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God Moves in a Mysterious Way

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2004 follow the ordering of the genealogy of Christ as found in Matthew.

Genealogies Recorded in the Sacred Scriptures (detail) by John Speed

The New Testament account of Jesus' birth begins with a reading that almost never makes its way into our Advent and Christmas worship services. In only 17 verses, Matthew traces Jesus' lineage, clearly establishing that Jesus is the "Messiah, son of David, the son of Abraham" (vs. 1). The genealogy consists of three lists of fourteen generations each, a symmetry that speaks of order and balance. The chapter conveys the intentionality of God's plan from all eternity to establish the legitimacy of Jesus as Messiah. 

But the details of the genealogy reveal an even deeper mystery. Who would have imagined that Israel's Messiah would be introduced as the descendant not only of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but also Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth? Who would have imagined a story, especially in ancient near eastern culture, in which both men and women had such a place of significance? Why would the genealogist dig up bad memories, telling us about David's role with particular reference to Uriah? And who would have imagined a divine plan with one chapter (the second of the three sets of 14 generations) that ended in tears, the tears of Babylon? 

Truly, God moves in mysterious ways. God brings us a kind of savior we never would have expected, one who "sympathizes with us in our weakness." God works through both the ordinary and extraordinary, through sinners and saints, through triumph and tragedy. 

The traditional service of Lessons and Carols is well-suited to preach the Matthew 1 sermon. Today, our readings, carols, and anthems follow the ordering of this genealogy.

Organ Voluntary:

"Veni,Veni Emmanuel," Gerald Near
"Noel Poitevin," Jean-François Dandrieu
"Prélude sur l’Introït de l’Épiphanie," Maurice Duruflé
"Noel de Saintonge," Jean-François Dandrieu
"La Nativité," Jean Langlais (from "Poèmes Évangéliques")

Processional Hymn: "Song of Zechariah/O Little Town of Bethlehem"


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, the dead are raised up, and all creation is given hope by the power of the Spirit.

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 each of 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!

I. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Scripture: Matthew 1:1-2; Hebrews 11:17-22

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

"O Frondens Virga" (O Branch, Coming into Leaf), Hildegard von Bingen

"There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob," Felix Mendelssohn, from "St. Paul"

"How Bright Appears the Morningstar"

Psalter Hymnal 357

II. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth

Scripture: Matthew 1:2-6; Hebrews 11:29-31; Ruth 4:1-17

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

"Song of Ruth," David Childs

III. Jesse

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

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

"When God’s Time Had Ripened," Alfred V. Fedak

"Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming," Robert Scholz

IV. David

Scripture: Psalm 72

"Hail to the Lord's Anointed" (refrain only)

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

"Hosanna to the Son of David," Orlando Gibbons

"Once in Royal David’s City"

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

V. Babylon

Scripture: Matthew 1:6b-11; Psalm 80:1-5

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

"By the Waters of Babylon," Jewish melody, arr. David Buley

"Night of Silence," arr. John Ferguson

VI. Mary and Joseph

Scripture: Matthew 1:12-16; 18-25

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

"There Is No Rose," Z. Randall Stroope

"Christ Was Born on Christmas Day," arr. Alice Parker and Martin Shaw

VII. The Fullness of Time

Scripture: Galatians 4:5-7; John 1:1-4, 14

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

"Hidden Christ, Alive Forever," C. Hubert H. Parry

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

Psalter Hymnal 345


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

Organ Voluntary: "Grand Choeur Dialogué," Eugène Gigout