The Two Songs of the Big Night - Luke 2 (A Candlelight Service)

A Candlelight service plan recalling the appearance of the angels, their song to the shepherds and the shepherds' response as they went to Bethlehem, 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

We encourage you to provide suggested devotional readings during this season that are compatible with these services. This week they are songs of praise:

Psalm 2 God is the eternal king, and he rules through his son.
Psalm 8 God, the creator, has shown great favor to his creatures.
Psalm 72 God, the ruler, is praised and honored for sending a new king.
Psalm 144 God, our protector, is praised for the victory he gave us.
Psalm 147 God, the healer and restorer, is praised for his restoration of Jerusalem.
Psalm 149 God deserves to be praised when his saints gather.
Psalm 150 Everyone and everything in all creation should praise God.

Theme of the Service

The service focuses on the appearance of the angels, their song to the shepherds and the shepherds' response as they went to Bethlehem. This service is designed to be a candlelight service for the week before Christmas. Your own local customs and traditions should shape how you use candles, but we strongly encourage you to prepare the sanctuary with visuals that create a setting of awe and celebration.


WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
and: "O Little Town of Bethlehem "

Opening Hymn: "O Little Town of Bethlehem" PH 44, RL 194, TH 201, TWC 155, UMH 230

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

The Advent Candle Lighting
Reader 1: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
Reader 2: Those who lived in a land of deep darkness-
on them has light shined.
Reader 1: A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
Reader 2: And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest on him.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. (The Worship Sourcebook D.1.4.33 from Isaiah 9:2; 11:1-3, NRSV)

Song of Response: "In the Beginning Was the Word Eternal" PsH 218 (sung to tune VIOLA as in PsH 158)


A SILENT NIGHT

The Reading of Luke 2:1-7
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Meditation

Silence

Prayer

Anthem: "Still, Still, Still," Wetzler

Song: "Away in a Manger" PH 24/25, PsH348/349, RL213/214, SFL129, TH204/205, TWC147/149, WOV 644, UMH217

Anthem: "Oh Night, Oh Holy Night," Kirk


A HOLY NIGHT

The Reading of Luke 2:8-14
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Meditation

Prayer

*The Song of the Angels:
"Angels We Have Heard on High" PH 23: 1-2, PsH 347: 1-2, RL 206: 1-2, TH 214: 1-2, TWC 152: 1-2, UMH 238: 1-2
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" PH 31/32: 1-2, PsH 345: 1-2, RL 196: 1-2, TH 203: 1-2, TWC 171: 1-2, UMH 240: 1-2
"Angels We Have Heard on High" PH 23: 3, PsH 347: 3, RL 206: 3, TH 214: 3, TWC 152: 3, UMH 238: 3

Anthem: "Glory to God!" Larson
or: "Gloria in Excelsis," Vivaldi


A WORSHIPING NIGHT

The Reading of Luke 2:15-20
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Meditation

Prayer

Anthem: "Holy God, We Praise Your Name," Ferguson
(The congregation joins the choir on the fourth verse):
Holy Father, holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name you,
though in essence only one; undivided God, we claim you,
and, adoring, bend the knee while we own the mystery.

The Lighting of the Candles

*Song: "Silent Night! Holy Night!" PH 60, PsH 344, RL 216, TH 210, TWC 164, UMH 239

The Reading of Revelation 19:1-8
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Anthem: "The Never-Ending Song of Praise," Harris

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" PH 138, PsH 249, RL 611, RN 204, TH 100, TWC 2, UMH 64

Postlude: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty"
(Your offering will be received by the deacons at the door as you leave.)

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

This sermon is designed to have three parts, separated by sections of the liturgy. The scripture reading, therefore, also occurs in three parts. Like the first Christmas night, this service begins in silent reflection, is interrupted with the proclamation of God's glory, and then is completed with seeing God's redemption. A holy night is a worshiping night!

The first meditation, very near the opening of the service, calls for quiet reflection. Life is too noisy, and Christmas seems all the more determined to stir up noise. Yet, God often works with us in the quiet. He spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12) that might not have been noticed in a noisy Christmas season, and he calls us to "be still.." (Psalm 46:10). The Scriptures often tell us of God visiting someone at night. Similarly, the event prior to the first Christmas must have involved a good bit of silent reflection on the journey from Nazareth, during the time in the stable, and among the sheep on the hillsides. A time of silence for reflection is necessary.

