parts to any newcomers who will be standing in for absentees. If they cannot participate on Christmas Eve, be sure they understand this. If they are new this week and eager to participate Christmas Eve, be sure their parents agree to help them rehearse at home.

Assign students who cannot be present on Christmas Eve to stand in for anyone who is missing.

Explain where each group will sit on Christmas Eve and how they will stand in line when they come to the chancel.

Dig – Main Content: Week Four

  1. Wonder about who is the main audience for a worship service. [God]
  2. Explore the idea of reverence – God wants us to give him our best.
  3. Ask them what should happen if someone makes a mistake. Practice walking quietly in line and passing the microphone gently.

Divide into groups. Select or assign costumes or props if desired. Label costumes with students' names. Read through assigned section(s) once.

Come together as a single group and read through the entire service.

Invite anyone who has not yet made a bulletin cover to do that. Invite the rest of the group to choose among the other activities.


Sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” and “Silent Night.”

Invite everyone to close their eyes and listen with their hearts for a Christmas angel’s song.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer or another closing prayer together.

Send home a letter to newcomer parents with the copy of students’ lines.  Distribute a reminder to everyone about the “dress rehearsal” after worship on Week Four. This could also be mailed to be sure it gets home.



Welcome any newcomers.

Sing ““O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” and “What Child Is This?”

Assign parts to any newcomers who will be standing in for absentees. If they cannot participate on Christmas Eve, be sure they understand this. If they are new this week and eager to participate on Christmas Eve, be sure their parents agree to help them rehearse at home.

Assign students who cannot be present on Christmas Eve to stand in for anyone who is missing.

Dig – Main Content: Week Four

  1. Wonder together about whether God is always serious and why we enter worship with “reverence.”
  2. Wonder about how Mary felt when she first heard Gabriel, when she visited Elizabeth, when she traveled to Bethlehem, when her baby was born, when the shepherds arrived and reported what they had heard. Do you think Mary’s feelings grew and changed?

As a single group, read through the entire service.

Invite students to choose an activity center. Work individually with any students who needs help on a part.

This might be a time to read one of the picture books about Mary. This could be done as a center or for the whole group.


Sing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Joy to the World,” and “Away in a Manger.”

Invite everyone to close their eyes and listen with their hearts for a Christmas angel’s song.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer or another closing prayer together.




Even four year-olds can learn one sentence of the Christmas story. However, when leading a whole class of them, the teacher will need to do the initial read through in the Dig -- Main Content for Weeks One and Two. The teacher might paste the scripture selections to be read on the back of appropriate pictures to help maintain focus. In a church with more than thirty-five children who want to participate, the youngest class could be assigned to be the angel host and the shepherds, who speak as groups. The youngest students may need additional activities from which to choose if they have shorter rehearsals.

On Christmas Eve you may want an adult to hold each of the microphones. Those adults are then easily available if a child suddenly gets stage fright and cannot say his or her lines.


Older children may want to be involved in additional preparations for the presentation, such as costume managers, stage set up, and so forth.


Adults might enjoy doing some research on angels, Christmas angels, Christmas legends, and so forth,. and reporting on their findings in the closings. Provide Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and seasonal books for them to peruse, as well as paper and pens for taking notes to report back to the group. There are certainly ample opportunities for adults in helping the students memorize their speeches.





1    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
    Refrain:  “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
2    For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)
    Refrain:  “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
3    His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:7)
    HYMN #    “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”



4.  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.
5.  The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said,
6.  GABRIEL    "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."
7.     But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
8.  GABRIEL    "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
9. MARY    "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
10. GABRIEL    "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God."
11. MARY    "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
    Gabriel departs.

    HYMN #       “Angels From The Realms Of Glory” Verses 1 and 4


12.    In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
13.    When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb.
14.    And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry,
15.  ELIZABETH    "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
16. MARY    "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
17.    And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.


18.    In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.
19.    This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
20.    All went to their own towns to be registered.
21.    Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.
22.    He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
23.    While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.
24.    And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
    HYMN #   “What Child Is This?



25.    In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
26.    Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,
27.  ANGEL    "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."
28.    And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
29. ANGEL HOST    "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"
    HYMN #       “Angels We Have Heard On High” Verses 1 and 2


30.    When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
31. SHEPHERDS    "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

32.   So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
33.   When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
34. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

As we sing together, "Joy to the World," we invite all the children in the congregation to join the shepherds and the angel host at the manger. They may bring their offering to the baskets here in the chancel. At the same time, the ushers will pass offering plates to the adults remaining in the pews. Any adult who needs to accompany a child is most welcome to come forward. Would the adults in the pews please remain seated during the singing of this hymn.
    HYMN #     “Joy To The World” (SEATED)
36    PRAYER
Lord Jesus,
People have brought you gifts through all the ages.
You have used them to free the prisoners,
to feed hungry people,
and to help the whole world know your grace and love.
Use these gifts, too, so that we may serve the neighbors you give us
in your name. Amen.

Please join the children in singing the lullaby, Away in a Manger.
    LULLABY   “Away in a Manger” Verse 1
37    The children are now invited to return to their seats.


I am lighting my candle from the center candle, the Christ Candle. We will bring this light to the person at the end of the pew. You will then pass the light down each pew. As you share your light with your neighbor, please hold the lit candle straight upright and tip the unlit candle over to receive the light. This will help prevent dripping wax.

As the room fills with the small lights from each individual candle, join us in wonder and awe at the many ways God fills every corner of our lives with the Light of his love. The Christ Candle still burns brightly and will not be smaller, even after lighting all the many candles in this room. (Pause)  Enjoy the light of this evening and, for safety's sake, please snuff your candle before you leave your pew.
    HYMN #    “Silent Night” Verses 1, 2, 3, 4

Last edited by Luanne Payne
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