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A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
December 10, 2017 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
This year, St. John’s will present a traditional Lessons and Carols service on the Second Sunday of Advent at 5pm, a service which follows the model of Kings College in Cambridge. Unlike the historic liturgies of the church (such as Matins, Evensong, or the main Sunday Eucharistic service), Lessons and Carols is a rather recent liturgical development. Although there is nothing innovative about a service of alternating readings and singing (the ancient Easter Vigil is one such liturgy that comes to mind), the Lessons and Carols format as utilized by Kings College and by many other churches on this continent originated at Truro Cathedral in 1880, even then not finding much popularity until Eric Milner-White, Dean of King’s College in Cambridge and convinced that the Church of England “needed more imaginative worship,” presented the first modern Lessons and Carols there in 1918. The order of the readings was solidified in 1919 and remains to this present day; the lessons, proclaimed by members of the community, recount the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah, which eventually find fulfillment in Christ’s nativity.
St. John’s will present Lessons and Carols in this manner so that Christ’s birth is clearly proclaimed at the conclusion, complete with a few carols of Christmas at the end. Even though this Lessons and Carols takes place during Advent, we offer this service as an evangelical opportunity for our neighbours, even utilizing prominent members of the community as readers. For many, this may be the only Gospel presentation they hear all Advent season. As Christians, we know the story well, and we willingly engage in a “suspension of liturgical disbelief” so that we can for one evening hear and celebrate the entire Christmas narrative even though we are still within the larger framework of Advent. Such does not discount the importance of Advent, but rather reinforces it by connecting it (in particular the Old Testament prophecies) with Christmas. Further, Christmas carols are in need of rehabilitating as much as Advent hymns need to be remembered, and this gives us a chance to sing some great carols which too often slip by us during the brief two weeks of Christmas.
On this evening, St. John’s Cantate Deo adult choir, joined by the new Jubilate Children’s Choir, and supplemented by various instrumentalists, will lead the assembled congregation in the hymns and carols of the season in response to scripture. A preservice recital will begin at 4.30pm featuring Karen Abrahamson Thomas, harpist, and Catherine Price Allain, violinist, performing music of the season.