One of the Christmas traditions of our family is sharing family communion together on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. I prepared this guide, at the request of my daughter Kelly, who is now the lead pastor of a church, and who has a desire to encourage the people of her church in this tradition. We hope this guide will assist those desiring to share the Lord’s Supper with their families, but may not know how to approach it. This is simply the way we’ve done it.
Many years ago, while the pastor of a small church, I had observed churches hosting a family communion time during advent or at the coming of a new year. They scheduled a block of time and families came and went during that allotted time, and the pastor served them communion as a family.
Since our church was small, for the first couple of years until the church grew large enough that it was no longer possible, I scheduled family communion times at the homes of our church adherents. I had a portable communion set, and I scheduled about 15 days during the month of December to make home visits and serve family communion. I was serving and taking communion 3 to 6 times a day throughout the month of December.
With singles or couples I would sometimes gather them together, or serve them individually, depending upon the circumstance.
The pace was a bit grueling, but the joy of personally visiting each family and sharing the intimate experience of The Lord’s Supper with each of them was rewarding beyond measure. I still look back upon that opportunity as one of the more special seasons of ministry.
I did have a concern, because I came from a tradition where communion, or the Lord’s Supper, was observed only once a month. My concern was that sharing in communion so many times would diminish the experience. In the past, I had actually heard the reason given for sharing communion only once a month rather than weekly, “If we share communion every week it will become so common that it will lose its special significance.” Ridiculous. The early church observed the Lord’s Supper, or communion, as a fellowship meal. Every time they came together and they broke bread and partook of the red colored wine, it was to be a reminder to them of the night Jesus had been betrayed when he took the bread and the wine and admonished his disciples to think of his body and his blood every time they partook of this sustenance together. We use our little cups and wafers because of convenience and practicality in our determination to share the Lord’s Supper together as a ritual of our remembrance and anticipation of His return.
My experience in sharing communion with the families of our church night after night was not one of it becoming more common to me, it actually became more and more meaningful and significant. Sharing Christ with those I loved and led in such a way simply invited Christ to become real to us, to me, over and over again!
The natural progression was, that after I had served our congregation, on Christmas Eve, our family shared communion together. Kelly’s first communion was when she was about 4 years old after her baby sister, Ashley had been put to bed. When Ashley was about 4 she started joining us. We chose to wait until our children could have a basic understanding of the redemption story. This observance of the celebration of Christ’s love and imminent return became one of our most significant family times.
Why is Communion Important?
In our tradition and doctrine, the Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of the church. In other words, Jesus directed us to remember, and to use the elements of bread and wine as symbols of his body, broken for us, and his blood, shed for the remission of our sins. (The Gospel of Matthew, 26.26-29). Because Christ himself directed it, we observe communion.
The Lord’s Supper is Connected to Passover
When Israel was delivered from bondage and slavery in Egypt, they were protected from the death angel by their obedience in applying the blood of a lamb to their door posts and lentil. When the death angel saw the blood, it “passed over” their residence (Exodus 12).
In Matthew 26, Jesus and his disciples were observing the Passover meal. This was the occasion upon which the Lord’s Supper was founded. The symbolism and significance of Jesus as the Passover lamb was indicated through the significance of the practice of Passover. Understanding the significance of the bread and the wine in the Seder meal only strengthens our understanding of communion to the early church, and to us.
Is Communion Sacred, and Should Children Take Communion?
In Catholic tradition and theology, there is a belief that the bread and the wine actually miraculously and supernaturally changes its form to the actual body and blood of Christ. This is why Catholic priests are so cautious and regulated in its delivery. Nowhere in scripture is such a doctrine supported. The event is sacred, but the bread and the wine are simply symbols that remind us of the love, promise, and provision of Christ. As mentioned earlier, in the early church, communion was a fellowship meal where Christ followers came together, in unity, to celebrate, remember, and anticipate.
We do not view communion as something only offered by ordained priests, but by those who are of the priesthood of the believers (1 Peter 2.4-5).
Because of our understanding of the seen and unseen realms (2 Corinthians 4.16-18), we understand both spiritual and temporal significance. Our rituals and symbols often evoke events of spiritual significance. Communion is one of those occasions where we observe a spiritually significant occurrence, a personal manifestation of closeness and intimacy with Christ, and a physical observance as we partake of the symbolic elements. This makes communion a sacred event.
Because it is sacred, as is supported in 1 Corinthians 11.23-34, we are not to take it lightly. I personally do not and will not subscribe to whimsical practices of communion, such as eggnog and gingerbread cookies. While we must understand that forms are not the priority, yet, the opportunity for us to experience Christ together is the priority, and such is accompanied with intentionality and focus.
