These are resources for An Advent Service of Lessons and Carols which will be held online on the First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.
A Note About This Service of Lessons and Carols,
or, What’s an Advent Carol?
Those of us with a passing knowledge of liturgical calendar know that, at best, Christmas starts on Christmas Eve – not twelve days before, not on December 1st, or the day after American Thanksgiving, much less October or September. In the commercial world the stores may start playing Christmas carols at those times, and Christmas movies will start to show up weeks before Christmas Day, but in the church we do not normally sing Christmas carols until the night before Christmas. We prepare for Christmas with the season of Advent, which itself only starts four Sundays before.
That said, many churches have services of Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas well before December 24. These services are largely in imitation of the one held annually at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve. I confess that I am as guilty as anyone of this. People want to sing Christmas Carols before Christmas, not in the Twelve Days of Christmas following Christmas Day, so I have given in to popular pressure. So, I am planning on a Service of Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Another option is to have a Service of Lessons and Carols for Advent, and this has become a tradition in many places around the world. Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria BC was always packed with over a thousand attendees on the afternoon of the First Sunday of Advent, largely because of the creative use and lighting of hundreds of candles. The modern language resources of Common Worship in the Church of England provides four sequences of readings and themes for such an Advent service. I have decided to go with the theme of
A vigil for prisoners and those who sit in darkness
which seems appropriate in a time of lockdown and pandemic. So here is the rough draft of what we will do on Sunday.
An Advent Service of Lessons and Carols
The Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas, Crete, Greece
The First Sunday of Advent 2020
11:00 am EET, November 29, 2020
Join us by clicking this link or by joining in your Zoom app Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Passcode: 010209.
At the lighting of the first candle in an Advent Wreath
Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, God of our ancestors:
to you be praise and glory for ever.
You called the patriarchs to live by the light of faith
and to journey in the hope of your promised fulfilment.
May we be obedient to your call
and be ready and watchful to receive your Christ,
a lamp to our feet and a light to our path;
for you are our light and our salvation.
Blessed be God for ever.
In the name of God, who has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and made a place for us in the kingdom of his beloved Son, we welcome you: grace to you and peace.
As we meet to celebrate anew the coming of God’s kingdom, we hear revealed the mystery of God’s loving purpose for us – how that when we were far off, he met us in his Son and brought us home; how he humbled himself to take our human nature, that we might share his divine glory.
Let us then so celebrate this coming with our carols and hymns of praise, that our lives may be charged with his life; that we may bear witness to his glory and so bring light to those who sit in darkness. So first we pray for those among whom the Christ was born: the poor and helpless, the aged and young children; the cold, the hungry and the homeless; the victims of poverty, injustice and oppression, the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved; those in despair or in the shadow of death.
Then, as we hear again the message of peace on earth and goodwill among all his people, we pray for the leaders of the nations, that all may be inspired to work together for the establishment of justice, freedom and peace the world over.
And that we may bear true witness to this hope in a divided world, we pray for the peace and unity of Christ’s Body, the Church universal, that the whole earth may live to praise his name.
Finally, as we rejoice with the saints in heaven and on earth, we remember all who have gone before us with the sign of faith, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we offer up our prayers for the coming of his kingdom, in the words he himself has taught us, saying:
The Lord’s Prayer follows:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The whole congregation prays silently, after which the president draws the prayers together in the Collect of Advent Sunday
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
And may the Lord when he comes find us watching and waiting, now and at all times.
The Lessons and Carols
Before each lesson the reader says, “The First Lesson (or Second, or Third . . . ) is taken from the nth chapter of the Book of N, beginning at the nth verse.”
At the end of the lesson the reader pauses, and then says, “This is the word of the Lord” to which the people respond, “Thanks be to God.”
The First Lesson Isaiah 43.1-7 I have called you by name, you are mine
The Second Lesson Psalm 107.1-3, 10-16 When they cried to the Lord, he delivered
them from their distress
The Third Lesson Isaiah 61.1-3,11 The spirit of the Lord is upon me
The Fourth Lesson Isaiah 42.5-9 Bring the prisoners out of darkness
The Fifth Lesson Micah 4.1-5 They shall beat their swords into ploughshares
The Sixth Lesson Ephesians 2.11-22 He is our peace, who has made us one
Benedictus (The Song of Zechariah)
This metrical version can be sung to the tune “Forest Green”, which in England is the usual tune for “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
Bless’d be the God of Israel,
the ever-living Lord,
who comes in pow’r to save his own,
his people Israel.
For Israel he raises up
salvation’s tow’r on high
in David’s house who reigned as king
and servant of the Lord.
Through holy prophets did he speak
his word in days of old,
that he would save us from our foes
and all who bear us ill.
To our ancestors did he give
his covenant of love;
so with us all he keeps his word
in love that knows no end.
Of old he gave his solemn oath
to Father Abraham;
his seed a mighty race should be
and bless’d for evermore.
He vowed to set his people free
from fear of ev’ry foe
that we might serve him all our days
in goodness, love, and peace.
O tiny child, your name shall be
the prophet of the Lord;
the way of God you shall prepare
to make his coming known.
You shall proclaim to Israel
salvation’s dawning day
when God shall wipe away all sins
in his redeeming love.
The rising sun shall shine on us
to bring the light of day
to all who sit in darkest night
and shadow of the grave.
Our footsteps God shall safely guide
to walk the ways of peace.
His name for evermore be bless’d
who lives and loves and saves.
The Seventh and Final Lesson Matthew 25.31-46 I was in prison and you visited me
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts:
All show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Will you not give us life again
All that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your mercy, O Lord,
All and grant us your salvation.
May God the Father, judge all-merciful,
make us worthy of a place in his kingdom.
May God the Son, coming among us in power,
reveal in our midst the promise of his glory.
May God the Holy Spirit make us steadfast in faith,
joyful in hope and constant in love.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
As we await our coming Saviour,
go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.