Why do we make such a fuss about being home for Christmas? Those who have been blessed with happy childhoods may enjoy going home even after becoming adults. We like to be at home with the people we love; sometimes we even long for it.
For others, going home is a painful disappointment. But our longing is the same. We want to feel that we have truly and safely arrived at home. This concept is not far from the story of God’s people throughout history. God’s garden was a home made just for Adam and Eve, for us, with our needs in mind. But Adam, our representative, forfeited the right to live there. God banished us, but not without providing for us a way to come home again. Jesus did more than show us the way. He is the way.
This service is an adaptation of the lessons and carols format, with special emphasis and expression given to our longing for Jesus, who is our way home. We first did this service in conjunction with the Advent series “Longing for Home” by Tim Brown (RW 49) that had a focus on reaching out to inactive members and neighbors and inviting them to “come home” for Christmas. The music suggested here provides several options in a variety of styles that we have used over the years.
Greetings and welcome
Note: The first paragraph of the lead-in above may be used as part of the welcome.
Processional: “Once in Royal David’s City” PsH 346, PH 49, RL 201, TH 225, TWC 161 (Choir, st. 1-3; congregation, st. 4-5)
Alternate: “Christmas Dance,” Northumbrian melody, arr. Hal Hopson, text by Michael Hewlett (Harold Flammer Music A-5748, 1977, SATB; we had someone dancing throughout the sanctuary while the choir sang)
Lighting of the Advent Candles SNC 94
Call to Worship (from Psalm 105)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say this—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south—his love endures forever.
Let us give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Bidding Carol: “People Look East!” arr. Craig Phillips (Selah Publishing Co. 405-103, 1995; easy unison setting of the French carol with optional stanza)
Concluded by all singing “My Soul in Stillness Waits” SNC 95
Our First Home
Scripture: Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17
Anthem: “The Lord at First Did Adam Make,” arr. David Willcocks (Oxford University Press 84.198; SATB; medium difficulty)
Banished from Home
Scripture: Genesis 3:17-19, 23-24
Carol: “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” by Carl Schalk (Concordia 98-2664; SATB with handbells; medium difficulty)
Alternate: “A Tree There Grew,” text by Fred Pratt Green, music by Al Fedak (MorningStar Music Publishers MSM-50-3014; SATB)
Longing for Home
Scripture: Psalm 20
Canticle: “Zechariah’s Song” by David Ashley White, text by Carl Daw (Choristers Guild CGA-590; for children’s or adult choir)
Hymn: “All Earth Is Waiting” SNC 93
Alternate: “Surely It Is God Who Saves Me”
(SNC 74; also published as an anthem by H. W. Gray Publications, CMR 3347)
Scripture: Isaiah 26:1-5, 9, 12
Hymn: “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” PsH 194, PH 3, RL 169, SFL 121, TH 197, TWC 132 (st.1, women; st. 2, men; st. 3, all)
Choral options: “Comfort, Comfort” by John Ferguson (Augsburg 11-2381)
“The Kingdom of Love,” text by Carl Daw, music by David Ashley White (Selah 405-128; easy two-part setting)
“Every Valley” by John Ness Beck (Beckenhorst BP1040; for congregation and choir)
“Prepare for Immanuel” by Patrick Liebergen (GIA Publications G-4454; could be sung by a children’s choir)
“Prepare Ye the Way” by Alan Pote (Carl Fischer CM8066; medium difficulty)
At Home with Us: The Incarnation
Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
Anthem: “How Far Is It to Bethlehem?” arr. Dale Grotenhuis (Selah 405-242; SATB, organ with optional children’s choir)
Alternate: “Advent Lullaby” by John Bell (GIA Publications G-5427; “suggestive of what Mary might have sung to Jesus while he was still in the womb”; unaccompanied)
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
Hymn: “Joy to the World” PsH 337, PH 40, RL 198, SFL 137, TH 195, TWC 146
Anthem: “When God’s Time Had Ripened,” text by Carl Daw, music arr. Alfred Fedak (Selah 405-214; SATB; medium difficulty)
Hymn: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” PsH 351, PH 48, RL 204, TH 221, TWC 163
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
Carol: “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” arr. Dale Grotenhuis (Morningstar MSM-50-1402; SA)
Spiritual: “Mary Had a Baby” (SNC 107, with soloist on st. 1, 3, 5; all on st. 2, 4); or the anthem on the same spiritual: “Mary, Mary,” arr. Carolyn Jennings (Curtis Music Press C7943; SATB)
Hymn: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” PsH 354, PH 22, RL 229, TH 218, TWC 174
No Place to Call Home
Scripture: Matthew 2:13-18
Choir: “The Coventry Carol,” arr. Mark Sedio (Selah Publishing Co. 405-234; easy)
Alternate: “Awake! Awake and Greet the New Morn” SNC 91
Our Eternal Home
Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-5; 65:17-19, 21-22
Anthem: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Philip Ledger (Roger Dean Publishing Company HRD 308; SATB; difficult but well worth the effort!)
Alternate: “O Savior, Rend the Heavens Wide” by David Cherwein (Concordia Publishing House 98-3209; 2 part; simple) or another simple setting of this text: “Why Don’t You Tear Apart the Heavens?” by John Bell (GIA Publications G-5500; SATB)
Scripture: Revelation 21:1-6
[All stand for the final reading.]
Hymn: “Let All Mortal Flesh,” arr. Gustav Holst (Galaxy Music Corporation 1.5019) PsH 34 (Choir, st. 1-3; congregation, st. 4)
Note: We combined the Holst arrangement with the hymnal setting by adapting the text of stanza 3 in the octavo to match the hymnal text so the congregation can join in on that dramatic stanza, concluding with the choir alone on the Amen. Orchestra parts are available from the publisher; we used brass to double the voices.
Closing Prayer and Parting Blessing
Recessional: “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” PsH 345, PH 31, RL 196, TH 203, TWC 171
Artwork by Steve Erspamer, from Clip Art for Year A (© 1992, Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1800 North Hermitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60622; 1-800-933-1800). Used by permisssion.