Christmas 1, 2018 – “Lessons and Carols”

Title:Christmas 1, 2018 – “Lessons and Carols”

 Lessons and Carols, Dec. 30, 2018 (full size gallery)

Lessons and Carols is traditionally presented on the Sunday after Christmas. Where the Christmas lessons are specific on the birth of Jesus, Lessons and Carols puts the event in perspective covering the earlier Old Testament as well as the New Testament events leading up to Christ’s birth.

The service, first held after World War I in 1918, was planned by Eric Milner-White, who at the age of thirty-four had just been appointed Dean of King’s College. His experience as an army chaplain had convinced him that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship.

He actually reached back to an earlier time for a service structure. The original service was, in fact, adapted from an Order drawn up by E.W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for use in the wooden shed, which then served as his cathedral in Truro, at 10 pm on Christmas Eve 1880. AC Benson recalled: ‘My father arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve – nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister, and ending, through the different grades, with the Bishop.’

The service structure is simple. Traditionally, “Once in Royal David City” is the opening hymn, following by the lovely Bidding Prayer by the priest. 9 Old and New Testament readings alternate with hymns. The content of the service is flexible though one reading must be from Genesis. There is no sermon or communion. It ends with a closing collect and dismissal. Catherine chose readings that emphasized Jesus birth and subsequent events such as the Presentation in the temple with a hymn for which she crafted the words.

The readings and hymns are in the bulletin. The connecting link between the service readings and the lectionary is John’s Prologue John 1:1-18 which is the last reading in the service.

The service was done differently this year. Rather than readings moving to the front to read the scripture, 3 readers were grouped in the front and presented the lessons. The service flowed better and there were no interruptions

We also celebrated Linda Upshaw’s birthday which was today. One of the hightlights of the service is the opening Bidding Prayer

Today’s lectionary readings on the first Sunday after Christmas explore the mystery and meaning of the incarnation, Christ becoming flesh. Isaiah tells of a coming time of deliverance and joyous fulfillment. Paul announces that Jesus’ incarnation brings redemption and adoption as God’s children. The gospel reading from John presents Jesus as the incarnate Word of God, full of grace and truth.

The reading from Isaiah consists of verses from two hymns celebrating the expected glorification of Israel after the restoration of Jerusalem. The prophet, speaking for Zion, first uses the imagery of a wedding feast to express the joy of its vindication, then declares that the outworking of God’s purpose is as mysterious, yet as certain, as the processes of nature

Psalm 147 is divided into three stanzas: vv. 1-6, 7-11 and 12-20, each beginning with a call to worship and continuing with motives for praise. The themes of God’s sovereignty over the natural order and over human society are mingled throughout the psalm.

In the Epistle, The Galatians apparently believed that faith in Christ needed to be combined with an adherence to Mosaic law. So Paul claims that subjection to the law was only temporary and now is superseded by Christ’s work. The law was like a “disciplinarian” (3:24), the slave assigned to keep watch over the children going to school.

What humanity is given in Christ is not a better instructor, but a redeemer who sets us free. The Son is sent by God and “born of a woman,” indicating his participation in ordinary humanity. Those who believe in the Son are adopted as God’s children, making possible not merely a new status but also a new relationship with God.

The Gospel is John’s prologue John 1:1-18 which is his birth story which is very different from Matthew or Luke. Christ has always been .

There are key eternal truths of Jesus expressed in the prologue. Symbols in the Gospel include “vine”, “spirit”, “truth”, “light”:

1. Jesus is eternal and uncreated, existing before the world began (1:1-3).
2. Jesus possesses Deity (absolute authority and rulership over created things — 1:1).
3. Jesus is a separate Being from the Father (1:1,2,18).
4. Jesus is the Creator – the active force through Whom all things were made (1:3,10).
5. Jesus is the source of truth and understanding of God’s will (1:4,5,14,17,18).
6. Jesus is the source of life by which men have a relationship with God and hope of eternal life (1:4).
7. Jesus became incarnate in the flesh as a man (1:14,9,10)
8. Jesus was rejected by men (1:10,11).
9. Jesus is the One who can give people power to become children of God (1:12).

The prologue to John’s gospel is in the form of a hymn in stanzas. For Greeks (and Hellenistic Jews), the Word (Greek, Logos) was the rational principle of the universe, giving meaning to all existence. For Jews, the word of God expressed God’s eternal purpose active in creation, in revelation and in redemption.

The repetition of the phrase grace and truth (vv. 14, 17) underscores both the nature and mission of Jesus: He came “full of grace and truth” (v. 14)—that is, as the source of grace and truth—and he came to impart that grace and truth to those who “believed in his name” (v. 12).

Jesus’ nature and mission combine to proclaim him as the ultimate revelation of God (1:18), not an aloof appearance of a transcendent and impersonal deity, but an in-the-flesh person who “lived among us” and calls us to know God, receive God and live in the light of God.