Join our mailing list


This service of Lessons and Carols from 1999 envisions the day when the whole creation will cease its groaning, and embrace a new order of God's shalom.

Advent and Christmas are not only about the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. They are also about the coming of an entirely new world order. The prophecies of Isaiah, read each year at services like these, present an unmistakably political vision of God's kingdom of justice and peace-even if our familiarity with them makes us immune to this unanticipated message. Advent and Christmas, we might say, are about politics.

Tonight consider the choir to be a representative not only of Calvin's music department, but also of Calvin's political science department. Our message of "Peace on earth" is not merely a religious well-wish, but a statement of political upheaval. Mary's song (The Magnificat), is not
merely the simple, pious prayer of an innocent young girl, but an unnerving political statement that speaks of a great reversal of social and political power. "O Come, O Come, Immanuel" expresses not only personal longing for fulfillment, but also corporate longing for justice, the
release of prisoners and the end to fear and darkness. The coming of Jesus is not merely the birth of a beautiful baby; it is a divine invasion. 

As the choir has studied this semester, this coming political landscape is envisioned in the ancient practice of the Year of Jubilee. Every fiftieth year the shofar trumpet announced this Year of Jubilee, a year of forgiving debts, returning land to original landowners, and righting
wrongs. Jubilee is a picture of the politics of righteousness and God's shalom. This theme bears striking resemblance to much of Jesus' teaching, especially as recorded in the gospel of Luke. Jesus declared himself to be the anointed one, the one to "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." So also, when Jesus returns, the trumpet's sound will announce not only Christ's return; but also the coming of his kingdom, a kingdom of Jubilee.

We stand at the threshold of the year 2000, a year which many Christians have chosen to recover the theme of Jubilee. The point of this celebration need not be to advance a particular human political agenda. Rather, it points to the divine political agenda of righteousness, justice, and peace centered in Christ.

So, in tonight's service, we have set aside our harps and taken up our trumpets. We have saved "Silent Night" for another year, and taken up "Crown Him with Many Crowns." We have set aside quiet, introspective settings of Mary's song, and instead sing a setting that is insistent, angular, even strident. We hear prophecies not only of Jesus' birth, but also of God's coming kingdom, including the remarkable words of Psalm 72 and Leviticus 25. We turn, not once or twice, but three times, to the remarkable text "O Savior Throw the Heavens Wide," a text that envisions the day when the whole creation will cease its groaning, and embrace a new order of God's shalom.

Organ Voluntary: "Passacaglia in C Minor," J.S. Bach

Processional Hymn: "O Come, O Come, Immanuel"

Psalter Hymnal 328
Sing assertively
Stanzas 1-2: choir
Stanza 3: women and girls
Stanza 4: men and boys
Organ interlude
Stanzas 5-7: all

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 this Great Little One, the Eternal Word, 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 Christ, 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. The Terrible Effects of the Fall and a Promise of a Future Redemption

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-19

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

Sung Lament: "O Savior, Throw the Heavens Wide," arr. Robert V. Scholz

II. The Shofar-Trumpet Announces Jubilee to a Waiting People

Scripture: Leviticus 25:8-17; Psalm 81:1-4

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

"O Come, O Come, Immanuel," arr. John Ferguson

"Great Day" (African American Spiritual), arr. Moses Hogan

III. A Longing for Righteousness and Praise Springs Up in the Nations of the World

Scripture: Isaiah 61

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

"Hunger Carol" (Southeast Asia), arr. Roy Hopp

This text is so daring and so stark that we hardly dare take these words on our lips. Yet, after singing the text for the first time and seriously considering not using this text for fear of taking its message too lightly, one choir member wrote, "As to the 'Hunger Carol,' I can't imagine not having it in the service! It is a very moving text--and very truthful. I think that the writer is correct in saying that we need to wake up and acknowledge our greed and apathy."

"Jesucristo, esperanza del mundo/Jesus Christ, Hope of the World" (South America)

"Freedom Is Coming" (South Africa)

IV. The Trumpet Announces the Day of the LORD

Scripture: Joel 2:1-2, 12-13; Malachi 4:1-3

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

"O Christ! Come Back to Save Your Folk"

Psalter Hymnal 330
Stanza 1: choir
Stanza 2: men and boys
Stanza 3: women and girls
Organ interlude by Helmut Walcha
Stanzas 4-5: all

"Where Shall I Be When the Trumpet Sounds," André Thomas

V. Divine Promises of Righteousness and Justice in God's Coming Kingdom

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7, 11:1-10

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

"O Savior, Throw the Heavens Wide" (Opus 74, no. 2), Johannes Brahms

Meditation: Who Would Have Thought It?

"Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes"

Psalter Hymnal 335

VI. The Messiah Brings Righteousness to a Despairing World

Scripture: Psalm 72

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

"Jesus, Joy of All Desiring" (from Cantata 147), Johann Sebastian Bach

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

Psalter Hymnal 72
Stanza 1: all
Organ and trumpet interlude
Stanza 2: women and girls
Stanza 3: all
Stanza 4: men and boys
Stanza 5: all
Organ and trumpet interlude
Stanza 6: all

VII. Mary Celebrates the Angel's News with a Canticle of Jubilee

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

"The Magnificat," Hasley Stevens

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

"Tell Out, My Soul"

Psalter Hymnal 478
Organ introduction, Paul Manz
Stanzas 1-4: unison

Of the thousands of musical settings of this text, many are simple, lovely, introspective, serene; some are exuberant, hopeful, happy, buoyant; only a few, like this one, are strident, angular, insistent, biting. Through this music, we strain to listen to this familiar text as if for the first time, to hear its breathtaking and disturbing vision for God's work in this world. 

VIII. The Earthly Birth of the Heavenly King and Prophet

Scripture: Luke 2:1-6, 4:16-21

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

Carols of Enthronement and Jubilee:

"Of the Father's Love Begotten"

"Angels We Have Heard on High"

"What Child Is This," arr. David Willcocks

"Crown Him with Many Crowns"

IX. We Are Called to Receive God's Incarnate Son as LORD

Scripture: John 1:1-14; Psalm 24:9-10

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

"God Is Gone Up with a Triumphant Shout," Gerald Finzi

X. We Leave to Bring this Gospel of Peace to a Hurting World


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.
Choir: Now may your servant, Lord, according to your word, depart in exultation.
My peace shall be serence, for now my eyes have seen your wonderful salvation.
You did for all prepare this gift so great, so rare, fulfilling prophet's story,
a light to show the way to Gentiles gone astray and unto Israel's glory.
(Song of Simeon, melody by Louis Bourgeois, from the Genevan Psalter, setting by Claude Goudimel)

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.


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: Amen!

Recessional Hymn: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Psalter Hymnal 340

Organ Voluntary: Partita on "O Come, All Ye Faithful," Charles Callahan