I always value seeing and hearing what others are doing in worship services, especially around "unifying" times of year when much of the Church focuses on pinnacle, earth-altering events like the incarnation of the Son of God. (That's one of the reasons I love being a part of the best, most thoughtful, most collaborative worship leader group on Facebook, Liturgy Fellowship.)
One of the things I LOVE about being at Coral Ridge is their strong heritage of pouring resources into the musical arts. Because of this, I can stand on the shoulders of my predecessors and help put together amazing, diverse, expressive, and beautiful services, like our annual Christmas Eve Lessons & Carols Services, with some of South Florida's best artists. (And, this year, we're pulling in folks from New York and Germany!) For those unfamiliar, "Lessons & Carols" is nothing more (and nothing less) than a Scripture-and-song-response service format. It's a simple yet compelling structure that has a lot of flexibility to fit a lot of different styles and traditions. Here's what we're doing tomorrow night. Here's the service, with some commentary:
Gathering of God's People
O Come, O Come Emmanuel - arr. Gasior
Little Drummer Boy - arr. Gasior
Jim Gasior is on the faculty of New World School of the Arts in Miami, and he is an amazing pianist and arranger. He arranged "O Come" for a jazz trio/quartet and "Little Drummer Boy" for full band with horns. Coral Ridge Music commissioned Jim to write these pieces and hopes to release his live Christmas jazz preludes sometime in the next year or two.
Welcome & Opening Prayer
I pulled a simple prayer from Thomas Cranmer's 1549 Prayer Book--a collect for Christmas Day.
You've given us your only begotten Son
to take our nature upon him,
and this day to be born of a pure virgin;
Grant that we, being made new by You,
and made children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit,
through this very One: Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior,
who rules and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
O Come All Ye Faithful - arr. Willcocks, Chen, 2013
Lessons & Carols
The Unbelievable - Sovereign Grace Music
This year, we wanted to open the lessons with John 1 and respond with this beautiful new song from Sovereign Grace Music. It's an invitation to "believe the unbelievable." The song is filled with similar paradoxes, including my favorite lines, "He will heal the unhealable / he will save the unsaveable"...A perfect thought to begin the night. It's orchestrated much like the recording, for acoustic guitar, piano, strings, winds, horns, and glockenspiel.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - arr. Hillsong
We wanted to pair the dark but hopeful passage about the fall of Adam and Eve with a congregational song that matched the depth and height of the text. "God Rest Ye" does that. This Hillsong arrangement for folk band (incl. banjo) and strings is an accessible and elegant, yet passionate setting.
"Puer Natus Est," from Four Improvisations on Gregorian Themes (No. 1) - Everett Titcomb
A beautiful, meditative, slowly growing piece for organ that Chelsea will play. I can't wait to hear her registration choices and colors in our sanctuary and on our organ.
There Blooms a Rose in Bethlehem - Sovereign Grace Music
I transcribed and arranged this wonderful modernization (in both text and tune) of "Lo How a Rose." Our choir will be singing it in a very simple SAB setting.
A Hallelujah Christmas - Leonard Cohen / Cloverton / arr. Mortilla
The viral video of this re-text of Leonard Cohen's classic "Hallelujah" is a telling of the Christmas story that plays with Cohen's original text and juxtaposition of earthy and lofty language...a perfect tension to explore the wonder of the Incarnation. My friend and composition student at Indiana University, Paul Mortilla, came up with a creative, complex, and beautiful orchestration for strings, organ, horns, winds, choir, percussion, and soloist. This will be a special moment.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing - City Church Little Big Band
A terrific jazz arrangement with an Afro-Cuban feel was written by Adam Shulman, an artist connected with Karl Digerness over at City Church San Francisco. I have no doubt that some won't appreciate the setting ("Just give us the original!"), but I find the spirit and groove of the song to be refreshing, offering some new shades on the text we might otherwise miss. It's gorgeous and lively. To my ear, it sounds like heralding angels.
This is Our God (with What Child is This) - arr. Cottrell
A beautiful, lush, contemporary arrangement of a modern Christmas song woven into a classic Christmas tune. It's a tradition at Coral Ridge to do this piece, well predating me. It's powerful and climactic, with full band and orchestra.
Meditation - Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor
Silent Night - arr. Hicks, 2012
A simple arrangment for harp and strings. We sing it as the room goes dark and the choir lights candles.
Sending of God's People
Prayer & Blessing
Joy to the World - arr. Rutter, Chen, 2013
This arrangement is our glorious finale--Chelsea Chen's adaptation of John Rutter's wonderful arrangement.