for the
Family Carol Service
St. Augustine's

2008 November 30

These are notes and comments on some of the items which appear in the Family Carol Service script. Links from the script point to these entries; clicking the links in the left hand column of the table takes you back to the corresponding link in the script - or, where more than one link from the script points to the note, back to the first such link.

The comments are typically related to features of the service which are specific to our church or the time of the service, or which for some other reason we think might require alteration for another setting.

For references to the internal geography of the church, it might be helpful to inspect the plan.

Decorations : On the blue curtain :
  • At each top corner, greenery surrounding red bow with two gold bells underneath the bow;
  • between these corners the letters J O Y in gold - A4 size.

Christmas windows around the wall;

On the Christmas Tree : Christmas card bells, Christmas tree lights, "gold" star at the top.

Furniture : Manger and two chairs in the "stable" at the Hospital side of the altar;

Small table for Bethlehem home ( which will in due course replace the stable ) inconspicuously near the manger;

Herod's throne behind altar at organ side.

Properties : Five different coloured sheets or blankets to represent different inn rooms, one already in place near the altar, the other four lying over the altar rail for the innkeeper to lay out whilst talking;

"Baby Jesus" ( doll or real baby ) inconspicuously at Hospital side of altar;

Camp fire at Hospital side ready to move in front of the altar;

Wise Men's gifts at back.

People : People to hand out orders of service;

Computer person at computer;

Organist at organ;

Head Angel beside organ;

Narrator at lectern;

Trainer with Bible ready at back.

ALL GLORY BE TO GOD ... The chorus to "While shepherds watched their flocks by night ...".

BABY JESUS Our Baby Jesus is usually a doll, but this year we had a real baby. This makes the logistics a little more complex, as the real baby can't be pushed into a corner and left there until needed. Instead, the baby spent the first part of the service with her mother hidden behind the Christmas tree; her father took the part of Joseph, so that, once in action, she would always have a familiar figure nearby. We had absolutely no trouble with this arrangement, but give no guarantees.

BETHLEHEM HOME Our representation of the home of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem was ( like our representation of the stable ) minimal; it was also in the same place.

It was depicted as a small table with a chair at each side. We did not use any structure representing a building around the furniture, as we sometimes have done; it seemed to work well enough. ( The table and chairs in the picture are as we used them in this service. )

Hindsight nevertheless suggests that the "building" does add something, by suggesting an enclosure. As against that, the "building" necessarily occupies space, which is limited.

CAMP FIRE Our usual electric camp fire.

CHRISTMAS WINDOWS Our usual Christmas "Stained glass" windows. We have them up every Christmas, but don't usually mention them. They're here because this year they were explicitly mentioned - but in the sermon, so they don't appear in this script.

CONGREGATION 1 etc. These names identify "arbitrary" members of the congregation. In practice, they were not quite arbitrary, as for two of the smaller members of the cast they represented parents strategically placed in the congregation. In the other case, the name identified a particular seat, chosen to give a fairly even spread of congregation members along the aisle.

DOOR There is no door; we used the altar rail, which is wooden and in the right place, and makes the right sort of sound. A knocking gesture might be quite sufficient.

FAMILIES These are families travelling to Bethlehem for the census. The script is written for five families, but that was essentially a guess. It worked well, but there's some flexibility there if you need it. A few family members have ( very small ) speaking parts, but most do not.

GIFTS The Wise Men's gifts - a selection from our collection.

HEROD'S THRONE A fairly imposing chair, which should be light enough to move without much difficulty, and preferably small enough to hide in a convenient place until needed.

Ours is a slightly ornate wooden chair which lives in the church; it fits conveniently behind the altar.

JOY AT CHRISTMAS The song was written by St. Augustine's in 2008, and the copyright belongs to St. Augustine's. We make that assertion to emphasise that no one else can legally prevent you using it, and we're not going to - indeed, we'll be delighted if you do ! Full details are available here.

MANGER Our usual manger.

MARY'S SONG - commonly called the Magnificat, and ( once upon a time ) well known from its appearance as part of some services of the Roman Catholic church and its offshoots, notably the Anglicans. It's from Luke 1.46-54.

MESSAGE Details are obviously up to you, but if doesn't fit in with the Narrator's line immediately after the message ( "So God brings great joy to all of us, if we choose to receive it" ), you should make corresponding adjustments as necessary.

OTHERS FOLLOW The intention here is to convey the impressions of both a large number of people on the move and the comparative slowness of Joseph and Mary. It was fairly effective, but, depending on the geography of your church and the number of people at your disposal, you might be able to do it more effectively by some other means.

SHEET The sheets represent rooms available at the inn. This is not made entirely clear in our service; it worked well enough, but if you can find an unobtrusive way to make it clear that the innkeeper is preparing more rooms, it would do no harm.

STABLE Our performance space is limited, so the inn was sited in front of the altar with the stable to one side ( close to the Christmas tree, for logistical reasons which might not constrain you ). To emphasise that they were distinct, all trips between the two were made via the congregation's side of the altar rail.

STAR ON TOP OF TREE We wanted a star; we have a convenient star at the top of our Christmas tree. If you don't, you'll have to make minor modifications. We recommend that you install something which will pass as a star, so that the Wise Men can point to something visible; it looks better from the congregation.

TRAINER Regard this introduction as a suggestion rather than a fixed script. Its three purposes are to teach the song, to establish the theme of joy, and to fit in the Old Testament introduction.

Our Trainer roughly followed the script, but taught the song line by line, by singing a line, then getting the congregation to sing the same line straight away, and finally to get everyone to sing through the verse and chorus. It worked very well.