Choir – Alleluia, hurry the Lord is near
Call to Worship
Family of Christ, siblings by adoption, let us come together and seek peace!
The Prince of Peace is here, making his home in our hearts.
When we are at peace, our hearts are not afraid.
When we are at peace, violence and hate lose their foothold.
Seek peace and pursue it. Hold fast to peace.
In the peace of Christ, we have come to worship!
O God, you are a God of Life to us.
You show your Self as our source of peace
as we struggle for whole relationships in the home,
our church, our communities, our nation and our world.
We recognize your presence among us in our life and worship,
and ask your gentle Spirit to constantly open our hearts
to the ways of peace seeking and peace pursuing.
We ask all of this in your Name because you alone are holy,
the one who brings, on earth, peace to all people. Amen.
Hymn – Once in Royal David’s City
First Lesson Genesis 3:8-15
Let us hear how long ago God’s work of making peace began. (Reading)
Last week we lit our first candle for hope remembering the angel’s words to Mary, “Do not be afraid…your son will be a different kind of king and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And today we light the second candle for peace, remembering that even in our alienation from God and one another, God seeks for us – seeks reconciliation with us – and tells us not to be afraid to bring peace.
Choir In excelsis gloria (Joseph Phibbs)
Second Lesson Genesis 22:15-18
Did you know that it was once scandalous to sing Christmas carols in church? In the UK, until the late 19th century, carols were performed by singers visiting people’s houses – and were considered secular in content! But the growing popularity of carols – theology that made sense – tunes people liked – meant that, first St Paul’s Cathedral, and then others adopted carols in 1878.
I love the careful way Truro Cathedral advertised their carol singing in the Royal Cornwall Gazette! We understand the use of careful language when trying to bring about change in the church!
The Choir of the Cathedral will sing a number of carols in the Cathedral on Christmas Eve, the service commencing at 10pm. We understand that this is at the wish of many of the leading parishioners and others. A like service has been instituted in other cathedral and large towns, and has been much appreciated.
— Royal Cornwall Gazette, 20 December 1878
The story of bringing peace – as well as singing peace – in our world is also considered scandalous. Abraham’s reckless behaviour towards his son and his own legacy. Mary’s reckless behaviour towards her family and her own reputation. They both emulate the scandalous way God behaves to bring peace to our world: “Because you have not withheld your son, your only son…” God displays the same reckless love out of love for us.
Are we prepared to be a scandalous – to love recklessly – to bring peace?
Choir – There is faint music (Words by Nancy Buckley. Music by Dan Forrest)
Third Lesson Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
Choir & congregation – Lo, how a rose e’er blooming
Fourth Lesson Isaiah 11:1-3a, 4a, 6
The first proper ‘Service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ was held two years after that 1878 carol service at Truro Cathedral. The idea of having Christmas music interspersed with Bible readings was proposed by the cathedral succentor, Rev George Walpole, and endorsed by the Bishop, the Right Rev Edward White Benson. His son, A. C. Benson, later recalled:
My father arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve, nine carols and nine tiny lessons. They were read by various officers of the church, beginning with a chorister and ending, through different grades, with the bishop.
The vision of peace Isaiah presents is also non-hierarchical. It is a revolutionary vision where the poor are not exploited by the rich but judged with righteousness; where the weak are not preyed upon by the strong, but they live together in peace.
And Isaiah’s words pre-echo Mary’s song, in Luke 1:46-55, our next lesson, a song that reminds us her child will fulfill this prophecy, will carry out this revolutionary work of peace, will transform our world bringing the powerful down from their thrones and lifting up the lowly; filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty.
The peace of Christ turns our world upside down. Not so the strong and the weak, or the rich and the poor simply exchange places, but so, in Christ, we come to a new place, a place of reconciliation, of shared resources and relationship with each other.
Each Christmas we have a special offering – and one of the projects we support is Hagar – an organisation working to prevent modern slavery, empower survivors, educate communities and advocate for systemic changes. Here is a glimpse of their revolutionary work for peace.
