It’s finally Sunday, December 4th. Julie has been working and preparing for the Christmas Eve service since spring, and is ready to share the music and plans with us kids. After the kids finish their Sunday school classes they all head downstairs. I head downstairs along with the other kids, to find Julie at the bottom of the stairs. Julie calls groups to work with one at a time, while the groups that are not working with Julie focus on other activities that are set up. This year we had origami, coloring sheets, board games, writing cards to people who attend our church and the option of creating art that would be shown during the Christmas Eve service. Origami was a new option this year. We could make whatever we wanted, but the main focus was to create origami cranes, doves and hearts. The cranes would later be strung together and hung up outside of the sanctuary before the Christmas Eve service.
Each year there is a different Christmas Eve service that follows various themes. This year’s theme revolves around peace. The themes that are shown throughout the service are usually chosen from either the pastors, or Julie would create and make an idea from the interests of the children. After the theme is chosen Julie would then have to figure out how to incorporate xylophones, drums, hand chimes, ukuleles, singing, and chant/body percussion into the service. Once the preparation is done on the first Sunday of December we start practices every Sunday leading up to the service.
First ukuleles are called. Julie leads us to the room nearby. This time there are a couple of kids from TRU Function who assist with learning the song on the ukulele. We begin by learning and strumming a few basic chords to the song that we are performing, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. This process of calling and meeting with different groups repeats until Julie meets with all the groups. Some of the parts of the performance use pre-written music, such as hand chimes and ukuleles, but others the children can compose their own music. For example, in the xylophone part of the performance we start by playing one piece together that Julie and the children have composed, and then we take turns and play a tune that we have composed that goes along with the main part. This year, we had the sentence “Be still and know that God is peace.” Us kids or Julie get to come up with a melody for the group to play. This melody goes along with the phrase or sentence that we are using. All of the kids have the option of creating their own melody that also goes along with the sentence or phrase that we are using. In the actual performance, we would play the first part as a group and then 2 kids get to do their solos. This process repeats until we have all done our solos. Drums are similar in that way but kids had the option of writing their own poem and drumming a beat that goes along with those words.
After all of the practices leading up to the service, we have two dress rehearsals that children must attend before performing in the show. One is usually the day before, and the second rehearsal is during the day of the performance. The dress rehearsals are important so that the kids are confident in what they are performing and so that they get a feel of it and are comfortable with what they are doing. After the dress rehearsals, the service begins.
This year’s service includes: TRU Function playing, youth playing, and readings from the youth. We take our turns performing and we continue with “Silent Night.” The candles are passed out and we begin to sing “Silent Night” as a congregation. After we finish with “Silent Night” the service ends with “Go Tell it on the Mountain”. All the kids go up to the stage and TRU Function plays, while the congregation also joins in with the singing. It’s a powerful moment for everyone, and it’s a great opportunity for the children to have a part in the service. In early spring the preparations start for the next program.
I interviewed Julie Mazer, to see what goes into planning the Christmas Eve service. Julie Mazer, Julia Burkey and Rob Martens are the main people that are involved in planning and preparing for the service. Julia Burkey plays a role in mapping out the service with Julie, this includes choosing the scripture, identifying the scripture readings, gathering all songs and hymns from TRU Function, making any edits needed, and putting them into the bulletin to create the powerpoint. Rob Marten helps oversee TRU Function. This involves selecting songs, creating scores, and leading practice sessions. There are also special performances that involve both TRU Function and the younger children. The most touching memory of Julie’s is seeing how excited and proud the kids are when the whole service comes together. The most funny moment was one year when they lost power during “Silent Night” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”. The most fun part of planning for the service is when it all comes together and seeing how excited and proud the kids are.