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Born to Die, Born to Rise

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2007 celebrates Christmas by proclaiming the Easter Gospel: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!"

Lone Tree (detail) by Patricia Carroll

Despite all appearances, Christmas is not the most important day on the Christian calendar. The Christian year culminates not at Christmas, but in the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. Christmas is incomplete without Good Friday and Easter. It is not simply the end of Advent. It is also the beginning of Christ's passion. 

The earliest Christian preachers sensed this. Fifteen centuries ago, Caesarius of Arles' preached these words on Christmas Day: "The nativity could not be preached without the passion, nor could the passion without the glory of the nativity. Christ was born in order that he might suffer, he suffered in order that he might die, he died in order that he might descend into hell, he descended there in order that he might free the dead." Lewis Smedes concurred: "It is always evident that the cross casts its shadow over the manger, that Jesus was born in order to die, that God became human in order to do something for our salvation." 

For centuries hymnwriters have followed suit. Several familiar carols, such as "What Child Is This" and "We Three Kings," speak not only about Christ's nativity, but also offer allusions to his death and resurrection. Many texts do so by using the rich horticultural imagery of the Bible, drawing on the evocative way that seedlings and branches, winter and springtime, barrennness and fruitfulness depict for us the significance of the cross and the sheer goodness of the gospel.

There is something safe about Christmas without the cross. Who doesn't like a story about a baby in a manger? But especially in a time of uncertainty and fear, the world needs more than a sentimental story. It needs a savior. So this service is a bit of a time warp, collapsing December and April, the "Rose, E'er Blooming" and the "Lily of the Valley." We celebrate Christmas by proclaiming the Easter Gospel: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!"

Organ Voluntary:

"Noel Grand Jeu et Duo," Louis Claude Daquin
Three Settings of "In Thee Is Gladness," Michael Burkhardt, Raymond H. Haan, J.S. Bach

Choral Introit: "Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree," Elizabeth Posten

Processional Hymn: "Once in Royal David's City"

Psalter Hymnal 346
Stanza 1: all
Stanza 2: all
Stanza 3: women and girls
Stanza 4: men and boys
Stanza 5: all with descant


Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: who made the heavens and the earth.
Leader: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
All: Amen. 

Bidding Prayer:

Leader: Beloved in Christ, as we await the great festival of Christmas, 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. We rehearse again the account of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience to the glorious appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice, in carols and hymns, that the good purpose of God is being mightily fulfilled: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up. But first, we pray for the world which God so loves, for those who have not heard the good news of God, or who do not believe it; for those who walk in darkness and 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. 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 by 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!

God's Redemptive Promise Anticipates Christ's Death and Conquest

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-15

Leader: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.

"This Frozen December," Thomas A. Miller

"View the Present Through the Promise," Roy Hopp

The Prophet's Promise Hails the Advent of the World's Redeemer

Scripture: Isaiah 9:6-7; 53:7-12

Leader: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.

"Lo, How a Rose"

"All My Heart Again Rejoices," Paul Gerhardt

"Ah, Holy Jesus"

The Promise of a Suffering Servant

Scripture: Isaiah 53:1-3; Hosea 14:4-7

Leader: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.

"O Vos Omnes," Tomás Luis de Victoria

"Splendor Is Coming," Walter L. Pelz

The Advent Promise of the Coming Easter Kingdom

Scripture: Psalm 110; Jeremiah 23:5-6

Leader: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.

"Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," arr. John Rutter

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

The Marks of Christ's Suffering as a Sign of Advent Hope

Scripture: Isaiah 53:4-6; Revelation 5:6-10

Leader: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.

"What Child Is This," arr. David Willcocks

"Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," arr. Larry Visser

Psalter Hymnal 612
Stanza 1: all, unison
Stanza 2: choir
Stanza 3: choir
Stanza 4: all, unison

The Magi's Gifts Foreshadow Christ's Death and Resurrection

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

Leader: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.

"Bethlehem Down," Peter Warlock

"We Three Kings," arr. Richard Drakeford

The Birth of One Whose Death Brings Life

Scripture: John 1:1-4, 14; Revelation 22:1-2

Leader: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.

"The Tree of Life/There In God's Garden," K. Lee Scott


Pastor: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you have sent your Son to be our Savior:
our light in the midst of darkness,
our hope in the face of threats
our peace amid turmoil.

All: In your Word we have seen him
and know that your promises are true.

Pastor: Send us forth from this place
to reflect Christ's light in our lives,
and to bear witness to this sign of hope.
And as we go, grant us, we pray, your peace.

All: Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us your peace.

Charge and Benediction:

Pastor: Go forth into the world in peace:
be of good courage;
hold fast to that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the faint-hearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honor all people;
love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

And may the God of peace
make you holy in every way
and keep your whole being--spirit, soul, and body--
free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All: Alleluia! Amen!

Recessional Hymn: "Lift High the Cross"

Psalter Hymnal 373
Stanza 1: all, harmony
Stanza 2: women and girls
Stanza 3: all, unison
Stanza 4: men and boys
Stanza 5: all, harmony

Organ Voluntary: "Grand Choeur Dialogue," Eugène Gigout