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Isaiah's Peaceable Kingdom

An Advent and Christmas Series of Lessons and Carols

The book of Isaiah, which has often been called “the fifth gospel,” preaches the Advent and Christmas gospel in ways that resist both hopelessness and sentimentality. Its texts are full of both unbending realism about the terror of sin and injustice, and resolute hope in the coming of the Messiah and the peaceable kingdom that this Messiah would usher in. This service of lessons and carols journeys through the book of Isaiah sequentially, with readings and music drawn from ten different chapters.

The vision of God’s peaceable kingdom was particularly compelling to 19th-century Quaker artist Edward Hicks, who painted 61 different versions of Isaiah 11:6-8: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. . . .” In some of those paintings, Hicks brought this vision of a peaceable kingdom forward into recent history, depicting a vision of Native Americans and Pennsylvania settlers living together in peaceable harmony.

Prelude

Six Variants on “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (Gerald Near)
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (John Ferguson)
Fanfare, Variations and Toccata on “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding” (James Biery)

Processional

“Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” (Psalm 72) (arr. Roy Hopp)

Greeting, Call to Worship, and Prayer for Illumination

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
—Psalm 124:8

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”

—Isaiah 2:2-3 (NRSV)

O send out your light and truth, O God . . .
we pray in the strong name of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I. Lament for Sin and Pervasive Injustice, the “Nevertheless” of God’s Promise

Scripture

Isaiah 1:1-3, 10-11, 18-20; 2:1-5

Songs

“Toda la tierra/All Earth Is Waiting” SNC 93 (arr. Jerry Gunderson)
“My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” LUYH 69
Stanza 1: Choir (arr. John Ferguson)
Stanza 2: Choir
Stanza 3: Choir and congregation
Stanza 4: Choir and congregation

II. God’s Promise of the Coming of the Prince of Peace and the “Kingdom of Righteousness”

Scripture

Isaiah 7:10-14; 9:2-7

Song

“A New Magnificat” (the songs of Hannah and Mary) (Carolyn Jennings)

Note: Mary’s song (Luke 1) is an improvisation on Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2). This musical setting interweaves them, helping us to hear them stereophonically, with Hannah’s song sung on one side of the sanctuary and Mary’s song echoing from the other—a musical testimony to the faithfulness of God from generation to generation.

III. The Peaceable Kingdom

Scripture

Isaiah 11:1-10

Songs

“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” LUYH 79, PH 48, PsH 351, TH 221, WR 190 (arr. Linda Spevacek)
“When the King Shall Come Again” LUYH 475, WR 534 (arr. John Ferguson)

IV. The Calling and Blessing of Those Who Proclaim

Scripture

Isaiah 40:1-11

Songs

“You Shall Go Out With Joy” PsH 197, WR 710 (David Edmonds)
“Song of the Prophets” LUYH 53
Stanza 1: Choir (arr. Joel Navarro)
Stanza 2: Choir
Stanza 18: Choir and congregation

V. All Creation Sings for Joy

Scripture

Isaiah 55:6-13

Songs

“God Reigns! Earth Rejoices” (Psalm 97) LUYH 91 (arr. Howard Cable)
“Joy to the World” (Psalm 98) LUYH 92, PH 40, PsH 337, TH 195, WR 179
Stanza 1: Choir and congregation (arr. John Rutter)
Stanza 2: Choir
Stanza 3: Choir
Stanza 4: Choir and congregation

VI. All Nations Shall Come to Christ, the Temple of God

Scripture

Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8; 60:1-3

Songs

“In the Heavens” LUYH 94 (arr. Joel Navarro)
“Here from All Nations” LUYH 490, PsH 235, WR 528
Stanza 1: Choir and congregation in harmony (arr. Roy Hopp)
Stanza 2: Choir
Stanza 3: Choir and congregation in unison
Stanza 4: Women’s chorus
Stanza 5: Choir and congregation in harmony

At this service of lessons and carols at LaGrave Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, those gathered expressed gratitude to God for Bert Polman, professor and chairperson of the Calvin College music department from 2004-2012. As he neared the end of his struggle with cancer in the summer of 2013, Polman was beginning to plan this service, speaking of it as the last service he would shape. He chose the theme “Peaceable Kingdom” and selected both the readings from Isaiah and Edward Hicks’ painting for the program cover, naming these as a source of profound personal hope during his time in hospice care. Polman focused his teaching and scholarly energies on three primary areas of expertise: congregational song, the Song of Mary (Luke 1), and metrical settings of the psalms—all of which are prominent in this service.
How grateful we are for Prof. Polman’s life and witness, and for the privilege of uniting our voices with all God’s people in heaven and earth, of every time and place, in testifying to the hope we have of the coming of the fullness of God’s peaceable kingdom in Jesus Christ.

VII. God With Us

Scripture

Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11; John 1:1-5, 14

Song

“Dona Nobis Pacem” LUYH 73 (Z. Randall Stroope)

Prayer

Eternal God, you taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Keep us awake and alert, watching for the advent of your peaceable kingdom.

By the power of your Eternal Spirit,
make us strong in faith,
so that when Christ comes in glory to judge the earth,
we may joyfully give him praise
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Charge and Blessing

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess. 5:16-22, NRSV)

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (1 Thess. 5:23-24, NRSV)

Alleluia! Amen!

Recessional

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” LUYH 76, PH 41/42, PsH 340, TH 208, WR 182
Stanza 1: Choir and congregation in harmony
Stanza 2: Choir and congregation in harmony
Stanza 3: Unison, with choir descant by David Willcocks
Stanza 4: Unison

Postlude

Finale from “Sixth Symphony Op. 42, No. 6” (Charles Marie Widor)