For the past decade or so I’ve read the following “Christianized” version of The Night Before Christmas at the pageant service on Christmas Eve (the liturgy I affectionately refer to as the “Zoocharist”). I’ve adapted it depending on where I was serving — Old St. Paul’s in Baltimore or All Saints’ in Briarcliff Manor, New York) – so this is its third iteration.
I find that kids respond to the rhythm of the verse and by that I mean it briefly lulls them to a more contemplative place amidst the pre-Christmas madness. I use this in lieu of a sermon which, if anyone cares to hear it, will be preached at the later services. Of course the calming effect is short-lived and it doesn’t help parents much when I hand out candy canes (or candy croziers as I call them) after the service.
If any clergy would like to adapt it to their own use, feel free. I’d love to hear about it and look forward to receiving a fine bottle of red wine as an adequate thank you.
Christmas blessings to all and to all a good Christmas Eve night!
The Night Before Christmas
(At St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts)
By the Rev. Tim Schenck – with apologies to Clement C. Moore (or whoever wrote it)
‘Twas the night before Christmas and throughout St. John’s,
The excitement was building, with lots going on.
The candles were placed on the altar with care,
In hopes that baby Jesus soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their pews,
While visions of wise men brought the good news;
Acolytes in their vestments and I in my robes,
The trees were all trimmed, sporting their bows.
When out from the manger arose such a clatter
Angels and shepherds, what could be the matter?
Up in the sky rose a star lit so bright,
Streaming upon us this cold winter’s night.
Horses and donkeys and a bed full of hay,
Mary and Joseph could only just pray.
When, what to our wondering eyes do we see,
But shepherds and wise men upon bended knee.
From off in the distance we hear a great song,
A multitude of angels joins the great throng.
Glory to God in the highest they sing
and on earth peace, goodwill to all things.
On that night, all calm and all bright,
I knew in a moment he was Jesus the Christ.
More glorious than cherubim and seraphim he,
Offering salvation to all who would see.
In swaddling clothes in a manger he lay,
Bringing joy to the world on that first Christmas Day.
Now Mary, now Joseph, now angels on high,
On shepherds on wise men we shall now draw nigh.
As presents are opened and gift-wrap is torn,
Remember the Christ to us who is born.
The little Lord Jesus awake and asleep,
He is the shepherd and we are his sheep.
We worship tonight in this Hingham town,
We praise and adore him all the year ‘round.
May the blessing of God be upon you this night,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.