But soon the silent night became the holy night. The second meditation focuses on the appearance of the angels to the shepherds. Silence could remain no longer. The sky was full of angels. First, a single angel spoke to the shepherds (Luke 2:9-12), and then a "great company" (Luke 2:13) of them broke in with praises to God. We have only a portion recorded of what they must have sung. The first song (or verse) was "Glory to God in the Highest" (Luke 2:14a), echoing the seraphim in Isaiah 6 and those in Revelation 4. It was an outpouring of adoration. The second song (or verse) was different and had a different focus. It was "and on earth peace." (Luke 2:14b). If the first song points to the holiness and splendor of God, the second song proclaims that he is a redeeming God who brings his shalom. So the silent night erupted into a holy night!

The third meditation focuses on the actions of the shepherds in response to the songs they heard. Many want to point to shepherds as the disrespected outcasts of society; others paint them as caring and kind sheep-herders. Either way they were ordinary people who became worshipers because of the songs they heard. Their terror (Luke 2:9) was turned into anticipation by the proclamation of the songs of the angels. As soon as the angels left (Luke 2:15), the most critical moment of the story occurs. What will their response be? Instead of resisting the message, arguing about it, or merely being mystified, they responded with action.."let's go.and see" (Luke 2:15). They became worshipers who returned to their lives with the good news, "glorifying and praising God" (Luke 2:20).

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)

The prelude suggestions are based on two carols of Christmas:

ES IST EIN ROS ENTSPRUNGEN/A ROSE BREAKS INTO BLOOM ["Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"]

Organ:
Albrecht, Timothy and Proulx, Richard Grace Notes VIII. Augsburg 11-10970 [1999] (E-M)
Benson, Robert. A Lovely Rose. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7571-1 [2003] (E-M)
Benson, Robert. Organ Music for the Seasons, vol. 3. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7564-9
[2003] (E-M)
Brahms, Johannes. Eleven Chorale Preludes (ed. West) Schirmer 2091 (M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Christmas Hymn Improvisations, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-137
[1998] (E-M)
Kosche, Kenneth T. Four Organ Preludes for Advent. Morningstar MSM-10-020 [2004] (M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice. vol. 3 SMP KK278 [1983] (E; adaptable for piano)
Leavitt, John. Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-5935-X [2001]
(E-M)
Leavitt, John. Christmas Suite. Augsburg 11-10857 [1998] (E-M)
Schaffner. Five Christmas Carols in Baroque Style. Concordia 97-6194 [1993] (M)
Young, Gordon. Preludes on the Familiar. Fischer 0 4886 [1972] (E-M)

Piano:
Carter, John. Carols for Piano. Hope 232 [1987] (E-M)
Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M)

Handbells:
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Lo! How A Rose E'er Blooming. Agape 1655 [1993] (3-5 octaves, M)

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" is often sung to two different hymn tunes. We offer suggestions for both:

FOREST GREEN ["O Little Town of Bethlehem"]

Organ:
Hildebrand, Kevin. Triptych on Forest Green. Morningstar MSM-20-165 [1999] (E-M; with violin)
Hobby, Robert A. 3 Hymns of Praise, set 7. Morningstar MSM-10-578 [2005] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-5935-X [2001] (M)
Leavitt, John. A Christmas Suite. Augsburg 11-10857 [1998] (M)
Lowe, David. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (ed. Lyon, Sharron) Broadman 4570-31
[1976] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 7. Concordia 97-5308 [1975] (E-M)
Purvis, Richard. Seven Chorale Preludes. Fischer 0 3450 [1949] (E-M)
Willams, Ronald R. Three Hymn Tunes from the British Isles. Shawnee HF-24 [1967] (E-M)

Handbells:
Semmann, Barbara. Reflections on Forest Green. NMP HB-266 [1987] (3 octaves, E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]

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

ST. LOUIS ["O Little Town of Bethlehem"]

Organ:
Hobby, Robert A. Three Christmas Preludes. Morningstar MSM-10-145 [2000] (E-M)
Schalk, Carl Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 1. Concordia 97-7001 [2002] (E)
Sedio, Mark. Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ. Augsburg 11-10718 [1996] (E-M)

Piano:
Raney, Joel. Images of Christmas. Hope 8095 [2001] E-M)

Handbells:
Wiltse, Carl. O Little Town of Bethlehem. Stained Glass [1982] (3 octaves, M)

Alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn can be found in the following resources. You may wish to consider having the choir or an ensemble sing a verse to the alternate tune from that which the congregation is singing.

