The Song of Mary - Luke 1 (Christmas Eve/Christmas)

A Christmas service plan on the Song of Mary, proclaimed during the months of her pregnancy and filled with an awareness that God is in the process of doing his mighty redeeming work. Part of an Advent series focused on the tension between the message that "Christ has come" and "not all is yet accomplished."

The Songs of Advent

Theme of the Service

The theme for this service is the Song of Mary, which we know as the "magnificat" (its first word in Latin). Her song is directed to God, proclaimed during the months of her pregnancy, and filled with an awareness that God is in the process of doing his mighty redeeming work. This service is designed for the fourth Sunday of Advent and may be used Sunday morning, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. You will want to modify this service to fit the time.


WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice"
"Joy to the World"

The Welcome and Call to Worship

*Song: "Joy to the World" PH 40, PsH 337, RL 198, SFL 137, TH 195, TWC 146, UMH 246

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Congregation of Jesus Christ, at this Christmas time, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who sent his Son to redeem the earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen!

*We Greet One Another

*Song: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice" PH 28, PsH 355, RL 218, TH 207, TWC 157, UMH 224

The Lighting of the Candles
The Readings
[Fourth Sunday of Advent]
Reader 1: We wait for light, and lo! there is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
Reader 2: Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
Reader 1: For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples.
Reader 2: But the LORD will arise upon you,
and nations shall come to your light.
Reader 1: The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night.
For the LORD will be your everlasting light
and your God will be your glory.
-from Isaiah 59:9; 60:1-3, 19, NRSV

[Eve of Christmas or Christmas Day ]
Reader 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
Reader 2: He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him.
Reader 1: In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
Reader 2: The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
Reader 1: The true light, which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father's only son,
full of grace and truth.
-from John 1:1-5, 9, 14, NRSV

Lighting the Candles

Song: "Magnify the Lord" PsH 622, RN 131, SFL 13 (sung twice)


THE CAROLS OF CHRISTMAS

Anthem: "A Virgin Unspotted," Billings
Songs: "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" PH 37, PsH 353, RL 221, TH 216, TWC 169, UMH 229
"Once in Royal David's City" PH 49, PsH 346, RL 201, TH 225, TWC 161, WOV 643, UMH 250 
Anthem: "Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem," Horman
Songs: "The Prophets Came to Israel" PsH 334, SFL 128
"Away In a Manger," PH 24/25, PsH 348/349, RL213/214, SFL 129, TH 204/205, TWC 147/149, WOV 644, UMH 217
"That Boy-Child of Mary" PH 55, PsH 352, SFL 130, UMH 241

(The offering is received during the singing of these songs.)


GOD SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS WORD

The Reading of Scripture: Luke 1:39-56
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The Song of Mary
The Songs of Advent 4
Text: Luke 1:46-55

The Prayers of the People


THE CAROLS OF CHRISTMAS

Songs: "Angels We Have Heard on High" PH 23, PsH 347, RL 206, TH 214, TWC 152, UMH 238
"Angels from the Realms of Glory" PH 22, PsH 354, RL 229, TH 218, TWC 174, UMH 220
Anthem: "Holy Jesus, Glory of Christmas," Nagy
Songs: "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" PH 29, PsH 356, RL 224, SFL 131, TH 224, TWC 151, UMH 251
"O Come, All Ye Faithful" PH 41/42, PsH 340, RL 195, (RN1) TH 208, TWC 173, UMH 234


WE GO OUT IN A SPIRIT OF CELEBRATION

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*"The Hallelujah Chorus," Handel

Postlude: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"
or: "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella"

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

In spite of all the differences that divide Christians in their perspectives on Mary's identity, we cannot deny that she is intimately involved in the story of Christmas. It is good, therefore, to focus on her story. Though we have little personal information about her, the song that she sang gives us wonderful insight into the thoughts, feelings and convictions of her heart at this momentous time. We get a glimpse of Mary as someone capable of deep thought and reflection who needs to give expression to it. In Luke 2:19, after the visit of the shepherds, she is described as someone who "treasured all these things" and "pondered them in her heart." This song comes from that kind of contemplative heart. The song reveals that she was very familiar with Old Testament prophecies because it shows remarkable similarity to the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2) and carries much of the same spirit as Psalm 103.

