Evangelists and Canticles

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2011 invites you to hear the Scripture passages from four evangelists, surrounded by four canticles.

The Four Evangelists (detail), Book of Kells

Reading and hearing the biblical narratives of the preparation for, and then the actual birth of Christ, seems counter-cultural these days. Our commercial establishments have been celebrating an "instant" Christmas since the day after Halloween, in which there's no "prepare the way of the Lord," there's no waiting and working for Christ's kingdom when there's no Advent. Our seasonal carols tend to surround Christ's birth with the coziness of "See amid the winter's snow," even though that is an unlikely occurrence in Bethlehem. The well-known Christmas lullaby suggests "no crying he makes" (which if it wasn't so silly, you'd think it was a denial of Christ's humanity). Our Christmas cards and crèche scenes typically confuse or conflate the appearance of the shepherds with the appearance of the Magi, as does "The First Noel." And few recall the slaughter of innocent Bethlehem baby boys amidst our Christmas meals and gift-exchanges.

In sharp contrast to these phenomena, the biblical story of awaiting Christ's birth and the actual birth narratives by the New Testament evangelists are sober, objective, and without sentimentality. We hear of the preparation for the birth of John the Baptizer, upon which his father Zechariah bursts into song. We encounter Mary and Elizabeth--both with surprising and blossoming pregnancies, whose meeting produces Mary's great hymn, "My soul magnifies the Lord." The simple birth statement by Dr. Luke says "she gave birth to her first-born son," but the angel's choir announces the event with "glory to God and peace on earth" whose echo we still hear today. Matthew tells of Herod's plan to kill the infant Jesus, as does John in his Revelation in which the devilish dragon tries to snatch the new-born child. Simeon sings of a "light" for the Gentiles and Israelites, while John sets forth "the Word became flesh."

So we invite you to hear the Scripture passages from four evangelists, surrounded by four canticles, and for you to join in the hymns and carols for Advent and Christmas. But let's not forget that Christ's "being born as a human" was an "emptying of himself," which ultimately led to his humiliating death, and beyond that to his exaltation, as the early church confessed in its credo quoted by Paul in Philippians 2:6-11.

 Prelude: 

"Creator of the Stars of Night (Conditor alme Siderum)," Raymond H. Haan
"O Come, O Come, Immanuel (Veni Immanuel)," Robert J. Powell
"Of the Father's Love Begotten (Divinum Mysterium)" Gerald Near

Processional Hymn: "Of the Father's Love Begotten"

Psalter Hymnal 342
Stanza 1: all
Stanza 2: women and girls
Stanza 3: men and boys
Stanzas 4 and 5: all

Greeting:

Pastor: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God.
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

All: And also with you. Amen.

Prayer for Illumination

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

Scripture: Luke 1:5-17

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!

"Zacharias' Song," Paul Ares

"Prepare the Way, O Zion"

Worship and Rejoice 152
Stanzas 1 and 2: all
Stanza 3: all in unison

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

Scripture: Luke 1:26-28

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!

"The Song of Mary (Magnificat)," Z. Randall Stroope

The Birth of Jesus

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

Psalter Hymnal 345
Stanzas 1 and 2: all
Stanza 3: all in unison

"Gloria," György Orbán

The Visit of the Magi

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-18

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!

"What Child Is This?"

Worship and Rejoice 184
Stanza 1: all
Stanza 2: all in unison
Stanza 3: all

The Woman and the Dragon

Scripture: Revelation 12:1-12

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!

"Fanfare for Michaelmas Day," Sidney Campbell

"Mary Nursed Her Son Named Jesus," Bert Polman

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

Scripture: Mark 1:1-8

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!

"This Is the Record of John," Orlando Gibbons

"On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry," Claudio Monteverdi

The Word Became Flesh

Scripture: John 1:1-8

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!

"The Word Was God," Rosephanye Powell

"Awake, Awake, and Greet the New Morn"

Worship and Rejoice 160
Stanza 1: all
Stanza 2: men and boys
Stanza 3: women and girls
Stanza 4: all

"Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis)," Geoffrey Burgon

Prayer and Benediction

Recessional Hymn: "Joy to the World!" 

Psalter Hymnal 337
Stanzas 1 and 2: all
Stanza 3: all in unison
Stanza 4: all

Postlude: Finale from "First Organ Symphony," Louis Vierne

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