We allowed our children to participate in communion when we felt they could have a basic understanding. At their level of understanding they are participants in the new covenant established through the blood of Christ. They were capable of some level of understanding. It is a sacred event, only to be observed by Christ followers, yet it is not a barrier, but like so many other indicators of our faith, we participate with much grace.
We used communion as an opportunity to celebrate the incarnation with our children, and to instruct our children in the way of Christ and the way of the cross.
Preparation for Serving
The Elements: Bread and “The Fruit of the Vine.” In some cultures wine is used for communion, in other cultures, juice. Because I have a personal conviction and commitment to not partake of alcohol, we use grape juice. Some use a common cup, others use small individual cups. In Jewish custom, the Passover was observed with unleavened bread, and if that is your preference it is certainly fitting. We usually used a simple, small loaf of bread that we could break and distribute. Again, while the form is significant, variations should not be a barrier to celebrating Holy Communion.
Family Communion Outline
Effective communicators understand their audience. Give thought to who is present, how you need to communicate, and the participant’s attention spans. You may need to abbreviate or explain as you go. You may want to streamline and leave some things out. You may want to add things meaningful to you. The important thing is celebration and experiencing Christ together. THIS IS A GUIDE.
Read the Christmas story: Luke 2.1-21. The form and the flow of the Christmas story from The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2 is a recognizable tradition in and of itself. It is the story of the incarnation, the birth of Christ. Take time to explain the elements of the Christmas story in an age appropriate way.
(You may have different ones read the passages of the story. If you have small children, you may want to have the characters of a crèche or nativity available for fun and illustration. I know of some families that actually make props and act out the story in a simple and fun way.)
Say: “This is the story of the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ coming was foretold by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before.”
Read(or have someone read) Isaiah 7.14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7.14 ESV
Say: “In The Gospel of Matthew, Matthew tells of the birth of Christ.”
Read (Optional) Matthew 1.18-23: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1.18-23 ESV
Say: “Again, we see that Jesus is Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’”
“Jesus is the Son of God, who is now seated by the right hand of God, but many years ago he came as a baby, born a human being, so he could live among people, and give his life for the forgiveness of our sins, so that not only was Jesus with us while he was on the earth, but now (John 3) he can live with us, and his spirit can always be with us… because he is God With Us, Immanuel.”
“This is the promise and the joy of Christmas. This is why we celebrate. Jesus not only came as a baby in a manger, but he has come so that we can live in his Presence, and be in His Presence forever.”
SharingPersonal Reflections: Prior to our communion gathering I pray and think about a short story I can share, perhaps one that relates to our journey as a family, challenges we have face, and victories of how God has worked in our lives. I sometimes share a story of how God has worked in someone else’s life and circumstance.
You may want to give others the opportunity to share, respond, or offer a prayer.
The Serving of Communion
“Before Jesus returned to heaven, he asked us to always remember that he was with us, and that he would return and we would be with him throughout eternity.”
He asked us, every time we partake of communion together, to remember his sacrifice for us, to remember that he is with us, and to remember that we will one day partake of the Lord’s Supper together with him in heaven.
“Before we partake of communion, we are to examine ourselves to make sure we are in right relationship with God.”
Read (or have someone read) 1 Corinthians 11.27-28:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Corinthians 11.27-28 ESV
Pray: Father, we are thankful for your salvation, and we are thankful for the promise of your scripture that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; therefore, we take a moment to allow your Holy Spirit to help us examine our lives. We ask for your forgiveness for our transgressions (sins) and we repent with a heart to live our lives according to your purposes and plan.
Allow a brief time for personal prayer and reflection.
Read (or have someone read): 1 Corinthians 11.23-26: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11.23-26 ESV
Pray(or ask someone to do this): Ask God’s blessing upon the elements, and give thanks for the bread and the juice.
Say: “Let’s take the bread in our hand.” (Break the bread and distribute it.)
“This bread represents the body of Christ, broken for us, let us partake of this bread together as we remember Christ’s love for us.”
“Let’s now take the juice, representing the blood of Christ.”
“This cup is the new covenant, the fulfillment of the promises of God, we take this cup together as we remember your sacrifice and your blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.”
Pray: “God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus, that our sins could be forgiven, that we could know you, and that we could spend eternity in your Presence. We look forward to that day, when we will partake of this communion around your table with Jesus.”
Give thanks for the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with those gathered.
Give opportunity for each one to make an expression of thanksgiving or to say what they would like.