Christmas will look different this year.
Our favorite traditions will not have the same warmth as being gathered in the same sanctuary singing beloved carols and lighting candles for the Light of the World. It will be different, but the promise will remain the same. Christ will be born.
Miracles will never cease.
As I’m busy writing other liturgy for this holy celebration, I wanted to also share a service for Lessons and Carols. It was all I knew as a child growing up in church. It was what Christmas Eve was but I’ve come to really love sharing this tradition in the midst of the Christmas season. It’s what I opt for on the Sunday following Christmas as a reminder to everyone — including myself — that the season is twelve days long and we should embrace the mystery of telling and retelling this story. (It’s also when I remind the deacons or altar guild that they are not to take down the decorations until after Epiphany. Ahem.)
Here is a simple liturgy for this beloved tradition that makes room for the weirdness of this season in which we still find ourselves. It is, of course, a wonderful Sunday to feature the musical talents of your congregation. Bring out those handbells and voices. Adjust carol suggestions as needed. I didn’t include a blessing carol so you can feel free to choose something that I would not think to choose. You might even choose to include different lessons. You might find some other poetry here. It’s a list I update every year.
Let us pray:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel! We gather once again to journey with you Through the deepest darkness of our hopes and fears To be warmed by the mystery That your light shines in the darkness. But, the darkness will not overcome it. Even as we pray these words of joy, We know that we pray amid the slaughter of innocents, Lives lost in earthquakes and battles, persecution and genocide and hatred and viral outbreak. We come searching for your light while the poor and homeless huddle in dark corners, while the hungry and sick search for wholeness, while the lonely and unloved wail in despair. So come into those dark places with us, Emmanuel God. Let your light shine in the places we fear most. Help us to follow the light of that star. Let it illuminate our lessons, our carols and our lives So that we might be filled with More hope, more peace, more joy And most of all, Emmanuel God, More love. Let us each, in our own way, join the chorus of praise, proclaiming the greatest of wonders, The redeeming presence of God among us here and now. Teach us in these lessons and these carols to search for that redeeming presence in every place that we might call out your name. Let our voices rise like candle flames, Brightening this place to celebrate a holy child That is born in our hearts and in our wildest imaginations On this most holy night. Amen.
BIDDING CAROL Once in David’s Royal City
FIRST LESSON In the Time of Plague by N. Scott Momday
SECOND LESSON Isaiah 40:1-8
LIGHTING THE ADVENT AND CHRIST CANDLES
adapted from Maren Tirabassi's Advent Wreath Ceremony for Christmas Leader: In our homes / in our church and homes we gather around wreaths to pray our lost hopes, broken peace, limited joys, and love so hard to find and share in this season of coronavirus. We affirm that our candles mean we claim the power to call this season Advent, when God’s light comes into the world and nothing can overcome it. We light the candles of hope, peace, joy and love. People/ SL: We now light the candle of Christ candle even though we have been so afraid. We haven’t truly believed that there is good news, but light still shines in the shadows. Emmanuel, God with us now. May your love shines through us and make us radiant with hope. Amen.
CAROL We Light a Candle by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
THIRD LESSON Hush by Lucinda Hynett
FOURTH LESSON Gabriel’s Annunciation by Jan Richardson
CAROL Mothers and Shepherds by Common Hymnal
FIFTH LESSON Luke 2:1-14
CAROL Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
SIXTH LESSON Luke 2:15-33
CAROL Joy to the World
SEVENTH LESSON You Still Dream by Nikki Grimes
EIGHTH LESSON Now the Work of Christmas Begins by Howard Thurman
If you’re finding these pandemic prayers for the first time, dear pastor, please know that the liturgy here is yours to use. Adapt it. Edit it. Don’t worry about giving me credit. You are doing enough right now. You are doing so much.
You are in my prayers, as always, dear pastors and worship leaders especially as Advent approaches.