Awhile ago I happened to be reading one of the minor prophets when I came across a prophecy about the Messiah. I wondered why this prophecy was not included in the traditional service of lessons and carols made popular by the King’s College, Cambridge. My interest piqued, I decided to try to create a new service of lessons and carols using different lessons than those we usually hear.
After hunting for and finding a number of other Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, I was faced with the question of what to do with them. Should I pair them with New Testament verses that showed how they were fulfilled? In what order should I place them? Should I end the service with one of the nativity accounts?
I read through the passages again and again, highlighting similarities between them, until the theme of Prophet, Priest, and Servant King emerged.
I have led many services of lessons and carols in the past; some included short sermons, but most did not. For this service, I decided to include a short explanation with each reading. The lessons could be read by one person and the Scripture passages by another, or each lesson and Scripture duo could be read by one person, with a different person assigned to each lesson, allowing for a greater number of participants in the service.
In several cases you’ll find multiple song suggestions. You many want to choose only one of them, or substitute one that fits your congregation better. In some cases, websites are provided for purchasing sheet music.
[Light Advent candles before service begins.]
Advent is a season of waiting for Christ to come—both remembering the anticipation of God’s people, Israel, and waiting for Christ to return. In this service we’ll hear prophecies about the Messiah that were given hundreds and even thousands of years before Jesus came, each of which Jesus fulfilled.
Lord Jesus, we know that you are here through the presence of your Holy Spirit. Reveal to us, we pray, the wonder and awe in the fact that you have become our Messiah and Savior, our Prophet, Priest, and Servant King. Our desire is to bring you glory. We pray in your name, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“The Prophets Came to Israel” (st. 1, 2, 5) PsH 334, SFL 128
“Canticle of Turning/My Soul Cries Out”
(Gather Comprehensive, #556)
The Lord’s Greeting: Isaiah 42:6-8
The Messiah—a Prophet
The Lord Will Raise Up a Prophet
Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses gave one last sermon, which is recorded as the entire book of Deuteronomy. Here, he prophesies of the One God will send—a Prophet whose words to us will be God’s words.
First Lesson: Deuteronomy 18:9, 12-18
Carol: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Stuttgart: PsH 329, SFL 122, Hyfrydol: CH 244, PH 2, SWM 83, TH 196, WR 153
He Will Distinguish Righteousness from Sin
In Deuteronomy 6:16, Moses says to Israel, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” But God spoke twice to Ahaz, King of Judah, telling him to ask for a sign so as to win his trust. Ahaz refused, so God decided on his own sign—he would send a prophet, born of a virgin, who will be able to choose right and reject wrong, even as an infant.
Second Lesson: Isaiah 7:10-15
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” PsH 351 CH 255, PH 48, PsH 351, TH 221, WR 190
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” CH 240, PH 309, PsH 342, TH 162, WR 181
As a Prophet, the Messiah Will Expose Our Sin
A prophet’s job is not to comfort people but to challenge them and expose their sin. But most people don’t like having their sin exposed. Time and again, the Bible shows us that the prophets risked their lives, and in some cases gave them up, in order to deliver God’s message. In this sense the Messiah was no different—he was a Stone that caused people to stumble!
Third Lesson: Isaiah 8:13-15
Carol: “O Christ! Come Back to Save Your Folk” PsH 330
The Messiah—a Priest
Rejoice! Our God Will Live Among Us
Because a priest represents the people to God, he must both understand them and be accessible to them. God promises that he will live among us as our High Priest.
Fourth Lesson: Zechariah 2:10-11
Carol: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154
Anthem: “Our God Is With Us” Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith
The Messiah Will Purify Us from Sin
One of the main jobs of the priests was to offer the blood of animals to cover the people’s sin. The Messiah goes beyond simply covering our sin; he purifies us from sin.
Fifth Lesson: Malachi 3:1-4
Anthem: “When Will He Come?” Don Besig and Nancy Price
“On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” PH 10, PsH 327, WR 156
“Refiner’s Fire: Brian Doerksen (www.musicnotes.com)
“Empty Me” Gene Way and John Comer
The Messiah Will Take Away Our Sin
The name Joshua means “the Lord saves”; it is the name of Israel’s leader when they entered the Promised Land after being slaves in Egypt, and of the High Priest when Israel returned from being held captive in Babylon. Finally, it is the name of Jesus, our Leader and High Priest (“Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua”)
In Zechariah’s vision, Jesus is called God’s coming Servant and is symbolized as the High Priest who carries the sin of the people.
Sixth Lesson: Zechariah 3:1-9
Carol: “Hark, the Glad Sound!” PsH 335
The Messiah—a Servant King
Our Mighty King Comes in Humility
Kings are powerful and majestic. They come in their chariots and on great horses. Although our King is all-powerful, how does the Messiah come? Humbly and riding on a donkey!
Seventh Lesson: Zechariah 9:8b-10
Carol: “The Servant King” st. 1, 4 Graham Kendrick (www.worshiptogether.com)
Our King Brings Protection and Salvation
By the time Zephaniah is prophesying, Israel and Judah have seen a few good kings, many bad kings, and just as many terrible kings. Here God promises to come and be their King.
Eighth Lesson: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Carol: “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You” PsH 331, TH 156
Behold! Our King Comes to Gently Shepherd Us
We see again that although our King comes with power and strength, he comforts us gently, like a shepherd taking care of his flock.
Ninth Lesson: Isaiah 40:1-11
Carol: “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” PH 3, PsH 194, SFL 121, TH 197, WR 155
Remember that the Messiah —Jesus Christ—has come. But also remember that we look forward to the fulfillment of another promise: he will come again in glory! Psalm 68:4 says, “Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds.” Let’s stand and sing!
“Days of Elijah” Robin Mark (www.musicnotes.com)
“Sing to the King” Billy Foote and Charles Silvester Horne (www.worshiptogether.com)
“Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes” PsH 335