Get to the church early. Attend to as many details as possible, with as big a smile on your face as is genuinely possible, and spread good cheer. You are making magic tonight, but don’t rely on God or Santa Claus to take care of the details. Make sure that you and your worship aids know when the lights go down during “Silent Night.” Give the participants an opportunity to rehearse. Print your benediction in big enough font so that you can read it by candlelight.
Don’t drone in the pulpit. You are not a history professor explaining events of long ago. You are a person of faith, sharing miracles that live on today in every act of love and mercy. Don’t explain faith; give them your faith. Every reading should be dynamic enough to make people forget that they’ve heard this story 100 times before.
Sing all the carols with all your heart.
Eat some protein before the service and keep a big glass of water in the pulpit (and a lozenge, too). Take a walk today and breathe deep. You’re going to need a big voice later, so breathe way down into your diaphragm, nice and easy. If you have a nervous stomach, a bowl of soup and half an Imodium might be a good idea.
Let nothing you dismay, even screaming babies. If you truly can’t hear yourself think (or speak), it’s fine to pause and to look with kindly concern at the parents of screamers. Ushers should be instructed to approach these poor, benumbed souls with an invitation to the crying room, “because your baby seems to be having such a tough time.” If the parents demur, at least you’ve taken a moment to clear your head so you can coherently continue.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
This is why I celebrate Christmas. Find your deepest, most personal reason to celebrate Christmas and bring it with you full force tonight. If you do that, not much else can go amiss. I promise.
God bless us, every one.