FOREST GREEN ["O Little Town of Bethlehem"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]

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

The anthem "Still, Still, Still" by Robert Wetzler is scored for SATB voices and organ and is published by Augsburg Fortress 11-0409 [1964] (E-M).

A choral resource as well as alternative harmonizations for "Away in a Manger" can be found in:

AWAY IN A MANGER ["Away in a Manger"]

Choral Resource:
Powell, Robert J. Away in a Manger. GIA G-2856 [1985]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Burkhardt, Michael. Festival Hymn Settings for the Christmas Season, set 1. Morningstar
MSM-10-126 [1995]

Resources for an alternate tune CRADLE SONG can be found in:

CRADLE SONG ["Away in a Manger"]

Choral Resource:
Powell, Robert J. Away in a Manger. GIA G-2856 [1985]

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]

The anthem "Oh Night, Oh Holy Night" by Theron Kirk is scored for SATB voices and soprano [or children's choir] and is published by Bourne 096016 [1976] (E-M).

The "Song of the Angels" can segue from one carol to the next with only brief instrumental transitions.

The children's choir anthem "Glory to God!" by Lloyd Larson is scored for two-part voices and keyboard and is published by Beckenhorst BP 1482 [1996] (E-M). The alternate SATB classic anthem "Gloria in Excelsis" by Antonio Vivialdi is published by Walton W2043 [1961] (E-M). Either of these two anthems can serve as an echo of the angel's praise the congregation has just voiced.

The anthem "Holy God, We Praise Your Name" arranged by John Ferguson for SATB voices, congregation, organ and optional brass quartet is published by GIA G-3167 [1988] (M).

A choral resource as well as alternative harmonizations on the hymn "Silent Night! Holy Night" can be found in the following:

STILLE NACHT ["Silent Night, Holy Night"]

Choral Resource:
Bock, Fred. Peace, Peace. Fred Bock BG2143 [1989] (SATB, congregation, accompanied with opt. 3 oct. handbells and instrumental obbligato; E)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
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]

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

The anthem "The Never Ending Song of Praise" by Ed Harris is scored for SATB voices and keyboard and is published by Hinshaw HMC-913 [1987] (E-M).

Alternative harmonizations and postlude suggestions for the closing hymn can be found in the following resources:

NICAEA ["Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 5. Ludwig O-14 [1992]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz & Helgen, John. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Organ:
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Nicaea. Morningstar MSM-10-709 [1996] (E-M)
Farlee, Robert Buckley. (1995) Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000]
(E-M)
Jordan, Alice. A Joyful Noise. Broadman 4570-62 [1984] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M)
Post, Piet. Fantasie over het lied "Heilig, Heilig, Heilig". Ars Nova nr 493 [1961] (M)

Piano:
David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M)
Innes, John. Majesty. Hope 269 [1985] (E-M)

Handbells:
Wagner, Douglas. E. Festival Piece on "Nicaea." Jenson 466-06019 [1983] (3 octaves, E-M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. We recommend using the readings for the Advent candles, as provided in The Worship Sourcebook, pp. 436-438. This pattern of readings includes two readers or groups of readers each week to focus on the symbols of darkness and light. We encourage you to select readers that will reflect the intergenerational nature of your congregation.

2. Your local customs will determine what kind of actions you include in this candle-lighting service. The reflective and celebrative spirit of this service will be served well by reducing the lighting in the worship space and allowing the candles to create the necessary ambience.

3. This service includes four Scripture readings. We encourage using lay readers for these passages, preferably from different ages within the congregation. It will be helpful to work with them to understand the intent and focus of the service and to rehearse their reading.

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