The following is an excerpt from Richard Giles book, “Times and Seasons: Creating Transformative Worship Throughout the Year” (2008: Church Publishing). Jesus was probably not actually born on December 25th, despite our celebration of his birth on this calendar date. It is our celebration of the Incarnation – Christ with us. The readings of our services – on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day reflect our theology of the mystery of this feast day.
“Christmas in liturgical terms is strictly speaking a dual celebration, of both the birth of Jesus, reputedly at Bethlehem though just as probably at Nazareth, and of the incarnation of the cosmic Christ, a mystery that can be approached only by poetic metaphor.” Learn more of the historical background from Giles at Building Faith.
“Whichever theme is uppermost, the feast calls for liturgical partying of the first order. Vestments are white, and the liturgical space is decorated to the nines with every conceivable trimming.
The dual character of the feast is reflected in the very different ethos of worship of the first mass of Christmas celebrated the evening before compared with that of Christmas morning. The eve of Christmas, much frequented by cultural Christians, tends to be a nostalgic candle-lit affair in which the blessing of the crib (stable) containing figures of Mary and Joseph with the Christ Child play a key part. The gospel reading at the eucharist is always from the birth narratives contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
On Christmas morning, however, the mood is quite different. The readings are from the prologue of John’s Gospel in praise of the eternal Word, and from the Letter to the Hebrews. The emphasis shifts to a theological meditation on the eternal significance of the birth of Christ recognized as ‘the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being’ (Hebrews 1:3).”