Away in a Manger follows each aspect of the Christmas Eve service, beginning with the Evening Prayer of Christmas, greeting Christ as the "joyous light of glory." The service continues with the evening psalm, and then the assembly listens to the Christmas Story from the Gospel according to Luke proclaimed by the choirs. Children carry most of the narration from the Gospel as adults join in with stanzas of Christmas hymns loved by many generations. The entire story of the Nativity is given, with the angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all taking their parts.
Responding to the Good News of the Christmas gospel (Luke 2:1-20), the assembly sings the Magnificat, the song of praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as recorded in Luke's Gospel. The Litany, the Prayer for Peace, and the Lord's Prayer lead to the quiet close of Evening Prayer. The service concludes with the familiar carol Joy to the World.
J. Michael Thompson is the director of music ministry at St. Peter's Church, where he is the founder and director of the Schola Cantorum. He has been a pastoral musician and liturgist for twenty years, as well as a composer, author, and a noted promoter of the Liturgy of the Hours and Gregorian chant in contemporary parish situations.