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When Justice and Peace Embrace

This service of Lessons and Carols from 2006 turns to the Psalms to listen to the message of Advent and Christmas.

Reconciliation (detail) by Anneke Kaai

Most years, the book of Isaiah takes central place in our Advent and Christmas worship. But tonight, we turn instead to the Psalms, the Bible's songbook. Like Isaiah, the Psalms offer vivid poetic expression to both prophetic words from God and intimate prayers to God.

Yet we often hear their message differently. We usually approach Isaiah primarily as prophecy, while we appropriate the Psalms primarily as prayer. Singing the Psalms at Christmas teaches us that our waiting for the coming kingdom of God is not simply something to think about. It calls, rather, for our deepest personal engagement. It calls us to deliberate and intentional prayer. When we pray the Psalms during Advent and Christmas, we become like Jacob, wrestling with God. The Psalms are compelling mentors for prayer. They are, in the words of the fourth century theology and pastor Ambrose, a "communal gymnasium of souls." As Eugene Peterson suggests, "the Psalms are necessary because they are the prayer masters ... We apprentice ourselves to these masters, acquiring facility in using the tools, by which we become more and more ourselves. If we are willfully ignorant of the Psalms, we are not thereby excluded from praying, but we will have to hack our way through formidable country by trial and error and with inferior tools" (Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer).

So tonight, we invite you not simply to listen to our music, but to pray through it. Allow these texts and musical settings to stretch your own lament, confession, gratitude, and expectation to match the fullness of the Advent gospel. Following the service, we invite you to take this program with you to use as a guide to your own personal and family prayer during this Advent season.

Organ Voluntary:

Genevan Psalm 42: Chorale and Four Variations on "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele," Johann Pachelbel
Genevan Psalm 98/118: "Cortège Joyeux," George Frederick McKay
Genevan Psalm 98/118, Genevan Psalm 42: "New Songs of Celebration Render," Michael Burkhardt

Choral Introit: "Matin Responsory" (Psalm 80), Giovanni Palestrina (c. 1524/26-1594) 

Processional Hymn: "Hail to the Lord's Anointed" (Psalm 72), arr. Roy Hopp (b. 1951)

Psalter Hymnal 72
Stanzas 1-3: all
Stanza 4: all women and girls
Stanza 5: all men and boys
Stanza 6: all


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, 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 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!

"Gaudete Omnes," Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

"On the other hand there are the psalms which we desire to be sung in the Church, as we have it exemplified in the ancient Church and in the evidence of Paul himself, who says it is good to sing in the congregation with mouth and heart. We are unable to compute the profit and edification which will arise from this, except after having experimented. Certainly as things are, the prayers of the faithful are so cold, that we ought to be ashamed and dismayed. The psalms can incite us to lift up our hearts to God and move us to an ardor in invoking and exalting with praises the glory of his Name." John Calvin

I.  Advent Psalms of Penitence 

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-15; Psalm 51

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

"The Book of Psalms, on the other hand, preserves you from factions and leads you into the fellowship of the saints; for, whether in joy, fear, hope, or sorrow, it teaches you to be equable in mind and calm in word, as were all the saints. The sum of all is that, if you wish to see the holy Christian church depicted in living colors, and given a living form, in a painting in miniature, then place the Book of Psalms in front of you; you will have a beautiful, bright, polished mirror which will show you what Christianity is." Martin Luther

"Psalm 77," Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

II.  Advent Psalms of Lament and Waiting

Scripture: Psalms 42; 43

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

"And, among all the books, the Psalter has certainly a very special grace, a choiceness of quality well worthy to be pondered; for, besides the characteristics which it shares with others, it has this peculiar marvel of its own, that within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul. It is like a picture, in which you see yourself portrayed and, seeing, may understand and consequently form yourself upon the pattern given." Athanasius (c. 295-373)

"Out of the Depths I Cry to You" (Psalm 130), arr. Dale Grotenhuis (b. 1931)

"Comfort, Comfort Ye My People," Michael Bedford (b. 1949)

III. The Shepherd God Protects and Disciplines the Sheep

Scripture: Psalm 80

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

"These psalms that teach us to pray are, all of them, prayers of people gathered as a community before God in worship. Some of them most certainly originated in solitude, and all of them have been continued in solitude. But in the form in which they come to us, the only form in which they come to us, and therefore in the way they serve as our school of prayer, they are the prayers of the community before God in worship. Prayer is fundamentally liturgical." Eugene Peterson

"Shepherd Me, O God" (Psalm 23), Marty Haugen (b. 1950)

"Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord" (Psalm 100) René Clausen (b. 1953) 

IV.  God's Salvation Leads Us to Calm Repose and Triumphant Joy

Scripture: Psalm 63:1-7; Psalm 66

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

"So the psalms rightly united the undivided glory of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that their praise is proved to be perfect. Truly they are vessels of truth, for they contain so many virtues, they are suffused with so many odours of heaven, and they are thronged with so many celestial treasures. They are the water-jugs containing the heavenly wine and keeping it ever fresh and undiluted." Cassiodorus (c. 485-c. 580)

"In You, O Lord" (Psalm 131), David Haas (b. 1957) 

"Psalm 145: I Will Exalt My God and King," arr. Michael Burkhardt

Psalter Hymnal 145
Stanza 1: choir
Stanza 2: all men and boys
Stanza 3: all women and girls
Stanza 4: all

"Israel's prayer—even though stylized and therefore in some ways predictable—is rarely safe, seldom conventional, and never routine. It is characteristically daring, outrageous, and adventuresome. Israel's prayer is indeed limit-language that pushes to the edge of social possibility, of cultural permit, of religious acceptability, and of imaginative experimentation." Walter Brueggemann

V. The King of Glory Comes, Full of Truth and Grace

Scripture: Psalm 24 

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

"Silent Night," arr. Katherine Dienes

"Joy to the World" (Psalm 98), arr. John Rutter (b. 1945) 

Psalter Hymnal 337
Stanza 1: all
Stanzas 2-3: choir only
Stanza 4: all

VI.  The Kings of the Earth Pay Tribute to the Prince of Peace

Scripture: Psalm 72

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

"Wonderful Peace" (Jul Jul), Gustav Nordqvist (1886-1946)

"The First Nowell," arr. Robert A. Hobby (b. 1962)

VII.  When Justice and Peace Embrace

Scripture: Psalm 85:8-13; John 1:1-4, 14 

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

"Ring Out, Ye Crystal Spheres" (from "Hodie: A Christmas Cantata"), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

"...the psalms make our vigils pleasant when in the silence of night the choirs hymn their praise. The human voice bursts into melody, and with words skillfully set to music it leads us back to Him from whom divine eloquence has come for the salvation of the human race." Cassiodorus (c. 485-c. 580)


Pastor: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you have sent your Son to be our Savior:
our light in the midst of darkness,
our hope in the face of threats,
our peace amid turmoil.

All: In your Word we have seen him
and know that your promises are true.

Pastor: Send us forth from this place
to reflect Christ's light in our lives,
and to bear witness to this sign of hope.
And as we go, grant us, we pray, your peace.

All: Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us your peace.

Choir: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word,
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
(Luke 2:29-32 KJV, sung to an arrangement of Robert Scholz)

Psalm and Benediction: Psalm 67

Pastor: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
All: that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.

Pastor: Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
All: Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.

Pastor: Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
All: The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Pastor: May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely;
and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (1 Thess. 5:23-24)
All: Alleluia! Amen!

Recessional Hymn: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Psalter Hymnal 340

Organ Voluntary: "Genevan Psalm 134: Postlude on Old Hundredth," Michael Burkhardt