In most families Christmas Eve is a busy, chaotic time. It is not easy to get a family that includes overly-excited children to church. But, it is worth the time and energy. Children - and their parents - actually need it. The church helps when it articulates for parents clear reasons to make the effort. Here is my starter list of reasons.
To hear the story read or told in an important way on the "night it happened." Children like hearing the story of their birth on their birthday and celebrating other big events on "the very day it happened." So, the story which may have been acted out in a pageant and discussed in Sunday school and read at home, feels more "real" when read on Christmas Eve in the sanctuary.
To go to church at night - These days children at church are most often during the day. To go at night to a decorated, even candle-lit church is almost magical. When the family makes this an important part of Christmas - even in the middle of chaos - just being there reminds children what is most important about Christmas.
To be with a crowd telling the story - Joining church friends in a packed sanctuary reminds children that this story is something bigger than just their family traditions. They are part of a huge family of families who celebrate Jesus' birth.
To sing the carols at least one more time - not many families sing together at home and not many children's groups sing religious carols any more. That means we need to be intentional about singing the carols with the children. And, who would want to miss singing "Silent Night" in the Christmas Eve sanctuary while hugging your child.
To create a context in which to discover the truth about Santa - If Santa is all there is to Christmas Eve once children learn "the truth", Christmas is just a greedy gift grab. But if Christmas Eve has always circled around the story of Jesus told in the sanctuary, the truth about Santa can be fit into that context and the Christmas celebration gets richer.
To create memories - Worshipping on Christmas Eve as a family creates, over the years, a treasure trove of memories. Some of them shine with wonder. Others make for eye-rolling stories that are retold every Christmas. These memories are precious for both the children as they mature and the parents as they age.
What would you add?