by Don Horisberger
Next week, the church begins the season of Christmas. I’m often struck by how different Christmas seems in the secular world as opposed to our sacred observances of the festival. Retailers start us thinking Christmas long before Thanksgiving, and if we don’t pay attention, we may find ourselves out of luck when it comes to that “must have” gift or toy. Many of us decorate for Christmas the weekend of Thanksgiving, and the holiday parties begin soon thereafter. Then on Dec. 26 the decorations come down, and evergreens that have lost half their needles appear on the curb.
The church, on the other hand, has all the while been observing Advent, a time of preparation and reflection. We don’t actually begin celebrating Christmas until Christmas Eve. We sing the carols we’ve heard elsewhere for more than a month and are reminded again of the glorious gift God has given this world. Since Christmas is actually celebrated for twelve days, we have several opportunities to hear again the story of Christ’s birth and to consider what that means for each of us and for this world.
Among the most beautiful ways to reflect on the Christmas story is our annual service of Lessons and Carols. In this service, lessons from scripture remind us what Christmas is truly about, and each is followed by a carol sung by choir or congregation. This year’s service will be offered on Sunday, Dec. 28 at 10 a.m., and will include Holy Eucharist.
The format for Lessons and Carols has its roots in the medieval vigil service for Christmas Eve. It was updated in the 20th century and has been popularized, especially at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, where it is offered each year on Christmas Eve. At King’s, the service is so popular that people line up at 6 a.m. to ensure they will get in for the 3 p.m. service. (Here at CHS, we have plenty of room for any and all!)
The lessons for this service are read from the King James version of the Bible. Though we rarely use King James readings any longer, the Christmas story has a particularly familiar ring to it in this translation. Indeed, for many, it is a more elegant telling of the Christmas story than more modern translations, which seem to evoke less mystery and wonder. Handel’s “Messiah” and many of our Christmas carols employ these words, as well. So get ready to hear about what “came to pass in those days,” what “the multitude of the heavenly host” said, and how “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” and “wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.”
Join us for Lessons and Carols for Christmas on Sunday, Dec. 28 at 10 a.m.
Don Horisberger is the Choirmaster and Organist at The Church of the Holy Spirit. Have a question for Don? Contact him at email@example.com.