Monday, December 24, 2012 - Christmas Eve
MONDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2012
Lessons and Carols at the University of the South
Imagine sitting in a large, stone, candlelit church on a cold winter evening. Unexpectedly from the rear comes a rich, majestic sound as the choir sings, "I look from afar: and lo, I see the power of God coming, and a cloud covering the whole earth. Go ye out to meet him and say: Tell us, art thou he that should come to reign over thy people Israel?"
After singing that pronouncement, the choir members start a slow, stately procession down a long aisle, flickering candles shining on their faces and their pure, clear voices blending together, singing "Creator of the Stars of Night." This is an ancient hymn so appropriate to begin our Advent journey - expressing our longing for Christ who will pardon our sins and help us through all our trials in life.
As the choir continues its way down the aisle the verses continue: "O Christ, Redeemer of us all, we pray you, hear us when we call." Here we confess that alone we can do nothing to help ourselves. We affirm that he came "to set free his own in glorious liberty." And that "all knees must bend, all hearts must bow. All things on earth with one accord like those in heaven shall call him Lord."
There will be more anthems and hymns sung during the service as well as the reading of scripture. All will add to the theme of the anticipation of Christ's birth with his simple and almost unnoticed beginning, his association with the common and unlovely persons, and his human divinity.
To end the service the choir will retrace its gliding steps back down the stone aisle singing with candles still lighting their way. This time their voices will be joined in singing "Once In Royal David's City." This will tell us the story one more time: a birth in a stable, the meek and lowly that Christ lived among, our Lord and our brother who brought us love for one another, his earthly temptations, and how he "feels for all our sadness and he shares in all our gladness." Ultimately we will see him as our Redeemer who will lead us "to the place where he is gone."
But before we get to the end, there is the command to share the Good News of his birth with the world. It is not expressly mentioned in the traditional Service of Lessons and Carols depicted above, but it is epitomized by "Congregation, Arise" which we sing on another occasion, in another place - Christmas Eve at First Baptist Church of Savannah - yet another part of the Church Universal where the Good News is celebrated and shared.
- Sarah Davis