There are four themes that are woven into this song:

  • She first speaks of God's great privileges to her (verses 46-49). These are the words of a young lady who is keenly aware that God has stepped into her life and overwhelmed her with privileges she never imagined. These words show privilege and surprise.
  • Second, she speaks of God's mercy to all generations (verse 50). She thinks of God's loving faithfulness to a human society that is composed of many generations. The steady mercy of God binds all of humankind together.
  • Then, third, she addresses God's delivering arm (verses 51-53). Here we sense her knowledge of the Old Testament for her ancestors loved to speak of the "arm of God." As she sings these words, we can picture her ancestors traveling out of Egypt's slavery through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land and the proud, rich and mighty enemies who tried to attack them at every turn of the way. The arm of God was protecting them through the Red Sea, the Jordan River and in many other events giving them victory.
  • Finally, she moves to her final "stanza" (verses 54-55) in which she remembers God's promises and his faithfulness to those promises. God has made promises to her ancestors, and he has been faithful to his word. Since he is a promise-keeping God, these events in which she is involved now are closely and intimately connected with the earlier events of God's deliverance of his people.

We can treasure Mary's song as a way of looking into her heart, seeing and hearing her faith, and use it as a means of honoring her. This is valid and important, but we do more justice to her song when it becomes a means by which we observe and are inspired by her faith to see and appreciate the faithfulness of God in his mercy. Yes, in a sense, Mary's experience was unique, a one-of-a-kind event. Yet, at the same time, we are called to recognize our privileged position with God, how rich we are because of his delivering mercy and his promise-fulfilling faithfulness. We all would do well in this season to clear away the clutter and recognize the mercy, faithfulness and power of God. Just as Mary, in true Hebrew fashion, saw herself as "one" with those who lived long before, we must see ourselves as "one" with all who have been delivered before and who will come after us.

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

We are providing many resources for alternative harmonizations for the congregational hymns in this service. It is probably not wise to vary every hymn, but the judicious use of free harmonizations can give a freshness and vitality to the singing of particular texts. If your congregation loves to sing in parts, you will need to exercise greater caution. Many of the resources suggested also provide ideas for hymn introductions.

Suggestions for prelude and alternative harmonizations for the opening two carols can be found in the following resources:

ANTIOCH ["Joy to the World"]

Organ:
Behnke, John A. Five Familiar Carols for Christmas. Hope 1749 [1994] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Christmas Hymn Improvisations, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-137
[1998] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. A Christmas Suite. Morningstar MSM-10-109 [1990] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 3. AMSI OR-6 [1983] (E-M)
Diemer, Emma Lou. Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-5935-X [2001] (M)
Ferguson, John. A Christmas Triptych, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-141 [2000] (M)
Ferguson, John. Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-5935-X [2001]
(M)
Haan, Raymond H. Festival Hymn Preludes. SMP KK329 [1985] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. Five for Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-139 [1999] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 4. Concordia 97-7032 [2005] (E)
Schaffner. Five Christmas Carols in Baroque Style. Concordia 97-6194 [1993]
(adaptable for piano, M)

Piano:
Carter, John. Carols for Piano. Hope 232 [1987] (E-M)
Carter, John. Still More Carols for Piano. Hope 8175 [2002] (E-M)

Handbells:
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Christmas Joy. Agape 1185 [1984] (3-5 octaves, M)
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Joy to the World. Agape 2156 [2000] (3-5 octaves with organ and opt.
trumpet, brass and tympani, level 3)
Sanders, Patricia A. The Twelve Bells of Christmas. Agape 1717 [1994] (2 octaves, E-M)
Sherman, Arnold B. Joy to the World. Concordia 97-6448 [1994] (3-6 octaves, D)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

IN DULCI JUBILO ["Good Christian Friends, Rejoice"]

Organ:
Bach, J. S. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (M)
Bach, J. S. The Liturgical Year (ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1933] (M-D)
Bach, J. S. The Parish Organist, vol. 6. Concordia 97-1391 [1955] (E)
Bach, J. S. Three Preludes on In Dulci Jubilo. Peters 356 [1953] (E-D)
Bach, J. S. Twelve Chorale Preludes. (ed. Glynn) Schirmer 1441 (M)
Behnke, John. A. Five Familiar Carols for Christmas. Hope 1749 [1994] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations. Advent/Christmas Summa Productions SP-110
[1997] (E-M)
Dello Joio, Norman. (1975-Marks) Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN
0-8006- 5935-X [2001]
Dupré, Marcel. (1932 - HW Grey) Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-
5935-X [2001]
Haan, Raymond H. Partita on In Dulci Jubilo. Concordia 97-5405 [1977] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. Christmas Suite. Augsburg 11-10857 [1998] (M)
Peeters, Flor. 30 Chorale Preludes, set 3. Peters 6025 [1950] (M)
Whitsett, Eleanor. In Dulci Jubilo. Morningstar MSM-10-154 [2004] (E-M)

Piano:
Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (D)

Handbells:
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Good Christian Friends, Rejoice. Agape 1826 [1995] (3-5 octaves, M)
Morris, Hart. Ring We Now of Christmas. AGEHR AG 35040 [1988] (3-5 octaves, M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Busarow, Donald. Thirty More Accompaniments for Hymns in Canon. Augsburg11-10163 [1992]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Please note that the response song "Magnify the Lord" is a reflection of Mary's song.

