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Isaiah's Vision of a Peaceable Kingdom

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2013 journeys through the book of Isaiah sequentially, with readings and music drawn from ten different chapters.

Peaceable Kingdom (detail) by Edward Hicks

The book of Isaiah, which has often been called “the Fifth Gospel,” preaches the Advent and Christmas gospel in ways that resist both hopelessness and sentimentality. Its texts are full of both unbending realism about the terror of sin and injustice, and resolute hope in the coming of the Messiah and the peaceable kingdom that this Messiah would usher in. This service of Lessons and Carols journeys through the book of Isaiah sequentially, with readings and music drawn from ten different chapters.

The vision of God’s peaceable kingdom was particularly compelling to nineteenth century Quaker artist Edward Hicks (see cover), who painted 61 different versions of Isaiah 11:6-8: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them…” In some of them Hicks brought this vision of peaceable kingdom forward into recent history, depicting a vision of Native Americans and Pennsylvania settlers living together in peacable harmony.

At this service of Lessons and Carols, we express our gratitude to God for Bert Polman, Professor and Chairperson of the Calvin College Music Department from 2004-2012. As he neared the end of his struggle with cancer this past summer, Prof. Polman was beginning to plan this service, speaking of it as the last service he would shape. He chose the theme Peaceable Kingdom and selected both the readings from Isaiah and Edward Hicks’ painting for the program cover, naming these as a source of profound personal hope during his time in hospice care. Prof. Polman focused his teaching and scholarly energies on three primary areas of expertise: congregational song, the Song of Mary (Luke 1), and
metrical settings of the Psalms—all of which are prominent in tonight’s service. How grateful we are for Prof. Polman’s life and witness, and for the privilege of uniting our voices tonight with all God’s people in heaven and earth, of every time and place, in testifying to the hope we have of the coming of the fullness of God’s peaceable kingdom in Jesus Christ.


Six Variants on "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," Gerald Near
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," John Ferguson
Fanfare, Variations and Toccata on "Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding," James Biery

Processional: "Hail to the Lord's Anointed" (Psalm 72), arr. Roy Hopp

Greeting, Call to Worship, and Prayer for Illumination

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. —Psalm 124:8
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.” —Isaiah 2:2-3

O send out your light and truth, O God . . .
. . . we pray in the strong name of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I. Lament for Sin and Pervasive Injustice, the "Nevertheless" of God's Promise

Scripture: Isaiah 1:1-3, 10-11, 18-20; Isaiah 2:1-5

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

"Toda la tierra/All Earth Is Waiting," Jerry Gunderson

"My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout," John Ferguson

Lift Up Your Hearts 69
Stanzas 1 and 2: choir
Stanzas 3 and 4: choir and congregation

II. God's Promise of the Coming of the Prince of Peace, and the "Kingdom of Righteousness"

Scripture: Isaiah 7:10-14; Isaiah 9:2-7

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

"A New Magnificat" (the Songs of Hannah and Mary), Carolyn Jennings

Mary’s song (Luke 1) is an improvisation on Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2). This musical setting interweaves them, helping us to hear them stereophonically, with Hannah’s song sung on one side of the sanctuary, and Mary’s song echoing from the other—a musical testimony to the faithfulness of God from generation to generation.

III. The Peaceable Kingdom

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

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

"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," Linda Spevacek

"When the King Shall Come Again" (based on Isaiah 35), John Ferguson

IV. The Calling and Blessing of Those Who Proclaim God's Message of Peace

Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-11

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

"You Shall Go Out With Joy" (based on Isaiah 35), David Edmonds

"Song of the Prophets," arr. for this service by Joel Navarro

Lift Up Your Hearts 53
Stanza 1: choir
Stanza 2: choir
Stanza 18: choir and congregation

V. All Creation Sings for Joy

Scripture: Isaiah 55:6-13

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

"God Reigns! Earth Rejoices" (Psalm 97), Howard Cable

"Joy to the World" (Psalm 98), John Rutter

Lift Up Your Hearts 92
Stanza 1: choir and congregation
Stanza 2: choir
Stanza 3: choir
Stanza 4: choir and congregation

VI. All Nations Shall Come to Christ, the Temple of God

Scripture: Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8; Isaiah 60:1-3

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

"In the Heavens," arr. for this service by Joel Navarro

"Here from All Nations," Roy Hopp

Lift Up Your Hearts 490
Stanza 1: choirs and congregation in harmony
Stanza 2: campus choir
Stanza 3: choirs and congregation in unison
Stanza 4: women's chorale
Stanza 5: choirs and congregation in harmony

VII. God With Us

Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11; John 1:1-5, 14

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

"Dona Nobis Pacem," Z. Randall Stroope


Pastor: Eternal God,
you taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand.
Keep us awake and alert, watching for the advent of your peaceable kingdom.

All: By power of your Eternal Spirit, make us strong in faith,
so that when Christ comes in glory to judge the earth, we may joyfully give him praise
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Charge and Blessing:

Pastor: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. —1 Thess. 5:16-22

May the God of peace himself 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. —1 Thess. 5:23-24

All: Alleluia! Amen!

Recessional: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Lift Up Your Hearts 76
Stanzas 1 and 2: choirs and congregation in harmony
Stanza 3: unison, with the choir descant by David Willcocks
Stanza 4: unison

Postlude: Finale (from "Sixth Symphony Op. 42, No. 6") by Charles Widor