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A Light to the Nations: A Service of Lessons and Carols

In an era in which narrow nationalisms are emerging yet again in so many places around the world, how important it is to dwell with the countercultural, global vision of Isaiah’s prophecies. This Lessons and Carols service will be held in person at LaGrave Avenue CRC and livestreamed on Sunday, December 5, 2021 at 3:00 and 6:00 PM, EST.

View the service outline

Livestream of the 3:00 pm (EST) service on Dec. 5, 2021 (watch here if you want to join the chat):

Livestream of the 6:00 pm (EST) service on Dec. 5, 2021 (watch here if you want to join the chat):

It is common to read the Old Testament as a collection of books that shine a spotlight on the people of Israel and assume that it was not until Pentecost that the global dimensions of God’s redemption would become clear. But such a narrowly nationalistic vision does not last long for careful readers of Isaiah. From start to finish, Isaiah evokes a much larger vision of redemption, insisting that from the start God’s call to Abram and Sarah was for the sake the world. Isaiah helps us hear God’s own expansive vision:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” -Isaiah 49:6

In an era in which narrow nationalisms are emerging yet again in so many places around the world, it is to dwell with the countercultural, global vision of Isaiah’s prophecies. What a gift it is to do so with students from China, Cuba, Indonesia, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, and United States, the countries represented in the choirs for this service. What a gift it is to have ready access to poetry and music from 14 countries over 5 continents to sing in this service—a tangible witness to the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit all over the world. May the Holy Spirit enlarge the scope of our hope through all we do in this service, helping us to live with eager expectation for all that will one day be revealed:

"The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light." -Revelation 21:23-24a

A Light to the Nations

Organ Prelude: Chorale and Two Settings on "Savior of the Nations, Come" by Samuel Scheidt, Walter Pelz, and Michael Burkhardt

Three Settings on "All Glory by to God on High" by Wilbur Held

Choral Introit: "Angel Choirs in Heaven Rejoice" (Ukraine), arr. Kyrylo Stetsenko

Processional: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," arr. Stephen Cleobury


Pastor: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
All: To him who loves us
and freed us from our sins by his blood,
and made us to be a kingdom,
priests serving his God and Father,
to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Bidding Prayer:

Pastor: Beloved in Christ, in this season of Advent we prepare ourselves so that we may be shown its true meaning. We have gathered to hear, in readings from the holy scriptures, how the prophets of Israel foretold that God would visit and redeem his waiting people and bring healing to the world God so loves. We rejoice, in carols and hymns, that the good purpose of God is being mightily fulfilled. We encourage each other in Christian hope, so needed in a world filled with sorrow and despair. We unite our hearts to pray for the nations of the world; for those who have not heard the good news of God or who do not believe it; for those who live today in the valley of the shadow of death; and for the church in this place and everywhere, that it may be freed from all evil and fear and may in pure joy lift up the light of the love of God. We do so remembering with gratitude those who rejoice with us and, on another shore, that multitude no one can number from every nation, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in this Lord Jesus we are united in fellowship. These prayers we humbly offer as we meditate on the readings from holy scripture, and also now, in the words that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us.
All: Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory forever. Amen!

Lesson 1: The Nations Stream to the Mountain of the Lord

Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-4, Revelation 15:3-4

Carol: "Ososo / Come Now, O Prince of Peace" (Korea), arr. Joel Navarro 

Carol: "Jesucristo, esperanza del mundo / Jesus Christ, Hope of the World" (Brazil), arr. Greg Scheer

Lesson 2: The Promise of the Prince of Peace

Scripture: Isaiah 9:1-7, John 12:46

Carol: "Jyothi dho prabhu / Give Us Light" (India), arr. Valerie Shields

Carol: "Christe, Redemptor omnium / O Christ, Redeemer of Us All" (Italy), by Claudio Monteverdi

Carol: "Walk in the Light" (United States), arr. André Thomas

Lesson 3: The Knowledge of the Lord in Abundance

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-9, Psalm 87

Carol: "Riu, riu, chiu" (Spain), arr. Jim Leininger

Carol: "Silent Night" (Germany), arr. Dan Forrest

Carol: "Anta atheemon / You are a Great God" (Lebanon), arr. Greg Scheer

Lesson 4: The Feast of the Lord for All Peoples

Scripture: Isaiah 25:6-10, Revelation 7:9-10

Carol: "The Rice of Life" (Taiwan), arr. Swee Hong Lim

Congregational Hymn: "By the Sea of Crystal" (United States), descant arr. Larry Visser

Lesson 5: A Light to the Nations that Frees the Prisoners

Scripture: Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 13:46-49

Carol: "Lift Up Your Heads" (Scotland), by John L. Bell

Carol: "Kwake Yesu nasimama / Here on Jesus Christ I Will Stand" (Kenya), arr. Greg Scheer

Carol: "Song of Simeon" (Geneva), by Claude Goudimel

Lesson 6: Salvation Reaching Out to the End of the Earth

Scripture: Isaiah 49:1-7, Luke 2:27-32

Congregational Carol: "Angels We Have Heard on High" (France)

Carol: "Natufurahi siku ya leo / Let Us Rejoice this Day" (Kenya), arr. Boniface Mganga

Lesson 7: The Gifts of the Nations Acceptable on God's Altar

Scripture: Isaiah 60:1-7, John 1

Carol: "The First Noel" (England), arr. Dan Forrest

Carol: "De tierra lejana venimos / Song of the Wise Men" (Puerto Rico), arr. Gary Fry


Pastor: Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: Jesus Christ appeared in the flesh,
All: was vindicated by the Spirit,
Pastor: was seen by angels,
All: was preached among the nations,
Pastor: was believed on in the world,
All: was taken up in glory.


Pastor: God of grace and glory, in this world so filled with despair, we cling to your promise: surely Christ is coming soon. As we wait for this glorious appearing, we pray for the world that you so love, and for the multitudes you are gathering that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
All: Send your Holy Spirit to bring healing to the nations, and to strengthen us to be people of eager expectation and ministers of your peace. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Congregational Hymn: "Abana alathi fi ssama / Abana in Heaven" (Lebanon), arr. Greg Scheer


Pastor: May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
All: Alleluia! Amen.

Recessional: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Organ Postlude: "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella" by Keith Chapman