NextSunday Worship

December 24 & 25, 2018

The Great Celebration; a Christmas Eve Meditation

Dr. Bruce Schoonmaker Luke 2: 8-11; 16-19. Year C: Nativity of the Lord - Proper I


Text in bold italic is to be sung. It may be sung a cappella by the preacher or a soloist, or it may be sung by the choir or the choir and congregation. If it is accompanied, please limit the introduction to a single chord or note to give the performers the starting pitch.


The Great Celebration; a Christmas Eve Meditation

In this season, we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ sojourn on earth: his birth, so unexpected and unimagined beforehand, so startling, yet joyful and awesome.

We all want what is best for our children. Even our youngest children treat their baby dolls with great tenderness and generosity of love and spirit. They know instinctively to find a comfortable place to lay their pretend child.

If children can show such love and compassion, if we who truly are parents can show even more compassion, imagine the love of God when preparing his child’s place to be born in human form.

A loving, nurturing place, surrounded by a small but passionately caring family, attended by peaceful animals looking on in wonder, witnessed by shepherds, heralded and praised by angels, remembered worldwide by Christians every year since, held in compassion and awe by our hearts, lauded by music deeply ingrained in our humanity and recognized around the world.

It came upon a midnight clear,

That glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth,

To touch their harps of gold:

“Peace on the earth,

Good will to men,

From heaven’s almighty King.”

The world in solemn stillness lay

To hear the angels, sing!

Remember that the shepherds were initially frightened:

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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, “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. (Luke 2:8-11)

May God bless you with experiences so awesomely and powerfully good that at first you will be terrified.

Remember how Mary reacted to the shepherds’ story:

So, they [the shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  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. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:16-19)

Treasure these words and ponder them in your heart.

Treasure this story not just today or tomorrow, but throughout the year, and ponder it in your heart.

Treasure your children and ponder your love for them in your heart.

Treasure God’s infinite love for us and ponder it in your heart.

Treasure God’s gift of his only child for our redemption, then ponder it in your heart.


About the writer:

Dr. Bruce Schoonmaker retired at the end of July 2018 from Furman University after forty-one years on the music faculty. He continues to sing, to teach voice, to write poetry and fiction, to act, and to share time with his precious wife, Gail, and their friends. Currently he aspires to write the great American novel, an epic poem, and a choral-orchestral piece appropriate for performance on July 4 concluding with full musical forces in addition to cannons and church carillons. Nothing brings him and Gail greater joy than visiting with their sons and their families.

Scripture and Music:

Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)


O Come, All Ye Faithful

Silent Night, Holy Night

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

The First Nowell the Angel Did Say


For Unto Us A Child Is Born (Handel)

Candlelight Carol (John Rutter)

Some Children See Him (Alfred Burt)

Angel s Carol (John Rutter)

Away in a Manger (Mack Wilberg)

Angels We Have Heard on High (Mack Wilberg)


Love Came Down at Christmas

The Birthday of a King (Neidlinger)

Gesu Bambino (Pietro Yon)

Silent Night, Holy Night