We will have a 10:00 AM Fourth Sunday of Advent service and a 5:00 PM Christmas Eve service this Sunday.
The 5:00 PM Service will combine the traditional Lessons and Carols format with congregational candle lighting and the singing of Silent Night in the pure candlelight. We will begin the service with a time for children designed to help them be more fully and patiently present to Christmas Eve and Christmas, and all of life for that matter. The service should be right around an hour in length to get everyone home in time for Christmas Eve activities (and early to bed, of course!). We go for tradition at this service both for its beauty and for the power of hearing what generations have heard–the King James Version lessons and the old Pilgrim Hymnal carols–but we connect it solidly to our lives today. There will be too many favorite carols to list—so just come, all ye faithful, and you can hark the herald angels sing and sing your own joy to the world in this bleak (snow on snow on snow) midwinter!
The 10 AM morning service will light the Advent candle of Love and celebrate Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The Christian church has done some of its very worst acts and shown its least mature and least Christ-like character around Mary over the millennia. It has made up irrational stories about her and insisted that all Christians must believe them and then shunned or even killed those who refused to profess the made-up Mary dogma. On the other hand, the Bible story of the Annunciation and virgin birth alone is plenty enough to make rational people uncomfortable being associated with such a religion.
There is a third hand, though—a way of reading the story that shifts Mary from the center of the worst of Christianity to the center of the best. Those of us who profess the traditional dogma or those who believe the literal truth of the Bible story or those who reject anything irrational, all can see Mary as a symbol and model for every Christian.
Looking at Mary through that lens, we find a path leading us to humble ourselves, to stop asserting ourselves or our views over others, to simplify and purify our relationship to the world, to empty ourselves of our selves and self-interests, and to grow into fullness of life and the highest stages of spiritual and psychological maturity, having the heart and mind of Christ, so that we may bring Christ to birth on this hurting earth. Mary shows us how to be transformed so that we may transform the world around us.
This will be what the 10 AM service will explore. We will read the Annunciation, the visit of Mary with Elizabeth, and the Magnificat of Mary, and we will sing “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” and a newer Advent hymn, “Mary Magnified God’s Being,” with a tune written by Annemieke McLane’s good friend, the Rev. Will Burhans. The choir will sing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “An Advent Round of Rejoicing,” and we will all sing the Benediction set to the ancient Advent tune again. Annemieke will play pieces by A. Ginastera, L. Evans and J. Trojan & P. Jerábek.
Here is a version of “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” that does justice to how stirring and joyous it can be to sing: