Monday, January 05, 2009

A Christmas Service of Lessons and Carols

For the second Sunday of Christmas at CWM we held a service of lessons and carols. Interspersing readings from Scripture, history, literature and theology, we celebrated Christmas through Word and song.

All of the non-canonical readings were taken from Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource, Vol. 1-3 (United Church Press, 1994).


First Lesson Isaiah 9:2, 6,7

Those Who Saw the Star by Julia Esquivel

Isaiah 9:2-6a

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.
3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you
For the yoke of their burden,and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian. For a child has been born for us, a child given to us;

Those Who Saw the Star by Julia Esquivel

The Word became Light,
The Word became History.
The Word became Conflict,
The Word became Indomitable Spirit,
and sowed its seeds…

and those-of-good-will, heard the angels sing.

Tired knees were strengthened, trembling hands were stilled, and the people who wandered in darkness saw the light!

The Word became flesh in a nation-pregnant-with-freedom,
The Spirit strengthened the arms which forged Hope,
The Verb became flesh in the people who perceived a new day…
The Word became the seed-of-justice and we conceived peace.
The Word made justice to rain and peace came forth from the furrows in the land.
Grace and Truth celebrated together in the laughter of the children rescued by life.
And the Word shall continue sowing futures in the furrows of Hope.
And on the horizon the Word made light invited us to relive a thousand dawns
toward the Kin-dom that comes…

*Christmas Carol UMH 219 v .1,2 "What Child Is This"

Second Lesson Luke 1:26-35,38

People of Ceaseless Hope by Walter Burghardt

Luke 1:26-31

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young woman engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The woman’s name was Mary. And Gabriel came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! Our God is with you.’* But she was much perplexed by these words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a child, whom you will name Jesus.

People of Ceaseless Hope by Walter Burghardt

[We] must be [people] of ceaseless hope…Every human act, every Christian act, is an act of hope. But that means [we] must be [people] of the present, [we] must live this moment - really live it, not just endure it - because this very moment, for all its imperfection and frustration, because of its imperfection and frustration, is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, is pregnant with the future, is pregnant with love, is pregnant with Christ.

*Christmas Carol UMH 238 v.1,2 "Angels We Have Heard on High"

Third Lesson Matthew 1:18-21

First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle

Matthew 1:18-21

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah* took place in this way. When Jesus’ mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of God appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a child, whom you are to name Jesus, for your child will save God’s people

First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle

God did not wait till the world was ready, till...the nations were at peace.
God came when the heavens were unsteady, and prisoners cried out for release.

God did not wait for the perfect time. God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime, turned water into wine. God did not wait

Till hearts were pure. In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours of anguished shame God came, and god's light would not go out.

God came to a world which did not mesh, to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of Word made Flesh the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait til the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain, God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

*Christmas Carol UMH 224 v.1,2 "Good Christian Friends Rejoice"

Fourth Lesson Luke 2:1-7

In the Middle of the Night by Dom Helder Camara

Luke 2:1ff

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn child, wrapped the child in bands of cloth, and laid the child in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In the Middle of the Night by Dom Helder Camara

Then you chose to come.

God’s resplendent first-born sent to make us one.

The voices of doom protest:

“All these words about justice, love and peace—

All these naïve words will buckle beneath the weight

of a reality which is brutal and bitter, ever more bitter.”

It is true, Lord, it is midnight upon the earth,

moonless night and starved of stars.

But can we forget that You, the son of God, chose to be born

precisely at midnight?

*Christmas Carol UMH 230 v. 1,2 "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Fifth Lesson Luke 2:8-20

Aztec Story of the Nativity

Luke 2:8-14

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of God stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favours!”

Aztec Story of the Nativity

The angels came down from the sky like birds. Their voices were bells. They sounded like flutes.
“Praise God in heaven Alleluia!” They came flying out of the sky, singing, “Peace on earth, alleluia!”
Sweet smelling song flowers were scattering everywhere, falling to earth in a golden rain.
“Let’s scatter these golden flowers, alleluia!” The flowers are heavy like dew, and the dew is filled with light,
shining like jewels in Bethlehem. “Alleluia!” Heart flowers , plumlike bell flowers, red cup flowers.
They’re beaming with dawn light, they’re shining like gold. “Alleluia!” Emeralds, pearls, and red crystals
are glowing. They’re glistening. It’s dawn. “Alleluia!” Jewels are spilling in Bethlehem, falling to earth, “Alleluia!”
*Christmas Carol      UMH 245 v. 1, 2           "The First Noel"                                   

Sixth Lesson Matthew 2: 1-12

In Choosing to Be Born by Peter Chrysologus, 5th Century

Matthew 2: 1-2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw this One’s star in the east and have come to worship this child."

In Choosing to Be Born by Peter Chrysologus, 5th Century

In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. God therefore reveals God’s own self in this way, in order that this great sacrament of love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding. Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed, shining in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited, laying hidden among the stars. Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, humanity in God, God in humanity, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.

*Christmas Carol UMH 254 “Queens and Kings”

Seventh Lesson Che Jesus, Anonymous, Argentina

Che Jesus, Anonymous, Argentina

They told me that you came back to be born every Christmas. Man, you’re crazy! . . . with this stubborn gesture of coming back every Christmas you are trying to tell us something:

That the revolution that all proclaim begins first of all in each one’s heart. That it doesn’t mean only changing structures but changing selfishness for love. That we have to stop being wolves and return to being brothers and sisters, That we . . . begin to work seriously for individual conversion and social change / that will give to all the possibility of having bread, education, freedom, and dignity.

That you have a message that’s called the Gospel, and a Church, and that’s us -- A Church that wants to be servant of all, a Church that knows that because God became human one Christmas there is no other way to love God but to love all people. If that’s the way it is, Jesus, come to my house this Christmas, Come to my country, Come to the world of humanity.

And first of all, come to my heart.

*Christmas Carol UMH 246, v.4 “Joy to the World”


Krista said...

May I adapt this for use in a 2010 Lessons and Carols service in Kansas City with Octarium ( and urban renewal efforts such as Tulips on Troost (

Please let me know ...

Thank you.

Krista Blackwood

Anonymous said...

Hello: Did you intentionally leave out lessons 7-9 for a reason? or was it artistic licence? Just inquiring... you can reply to thank you...Pax

Anonymous said...

Could I adapt this for use in Edmonton, Alberta for the 2010 holiday season? And are lessons 7-9 available for use as well? Please email me at

Tam said...

I serve an O&A church in College Station, Texas. I love the use of non-biblical readings. May I, too, use pieces and parts of this in developing a two-part worship service this Advent 2010. Also, I'm intrigued at lessons 8 and 9 after you include an Aztec story!


Please email me permission at

Damfree said...

Thanks for this version! I was searching for something with a contemporary and inclusive flair to it and this is it! Love the poetry after scripture. This will be led by two lesbians and a very conservative pastor emeritus in a small church! I think we are going to have a lot of fun with this. Church likes to do new things -they are great!! thanks again,

Anonymous said...

Have just found this... May I adapt please for a service of lessons and carols.

Please reply with permission to:

Geoff Duffy said...

Thank you! Thank you! I have been looking for some new resources for the Sunday after Christmas and this is exactly the inspiration I needed.

connie said...

Came across this and would love to have permission to use some of it for a service I am planning. cannot find who to ask, so hoping someone sees this, and I can give you further info about who and what and where at that time.
connie Masson