Our annual Lessons & Carols service is something I look forward to each year. It’s a lot of work, but I can’t imagine Advent without it. This year I am particularly thankful for all the talents I’m privileged to gather into one service. What other church could move from Vivaldi to bluegrass and then recess to a jazz reception?

Below is the service order with some audio files interspersed. At the bottom is a short meditation that appeared on the back cover. To the right is calligraphy and design by Matt Plescher.

Prelude: Cherry Tree Carol

PROCESSIONAL CAROL: Gaudete! (from Piae Cantiones, 1582)

GATHERING CAROL: O Come All Ye Faithful (LUYH 76)

FIRST LESSON: Genesis 3:8-15
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus (LUYH 56)

SECOND LESSON: Isaiah 11:1-9
Lo, How a Rose (LUYH 79)

THIRD LESSON: Isaiah 40:1-5
Dawning Light of Our Salvation (Bruce Benedict and Wendell Kimbrough)

FOURTH LESSON: Luke 1:26-38
Holy Is Your Name (David Haas)

FIFTH LESSON: Luke 2:1-7
Before Your Manger (arr. Greg Scheer)

Once in Royal David’s City (LUYH 87)

SIXTH LESSON: Luke 2:8-16
Gloria; Et in Terra Pax (Vivaldi)

SEVENTH LESSON: Matthew 2:1-11
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem (Pace and Boyce, 1940)

As with Gladness (LUYH 105)

CLOSING CAROL: Angels, from the Realms of Glory (LUYH 81)

Postlude: Beautiful Star

Christmas is filled with dichotomies: Prophecies fulfilled in a baby, but unfulfilled until that baby returns as Lord of all. The comfort of loved ones gathered around a table, and the painful reminders of those who are missing. Singing songs of peace on earth, while seeing so little evidence of it around us. Maybe the only honest Christmas song was written by Joni Mitchell:

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Does a service of scripture readings and Christmas carols only add to the incessant soundtrack of glib holiday cheer?

No. When we recount what God has done so far throughout human history, it gives us hope that in the end all will be well. We are not adrift in an endless sea of meaningless events, but are part of a very large story authored by a loving God. We set our sights on the final chapter, in which God’s Son, Jesus Christ, will return to reign as the King of Peace.

In the meantime, we take joy that Jesus Christ came to us—not only in Bethlehem, but in our very hearts. May we make room for Jesus to dwell in us, praying the words of carol:

One thing I ask of you, my Lord,
dear Jesus, hear my prayer:
that you would make a humble home
within my heart forever.
O come to me and stay with me.
O let my heart your cradle be.
Fill me with joy unending.