A Ceremony of Lessons and Carols

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This service of lessons and carols is based on the traditional set of readings with some changes. It retains lessons 3-9, but shifts the message of lessons 1 and 2 away from original sin toward original blessing. The first reading is God’s creation and blessing of humankind; the second is God’s covenant with Noah. The opening and closing liturgies are rewritten to reflect the perspective of a process-relational theology. Hymn suggestions aim, for the most part, to accommodate congregational favorites. Choir anthems may be substituted where appropriate.

Processional Hymn     O Come All Ye Faithful

Opening Words
At this Christmastide let it be our care and delight to attend once more to the story told of one who was born on this Earth, who ministered to the poor, the rejected, and the brokenhearted, who died speaking truth to power, and whose death signified not the end, but a transformation awaiting all who give their lives, even as he did, to God’s vision for the well-being of this world. Let us recall the original blessing imparted to us, that we are created in the image of God, and we are declared good. Let us ponder anew God’s promise to Noah and all creation to be present with us, no matter what unfolds. Let the much-loved words and songs of this season fill us body and soul, giving us hope and helping us respond to that great plea that permeates this season: for peace, peace on earth, peace on earth and good will to all.

Prayer: Loving God, open our hearts and minds to the truth made manifest in Christ, that you are with us. You are with us now, in this moment, flowing like a secret spring in our innermost being. May the simple beauty of the birth of Jesus summon us always to love what is most deeply human, and to see your love reflected in those whose lives we touch. May the testimony of creation—in the stable animals and the very heavens—summon us to cherish all life, and to see your goodness in the beauty of this Earth. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

  • Sussex Carol  (On Christmas Night)  

First Lesson: Genesis 1:26-38; 5:1b-2 [God blesses humankind]

  • Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day  
  • Joy to the World

Second Lesson: Genesis 9:8-17 [God establishes the covenant with Noah.]  

  • O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright
  • Now Bless the God of Israel

Third Lesson: Isaiah 9:2; 6–7 [Christ's birth and basileia are foretold.]

  • O Come O Come Emmanuel 
  • Come O Long Expected Jesus

Fourth Lesson: Isaiah 11:1–3a; 4a; 6–9 [The peace Christ will bring is foretold.]

  •  It Came Upon a Midnight Clear  
  • In Dulci Jubilo

Fifth Lesson from Luke:1:26–35; 38 [The Annunciation]  

  • Canticle of the Turning
  • My Soul Cries Out

Sixth Lesson: Luke 2:1; 3–7 [Luke tells of the birth of Jesus.]   

  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • What Child Is This

Seventh Lesson: Luke 2:8–16 [The shepherds go to the manger.]

  • The First Noel
  • Angels We Have heard on High

Eighth Lesson: Matthew 2:1–12 [The wise men are led by the star.]

  •  Sing We Now of Christmas  
  •   We Three Kings

Ninth Lesson: John 1:1–14 [The mystery of incarnation.]

  • Of the Father’s Love Begotten (Of Eternal Love Begotten)

Closing Prayer

O God of love and light, on this night of introspection on the nature of divine presence, turn us inward to your indwelling Spirit. On this night of reflection on the nature of divine power, turn us outward to the needs of this broken, but beautiful world. We pray in the name of Christ. Amen.


Depart in peace, and take with you the certain knowledge
That God is always coming into the world.
We will seek God, not in a long ago stable or ancient manger,
But in the people we meet and the depths of our own hearts.
May the blessing of Christmas make you a blessing to others;
May the peace of the season pervade all that you do.
We will welcome the challenge of discipleship.
We will offer ourselves as God’s ministers.
We will go forth in hope, peace, joy, and love.

  • Silent Night


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Opening prayer as call to worship

In arranging this service for use in our congregation this year, I adapted the opening prayer as a responsive call to worship. I hope others might find it useful in their contexts. Peace!Call to worship:Rejoice, friends, for the truth of God is present among us this night.Christ comes to us now, in this moment, flowing like a secret spring in our innermost being.May the simple beauty of Jesus’ birth summon us all to love what is most deeply human, and to see God’s love reflected in those whose lives we touch.May the testimony of creation - from animals in the stable to the joy of the heavens themselves - summon us to cherish Christ’s presence in all life.Rejoice! Christ is born!Glory to God in the highest!