Christmas Program Planning

2020 Christmas Program Planning Ideas

Choral Friends: This Christmas, we’re all looking for ways to provide services of musical celebration, keep our choirs engaged, yet keep our choirs and our congregations safe. Here are some ideas for different approaches, and a complete list of new resources from Beckenhorst to provide fresh interest this Christmas season!
-If you’re hosting live services in some way, consider pre-recording a small number of choral anthems with your choir, for playback during your service. These could be recorded live (with no audience, using all current recommended precautions including masking and distancing), or produced as a virtual choir.
Our five Christmas Virtual Choir Kits provide helpful resources for either approach. (See below for a complete list). Then, use a variety of non-choral elements to fill out the rest of the live program including:
(Please use all recommended precautions for your musicians and audience, to keep everyone safe.) If possible, plan your program such that you never have to similar elements back to back. Also, you might consider providing more prelude and postlude music than normal, from your pianist and/or organist.
-If you’re not able to meet in person, consider pre-recording a complete service/concert like the one described above. It could be shorter than normal, if needed (perhaps 45-50 minutes). Use a variety of the resources and ideas listed above, and consider interspersing camera shots of Christmas decorations, or beautiful aspects of your Sanctuary or architecture, while the music plays, for variety. You might record videos of your church members offering Christmas readings from various locations. You might even use a group of masked/distanced people to create a candle-lighting across your sanctuary, captured on video. 
You may want to record these during November or very early December, to leave time for your video editor to put together your program. Then host an online watch party on Youtube or social media to launch the video and allow your congregation to comment in real-time as it premieres!

Consider using some of our New (2020)
Christmas music and products now available: 

Virtual Choir Kits (released fall 2020- for rehearsal, and video broadcast or live performance, with accompaniment track options):
Small But Mighty (Dan Forrest) SAB Choir collection (released spring 2020) includes these Christmas titles (with piano accompaniment tracks also available) as part of the collection, or also available individually- click links below:
Instrumental Worship Volume 2 (released fall 2020) includes these Advent/Christmas titles. Piano accompaniment tracks also available.
  • O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
  • Appalachian Carol (I Wonder As I Wander)
  • God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  • Ding Dong Merrily On High
Christmas Illuminations piano solo collection (available late October) includes the following Christmas titles:
  • Silent Night
  • See Amid the Winter’s Snow
  • The Shepherds' Carol 
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • The First Noel 
  • The Huron Carol
  • The Friendly Beasts 
  • What Strangers Are These?
  • The Shepherds' Lamb
  • The Hands that First Held Mary’s Child 

Christmas Music Planner 2019:

Church Choral Directors: Christmas is “the best time of the year” for church choirs; yet it requires significant time spent planning. To aid this process, we’re beginning a series of free Christmas program plans which feature new and/or best-selling anthems from Beckenhorst Press.
This year’s program is “This Christmas Night”, and features pieces about the night of Christ’s birth. Structured in a loose lessons-and-carols format, this plan is highly flexible- we’ve anticipated variable options throughout the program, and have offered multiple options in several places, allowing you to use anthems already in your library, or to learn newly released anthems. (You may also want to work in more of this year’s new releases, other Christmas pieces from our catalog, or other pieces already in your own library, as well.)
All of these pieces, and their optional instrumentations, are available in print or digital delivery options at We welcome your feedback on this program's usefulness, and suggestions for how we can continue to better help you, at Happy planning!
-Dan Forrest


Prelude (instrumental) (if handbells, possibly That Christmas Night (McChesney, HB285) or Silent Night! Holy Night! (Larson, HB280))
GATHERING (processional, if feasible) (choose 1):
  • O Come All Ye Faithful (Forrest, CU1001). (“come, let us adore Him” call to worship; piano four hands, with optional string quartet or full orchestra) (if processional, men may enter first, then women)
  • All My Heart This Night Rejoices (Manor, BP2124) (strong “night” theme; optional french horn or brass quintet, harp, organ, percussion)
  • Carols of the Night (Courtney, BP1345) (medley of Silent Night and O Holy Night; optional chamber ensemble or full orchestra)
  • O Holy Night (Courtney, BP1332)
  • Angels From the Realms of Glory (Forrest, CU1025) (“come and worship”; piano four hands, with optional violin and percussion or full orchestra)
  • A strong congregational hymn/carol could be used here as well, if congregational involvement is preferred
READING 1: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7a
CAROLS (Bethlehem/Prophecy):
READING 2: Isaiah 11:1-6, 10
CAROL (Root of Jesse/Future Shalom) (choose 1): 
READING 3: Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 2:1-7
CAROLS (Birth) (choose 1-2):
READING 4: Luke 2:8-16 or 20
CAROLS (Angels/Shepherds) (choose 1-2):
*Optional homily connecting to “night” theme
*Optional CANDLE LIGHTING CAROL: Silent Night (Forrest, BP2200) (optional string quartet or full orch)
READING 5: John 1:1-14
CAROLS (closing) (choose 1-2):
  • Silent Night (Forrest, BP2200) (if not used for Candlelight; strong “night” theme) (optional string quartet or full orch)
  • Sweetest Music, Softly Stealing (Hagenberg, BP2020) ("through the silence of the night", unifying/summary text)
  • Carols of the Night or O Holy Night (Courtney BP1345 or 1332) (if not used as Gathering)
  • All My Heart This Night Rejoices (if not used as Gathering) (Manor, BP2124) (optional french horn or brass quintet, harp, organ, percussion)
  • The First Noel (Forrest BP1857) (final stanza is good summary concert-ender; not as clear on “night” theme) (optional full orchestra)
  • A strong congregational hymn/carol could be used here as well, if congregational involvement is preferred
BENEDICTION - spoken/prayed. Or, optionally, may be sung: The Work of Christmas (Forrest, CU1029, a cappella)
Postlude (instrumental) 

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