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Christus Paradox

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2008 is an extended meditation on the incomprehensible incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Discovery (detail) by James Fissel

The texts chosen include not a single “ding, dong,” “fum, fum, fum,” “fa, la, la,” or “holly and ivy.” Nor is there a single reference to those “merry gentlemen.”

While such texts have their place, they may also unwittingly contribute to the saccharine sentimentality that often surrounds this season, even the arena of well-crafted sacred music.

In contrast, tonight’s texts are drawn from some of the most muscular and profound of the Christian tradition: the ancient liturgy of St. James, the English metaphysical poets Southwell and Crashaw, and from the most theologically profound of all the familiar carols, including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “How Bright Appears the Morning Star."

Some of these images and texts may require further reflection, especially Southwell’s “A Child My Choice.” We invite you to take this order of service home with you following this service, and to use the scripture readings and carol texts as a guide to your personal and family worship during this Advent season.


Prelude on "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," Albert Travis
"O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright," Walter Pelz

Processional Hymn: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"

Psalter Hymnal 341
Stanza 1 and 2: all, unison
Stanza 3: sung in canon (men and boys begin; women and girls join one measure later)
Organ interlude
Stanza 4: all, unison


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 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!

"Summer in Winter Carol," Kenneth Jennings

The Whole Creation's Head and Lord Assumed Our Very Nature

Scripture: Proverbs 8:12, 22-31; Colossians 1:15-20

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

"All Things Bright and Beautiful," John Rutter

"How Bright Appears the Morning Star"

Psalter Hymnal 357
Stanza 1: all, harmony
Stanza 2: Campus Choir
Stanza 3: all, harmony

A Song in the Night

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-15; Psalm 30:4-5

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

"Appalachian Carol," John Jacob Niles and Lewis Henry Norton

"My Song in the Night," Paul Christiansen

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-6

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

"A Child My Choice," Richard Dirksen and David Wilson

"This Little Babe" from "A Ceremony of Carols" (Opus 28, 1942), Benjamin Britten

The Suffering Servant

Scripture: Isaiah 9:6; 53:7-12

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

"Child of Peace," Jeffrey Van

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Ah, Holy Jesus," arr. John Ferguson and Joel Navarro

Stanzas sung in alternation

Fullness of Time

Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-3; Galatians 4:4-6

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

"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," Edward Bairstow

"Hidden Christ, Alive Forever," arr. John Ferguson

Christus Paradox

Scripture: Luke 2:8-12

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

"O Magnum Mysterium," Jakob Handl

"The Word is born a child. It is only right that we should be astounded." Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

"So, let us not bring a foolish presumption to judge by our imaginations the admirable secrets of God, but let us adore them in all simplicity." John Calvin (1509-1564)

"Christus Paradox," Alfred Fedak

"...he took to himself what was not, while remaining what he was; ... he continued to be what he is, while appearing to us as what we are..." Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

"Let us recognize also how our Lord Jesus Christ, ever since his birth, suffered for us so that when we seek him we do not need to make long journeys to find him nor to be truly united to him." John Calvin (1509-1564)

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Scripture: John 1:1-4, 14

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

"Emmanuel," Dennis Friesen-Carper


Leader: Let us pray.

All: Almighty God,
you wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature.
In your mercy, let us share the divine life of Jesus Christ who came to share our humanity,
and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Leader: 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.


Pastor: 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: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Psalter Hymnal 340
Stanza 1: all, unison
Stanza 2: all, harmony
Stanza 3: all, unison

Postlude: Postlude on "Puer Nobis," Aaron David Miller