The gospel according to Matthew starts out with an unusual genealogy. Matthew takes pains to point out that Jesus' human family tree included not only Jews, but Gentiles, and not only upright heroes of the faith, but also those whose stories reveal some of the shameful and sordid part of the history of God's people.
This service of Lessons and Carols reviews that genealogy through the stories of the women of Scripture, including the five women specifically mentioned in Matthew 1.
Matthew's Jewish readers would have remembered these stories just by hearing the names. But many of us are not as familiar with them today. The Scripture passages are therefore sometimes a bit long to permit the stories to be retold. Readers should prepare carefully and read with expression.
The service also followed the tradition of the "hanging of the greens," in which visual elements are added to the sanctuary, one element at a time. Another possibility is to decorate a Jesse Tree (see RW 29) with "leaves" representing the women whose stories are told in the service. One leaf could be added along with the lighting of each candle.
The Processional Carol: "Once in Royal David's City"
(arr. Richard Proulx)
The Bidding Prayer
First Lesson: God announces in the Garden of Eden that the seed of woman shall bruise the serpent's head.
Scripture: Genesis 3:1-15
Carol: "O Come, O Come, Immanuel" PsH 328, PH 9, RL 184, SFL 123, TH 194
[The lighting of the first candle and placing of the garland rope]
Second Lesson: God establishes his everlasting covenant with Abraham and Sarah, to whom God promised a son in her old age
Scripture: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; 21:1-7
Anthem: "Shout for Joy, O Daughter" (Lon Berry)
[The lighting of the second candle and placing of the Christmas wreaths]
Third Lesson: Leah gives birth to Judah; God promises that the scepter would not depart from Judah.
Scripture: Genesis 29:1-35; 49:1, 10
Anthem: "There Shall a Star Come out of Jacob"(Felix Mendelssohn)
[The lighting of the third candle and placing of the Christmas poinsettia]
Fourth Lesson: Judah sins against his daughter-in-law Tamar, whose child Perez was listed in the genealogy of Jesus.
Scripture: Genesis 38:6-30; Matthew 1:1-3a
Carol: "O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High"
PsH 364, PH 83, RL 342, TH 155
[The lighting of the fourth candle and placing of the Holy Scriptures]
Fifth Lesson: Rahab hides the spies and is saved to become part of the lineage of Jesus.
Scripture: Matthew 1:5; Joshua 2:1-21
Anthem: "Wake, Awake! For Night Is Flying" (Dale Wood)
[The lighting of the fifth candle and hanging of the scarlet cord]
Sixth Lesson: God provides a home for Ruth, who became the great-grandmother of King David.
Scripture: Ruth 3:1-13; 4:1-2, 9-17
Carol: "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" PsH 351, PH 48, RL 204, TH 221
[The lighting of the sixth candle and placing of the garnered wheat]
Seventh Lesson: In spite of David's sin with Bathsheba, the Lord blesses them with another son, Solomon, who is listed in the lineage of Jesus
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:2-6, 13-17; 12:1a, 9-14, 24-25; Matthew 1:1, 6b
Anthem: "Out of the Depths Have I Cried unto Thee" (Rian Hovanass)
[The lighting of the seventh candle and placing of the harp and psalter of David]
Eighth Lesson: The angel of God is sent to Nazareth to a virgin named Mary.
Scripture: Luke 1:26-47
Hymn: "O Lord, How Shall I Meet You" PsH 331, PH 11, RL 368, TH 156
[The lighting of the eighth candle and lighting of the luminary to the Word]
Ninth Lesson: Matthew tells of the birth of Jesus.
Scripture: Matthew 1:17-25
Carol: "Tell Out, My Soul" PsH 478, RL 182, TH 26
[The lighting of the ninth candle and placing of the Christ candle]
Offertory Anthem: "Sheep May Safely Graze (J.S. Bach)
Hymn: "Joy to the World!" PsH 337, PH 40, RL 198, SFL 137, TH 195