Alternative harmonizations on the Carols of Christmas sections of the service are as follows:

W ZLOEBIE LEZY/INFANT HOLY ["Infant Holy, Infant Lowly"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Sedio, Mark. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

IRBY ["Once in Royal David's City"]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

CRADLE SONG ["Away in a Manger"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
David, Anne Marie. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

GLORIA ["Angels We Have Heard on High"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

REGENT SQUARE ["Angels from the Realms of Glory"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Maynard, Lynette. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN ["Go, Tell It on the Mountain"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Burkhardt, Michael. As though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 [1986]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Hampton, Keith. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

ADESTE FIDELES ["O Come, All Ye Faithful"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH 97-6851 [2000]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

The anthems suggested for this service are as follows. We suggest you also incorporate your choir in leading the congregational singing with descants and perhaps selected verses.

"A Virgin Unspotted" by William Billings, edited by Walter Ehret is published by Lawson Gould 620 [1956] for SATB acappella voices (E-M).

"Holy Jesus, Glory of Christmas" by Russell Nagy is scored for SATB voices and keyboard and is published by High Street Music JH547 [1997] (E-M).

Suggestions for postlude can be found in the following resources:

ADESTE FIDELES ["O Come, All Ye Faithful"]

Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Christmas Hymn Improvisations, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-137
[1998] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. A Christmas Suite. Morningstar MSM-10-109 [1990] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Adeste Fideles. Concordia 97-5992 [1988] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 2. AMSI OR-3 [1981] (M)
Dupre, Marcel. Variations on Adeste Fideles. (Smith) H. W. Grey GSTC 982 (M-D)
Kosche, Kenneth. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 2. Concordia 97-7015 [2003] (E)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 1. SMP KK234 [1978] (adaptable for piano, E-M)
Schaffner. Five Christmas Carols in Baroque Style. Concordia 97-6194 [1993]
(adaptable for piano, M)
Whitford, Homer. Five Choral Paraphrases, set 1. H. W. Grey [1941] (E-M)

UNE FLAMBEAU, JEANETTE ISABELLA ["Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella"]

Organ:
Chapman, Keith. At the Organ with Keith Chapman. Warner Brothers GB9613 [1996] (M)
Chapman, Keith. Christmas for Organ. McAfee [1976] (M)
Lovelace, Austin C. Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella. Concordia 97-5722 [1982] (E)
Uehlein, Christopher. Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg 11-11074 [2001] (E-M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. During this season, most congregations have a number of relatives, visitors and guests worshiping with them. While it is important to extend hospitality every week, it is particularly important at this time to express a word of welcome to those who are visiting and/or are "home for the holidays." This word of welcome can meaningfully be expressed before the formal service elements begin.

2. We recommend using the readings for the Advent candles, as provided in The Worship Sourcebook, pp. 436-438. How you plan for the lighting of the candles will be shaped by whether this is considered the fourth Sunday of Advent, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If the service is on Christmas Day, the center Christ Candle should be lit.

3. You will notice a large number of songs for congregational singing in this service. In our experience, we have found that folks come to church at Christmas expecting and desiring to sing, particularly to sing songs that are familiar to them. Therefore, this service is structured to include two blocks of song, both before and after the message.

4. Many congregations have developed the tradition of singing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" at the close of Christmas worship. There are several ways in which you can do this. (a) You may have a choir sing it for the congregation, making them the vicarious voice of all in expressing our praise and doxology. (b) You may invite worshipers to join in singing along with the choir while remaining in their chairs or pew. In that case it will be helpful to provide music for those who desire if they have not brought their own. Or (c) you may want to invite the members of the congregation to come forward and enlarge the choir for this song. Then music will need to be available for those who have not brought their own. (Congregational copies of "The Hallelujah Chorus" can be purchased from Fred Bock Music Company B-G0745 [1984]. A choral arrangement transposed to the key of C by Clair W. Johnson was published by Rubank, Inc. in 1941. Using the transposition makes the chorus more accessible for congregational singing.)

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