“And a little child shall lead them,” says Isaiah. Are we prepared to follow this child? To allow the peace of Christ to transforms how we relate to one other?
Congregation – Who would think that what was needed
Fifth Lesson Luke 1:46-55
Choir Nova! (Iain Farrington)
Sixth Lesson Luke 2:1-7
Choir Baby in an ox’s stall (Thomas Hewitt Jones)
Seventh Lesson Luke 2:8-14
Congregation – Born in the night
Eighth Lesson Matthew 2:1-3, 7-12
The place now famous for Nine Lessons and Carols is not Truro Cathedral, however, but Kings College, Cambridge. The BBC have broadcast the service from there, first on radio and then television, since 1928. Even throughout WW2, despite the stained glass having been removed from the chapel and there being no heating, the services continued. (Although for security reasons, the name ‘Kings’ was not mentioned.)
It was only in 2020, during the Covid 19 pandemic, that the service did not take place live, but a prerecorded version was used.
What interests me is that this service was a response to trauma. The dean, Eric Milner-White, had been an army chaplain in the 7th Infantry Division in WW1 and felt the distress of the “Great War” had hardened people against faith. In 1918 he introduced Benson’s carol service at King’s to bring people back to Christian worship – so they could hear again a message of peace.
We know from the story of Jesus that bringing a message of peace – coming to tell us that God is good – is costly. We read the danger between the lines of the lesson we just heard. We read the danger between the lines of our nightly news, our climate change predictions, anxiety levels in our community. So, we pray for peace makers. We pray for peace seekers and peace pursuers. We pray for ourselves, as those who have come to worship the Prince of peace, that we will not be afraid to bring peace.
Prayers of Intercession
God of peace, you desire we would live in peace with you, our neighbours, and this world you created for us.
Today, we bring our joys and concerns before you, grateful for your blessings and mindful of the suffering of so many.
We give you thanks for this year – for how the gifts and the energies and the love of so many in this place have made this a place where people can experience your peace.
We give you thanks for the way you have guided us through the difficulties in our relationship with our wider Association and other difficult in our own lives – giving us a peace that passes understanding.
We give your thanks especially today for our young people – those who have reached the end of Year 12 and are making decisions about the years ahead – we thank you for their part in our community life and we ask you to bless them with peace all their lives.
We pray for those who are suffering – so terribly – around our world at this time. We pray that the war in Gaza will cease, that the terrible loss of life – young lives – and the terrible devastation – physical and psychological – will come to an end.
We pray for the war, too, in Ukraine, and the conflicts that go on in Myanmar, North Afreican and Sudan and other places. We pray for peacemakers in these places. We play for peace.
We pray for the impact of climate change on so many parts of our world and we especially pray for people, like those from Tuvalu, who are seeing their way of life changed dramatically. May we respond to this challenge with greater concern and action and haste and bring peace to our world.
We pray for those who are sick, for those who are recovering from surgery in our own congregation – we ask for good healing for Theo and Miriam and Sue – and we pray especially today for the Henson family as they come to terms with their great loss and we pray for Judy and Philip and Diane and their families, and others, as they grieve in the days to come.
Loving God, unite us in the peace of Advent, of the coming Prince of Peace, that we might demonstrate peace to a world at war. Amen
Choir I saw Three Ships (Arranged by John Frederick Hudson)
In Quebec, in Canada, the Nine Lessons and Carols are read in nine different languages. It is a reminder that the peace of Christ, which is considered a scandal, which is revolutionary, which brings us into new relationship with one another, which is costly, is a message that reconciles all people to God – and God to all people. Let us hear verse nine of this lesson in almost 9 different languages!
Ninth Lesson John 1:1-5,9
Congregation Hark! The herald angels sing
Be people of peace.
Let peace live in your heart and share the peace of Christ with all you meet.
Share peace by acting out of compassion and not fear.
Share peace by listening to all sides of the story.
Share peace by praying for our world.
As you go out into God’s creation, share peace and hope with those you meet. Amen.
Choir My Lord has come (Will Todd)