Join All the Glorious Names

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2003 examines the names of Jesus.

Janette Roeda (detail of calligraphy cover art)

In this exceedingly thoughtful text, Sylvia Dunstan reflects for us some of the rich variety of Christological titles, metaphors, and descriptions to be found within the Scriptures. As we know, the writers of Scripture ransacked every tradition they could lay their hands on. They borrowed from wisdom and prophecy; they borrowed from history, poetry, and apocalyptic. They tried to express Jesus Christ's uniqueness with everything they had, with what Martin Hengel once called "a multiplicity of approximations."

What is it that's so unique about Christ? Judging by the content of the ecumenical creeds, what's especially unique is his two natures and his three states.

The doctrine of the two natures of Christ says that exactly one person, Jesus Christ, is simultaneously God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, and also a particular man, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary.

The doctrine of hte three states of Christ follows the kenosis hymn of Philippians 2, and says that this same person, this one person, this second person of the Trinity, who has always existed in pre-incarnational glory, emptied himself at a particular point on the time strand of the world, becoming incarnate. He acted like a penitent by getting baptized. He suffered, died, and was buried. Both the Apostles' and the Nicene creeds make a point of saying that Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, was humiliatingly buried. The creeds then complete their testimony to the parabola shape of Jesus Christ's career by confessing his resurrection from the dead, his ascension, and his session in an exalted state at the right hand of God.

These two doctrines--the two natures doctrine, and the three states doctrine--naturally generate paradoxical claims, and Sylvia Dunstan has loaded up the lines of her text with quite a number of them: so stanza 1 addresses Christ the Lord as both lamb and shepherd--a pair of images from John's gospel, where Jesus is the sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and also the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. Again, Christ is both prince and slave; he's the one who emptied himself and took on the nature of a slave, and he's also the one according to Acts 5 whom God exalted as "prince and savior." Stanza 2 keeps the pattern of alternating status descriptions going with the phrase "shining in eternal glory" which probably refers back to Christ's pre-existence. Then comes the phrase "beggar'd" by a soldier's toss," which tells of the humiliation of being stripped by people who then gamble over your clothing. And every stanza addresses Christ as "the everlasting instant," a phrase that gives us at once the universality and particularity of Christ, his divinity and humanity, his location on the human time strand and his transcendence of all times and strands.

But what's interesting here is that Dunstan also gives us paradoxes generated by the sheer abnormality of evil and the fact that prima facie evil is needed to defeat actual evil: hence Christ makes peace by bloodshed; he gains victory by a magnificent defeat. Moreover, a distant but related set of paradoxes that conclude each stanza, Dunstan cites our own ambivalence toward this paradoxical Christ: we scorn and crave him; we want him and we don't; he is God's gift, but we have to count the cost of following him. Finally, in the last line of the hymn terrible ambivalence meets unresolvable paradox: God slays in order to save; and the desire to meet God is therefore a death wish before it is anything else at all. 

Organ Voluntary:

Prelude on “Christus Paradox,” Albert Travis
"O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright," Walter Pelz

Processional Hymn: "Join All the Glorious Names," John Darwall

Stanza 1: all
Stanza 2: all unison
Stanza 3: women
Stanza 4: men
Stanza 5: all unison

Bidding Prayer:

Pastor: 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 redemption brought us by 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 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!

God’s Greeting and Congregational "Amen"

I. Word

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-4; John 1:1-5

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

"Suscepit Israel," Johann Sebastian Bach

"The Glory of the Father," Egil Hovland

II. Immanuel

Scripture: Isaiah 7:10-14

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

"Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming," arr. J. Edmund Hughes

"A Spotless Rose," Herbert Howells

IV. Lamb of God

Scripture: Isaiah 53:1-7; John 1:29

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

"The Lamb," John Tavener

"O Christ, the Lamb of God"

Psalter Hymnal 257

V. King

Scripture: Psalm 110

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

"Jesu! Rex admirabilis," Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Scripture: Psalm 98

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

"Joy to the World," arr. John Rutter

Psalter Hymnal 337
Stanza 1: all
Stanza 2 & 3: choir
Stanza 4: all

VI. Tree of Life

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1; Psalm 80; Revelation 22:1-2

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

"Christ, the Apple Tree," Elizabeth Poston

"Jesus Christ the Apple Tree," Lee R. Kesselman

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

VII. Paradox

Scripture: John 1:14; Revelation 5:6-10

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

"Christus Paradox," Alfred Fedak

Prayer:

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.

Parting Challenge:

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.

Benediction:

Pastor: 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 Postlude: "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella," Keith Chapman

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