On Earth as in Heaven

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2005 is structured by the Lord's Prayer, in light of the mystery of the incarnation.

The Heavens and the Earth (detail) by Elizabeth Steele Halstead
 
 

The Lord's Prayer is a prayer for all seasons. But it comes to us with particular pastoral urgency during Advent and Christmas.

Advent is the season built around the petition, "your kingdom come." It is the season for lifting our sights beyond daily anxieties and troubling news headlines to anticipate the fullness of God's coming kingdom. It is the season for Mary's Magnificat and Isaiah's prophecies of cruciform beauty and shalom.

Though not as prominent in worship today, Advent is also built around the petition "save us from the time of trial." It is the season for anticipating the "day of the Lord," the day of the refiner's fire, in which "the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple" (Mal. 3: 1). Faced with the prospect of this day, the children of God cling not to their own strength, but place their confidence fully in the
One who comes to save. 

In fact, each petition of the Lord's Prayer takes on urgency and beauty when interpreted in light of the advent of our Lord. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who teaches us to pray "our Father." In Jesus' appearing, we sense that hallowing God's name and doing God's will are matters of concrete obedience. In Jesus, we see not only one who provides daily bread for the crowds, but is our Bread of Life. In Jesus,
we find the author of our forgiveness, the one who makes possible our forgiveness of others. Truly, this Christ is the King of Glory.

All of this is possible because of the mystery of the incarnation. The Word becomes flesh. Earth glimpses heavenly beauty. In the words of Richard Crashaw: "Heaven in earth, and God in man." As with the incarnation, the Lord's Prayer places us, as it were, before a great vertical axis between heaven and earth. We pray that God's will be done "on earth as in heaven." We pray that the God of heaven will send us daily bread. We begin by hallowing God's name and end by extolling God's power and glory.

It is this heavenward look that gives us particular pause in North America today. Writers Dallas Willard and N. T Wright suggest that unnecessary confusion about heaven is the source of our most significant spiritual anxieties. We often live, work, and worship as if heaven were light years away, even though scripture teaches us that Jesus permeated the heaven and earth boundary in his advent and that God's Spirit and our prayers and songs permeate this boundary all the time. As far as spiritual diseases are concerned, the season of Advent and the Lord's Prayer may be among the most strategic inoculations we could discover.

May God's Spirit strengthen us all this Advent season, so that-in the words of tonight's bidding anthem-"when we offer Jesus' prayer, our hearts may fill with grace."

Organ Voluntary:"Sonata No. 6 in D Minor,"  Felix Mendelssohn

Choral: The first movement of this sonata is a set of variations based on the German chorale “Vater unser in Himmelreich” – “Our Father Who Art in Heaven.”
Fuga: The theme is reminiscent of the chorale melody.
Finale: The sonata closes with a quiet andante.

Processional Hymn: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"

Psalter Hymnal 341
Solo introduction
Organ interlude
Stanza 1-2: all
Stanza 3: in canon (all men begin; all women enter one measure later)
Stanza 4: all

Greeting:

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 as we prepare to pray the words that Jesus taught us.

Sung Prayer: "Let All Who Pray," arr. John Ferguson

I. Our Father in Heaven

Scripture: Isaiah 9:6-7, 66:12-13

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

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

"Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said:
    “I have set the crown on one who is mighty,
    I have exalted one chosen from the people.
I have found my servant David;
    with my holy oil I have anointed him;
my hand shall always remain with him;
    my arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not outwit him,
    the wicked shall not humble him.
I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down those who hate him.
My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him;
    and in my name his horn shall be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea
    and his right hand on the rivers.
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’
I will make him the firstborn,
    the highest of the kings of the earth.
Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him,
    and my covenant with him will stand firm.
I will establish his line forever,
    and his throne as long as the heavens endure." Psalm 89:19-29

"Your Little Ones, Dear Lord, Are We," arr. Robert Scholz

"Why did Christ command us to call God 'our Father'?
At the very beginning of our prayer Christ wants to kindle in us what is basic to our prayer--the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father. Our fathers do not refuse us things in this life; God our Father will even less refuse to give us what we ask in faith.

Why the words 'in heaven'? 
These words teach us not to think of God's heavenly majesty as something earthly, and to expect everything for body and soul from his almighty power." Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 46, Q&A 120-121

II. Hallowed Be Your Name

Scripture: Psalm 99 and Ezekiel 39:25-29

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

"Sanctus" (from Missa Hosanna), Noël Goemanne

"For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name." Song of Mary, Luke 1:49

"Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
    and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
    to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
    before him all our days." Song of Zechariah, Luke 1:72-75

"Still, Still Night," arr. Jackson Berkey

"What does the first request mean? 
Hallowed be your name means, help us to really know you, to bless, worship, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth. Help us to direct all our living--what we think, say, and do--so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised." Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 47, Q&A 122

III. Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

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

"What does the second request mean? 
Your kingdom come means, rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Keep your church strong, and add to it. Destroy the devil's work; destroy every force that revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word. Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.

What does the third request mean? 
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven means, help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good. Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven." Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 48-49, Q&A 123-124

"Canticle of Mary" (Magnificat), Jeffrey L. Ames and S. Scott Leaman

"Jesucristo, esperanza del mundo/Jesus Christ, Hope of the World," arr. Jorge Lockward and Greg Scheer

IV. Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

Scripture: Micah 5:2-5a; John 6:30-40

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

"Jesus, Sun of Life, My Splendor," George F. Handel, arr. Paul G. Bunjes

"I Am the Bread of Life"

What does the fourth request mean? 
Give us today our daily bread means, do take care of our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing. And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put trust in you alone." Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 50, Q&A 125

V. Forgive Us Our Sins

Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5

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

"On Christmas Night," arr. Michael Bedford

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

Psalter Hymnal 345

"What does the fifth request mean? 
Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors means, because of Christ's blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us. Forgive us, just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors." Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 51, Q&A 126

VI. Save Us from the Time of Trial

Scripture: Malachi 4:1-3; Matthew 24:29-35

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

"Advent Canticle," arr. Joel Navarro

"O Little Town of Bethlehem," arr. Stephen Paulus

"The Lord God said to the serpent,

'Because you have done this,
    cursed are you among all animals
    and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.'" Genesis 3:14-15

"What does the sixth request mean? 
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one means, by ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment. And our sworn enemies--the devil, the world, and our own flesh--never stop attacking us. And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, sot hat we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory." Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 52, Q&A 127

VII. For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory Are Yours

Scripture: John 1:1-4, 14

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

"Psalm 24" (Anglican chant), Joseph Barnby

"Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates"

Psalter Hymnal 163
Stanzas 1-2: choir
Stanzas 3-4: all

"Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped." Revelation 5:11-14

Prayer: 

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,
who ever lives to pray for us,
and who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen. 
"Book of Common Prayer," pg. 218, alt.

"The Lord's Prayer," Nicholas Rimsky-Korsakov

Charge: 

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.

Benediction:

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!
(1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Recessional Hymn: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Psalter Hymnal 340

Organ Voluntary: "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella," Keith Chapman

"What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever means, We have made all these requests of you because, as our all-powerful King, you not only want to, but are able to give us all that is good; and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever. What does that little word “Amen” express? Amen means, This is sure to be! It is even more sure that you listen to our prayer, than that we really desire what we pray for." 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 52, Q&A 128-129

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