Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lessons and Carols at MMF (2006)

Upon returning home from Portland, I plunged into helping our pastor organize the annual MMF Lessons and Carols service. Although Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship is a very small congregation (average attendance 35 or so), this service involved a cast of thousands. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, I'll admit it. But it felt that way because nearly every regular attender was involved in some way. A singing ensemble of about 12 people performed 3 songs. Two children played violin pieces; two other children played a flute and piano duet. The entire congregation sang hymns and carols, and a gospel choir from a sister church in the Bronx presented special offertory music. A marvelous pianist who attends our church played a lovely prelude and postlude and accompanied the hymns and special music. Various people read the seven scripture lessons, the last of which was the Christmas story. During this reading, children and adults alike formed a Christmas tableau which contained shepherds and a small poodle playing the part of a lamb, angels, wise men, and of course Mary, Joseph and a real baby playing the part of Jesus.

I've included the order of service especially for a couple of friends who used to attend our church until they moved away from Manhattan.


Congregational song: "Hark! The glad sound!"
Welcome and Introduction of the Day

Candle Lighting
"Gavotte" by P. Martin (played by 12 year old violin soloist)

Lesson One: Zephaniah 3:14-20
God’s people sing and rejoice in the promised deliverance.
The First Carol: "We will walk with God" sung by the MMF Ensemble

Lesson Two: Isaiah 12:2-6
Sing praises unto the Lord.
The Second Carol: "Gaudete" by Viktor Hug performed by the MMF Ensemble and instrumentalists (two flutes and violin)

Lesson Three: Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always, and think on things that praise God.
The Third Carol: "Love came down at Christmas" (congregation)

Lesson Four: Luke 3:7-18
John the Baptist preaches and prophesies of the mighty One who will come.
The Fourth Carol: "Lo, how a rose e’er blooming" sung by the MMF Ensemble

Lesson Five: Micah 5:2-4
The one who shall be ruler of Israel will be born in Bethlehem.
The Fifth Carol: "O, come, all ye faithful" (congregation)

Lesson Six: Luke 1:26-33
The angel Gabriel announces that the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary, and she will conceive and bear a son, Jesus.
The Sixth Carol: "The angel Gabriel" (congregation)

Lesson Seven: Luke 2:4-14 and Matthew 2:1-2, 11
The Christmas story is read while the Christmas tableau is formed.
"O come, little children" traditional folk song (played by 8 year old violin soloist)
The Seventh Carol: #193 "Silent night, holy night" played by 12 year old flutist and 9 year old pianist (congregation singing along)

Pastoral prayer followed by The Lord’s Prayer

Prayer of Thanksgiving & Offering
Offertory music by Friendship Community Church Gospel Choir

Closing song: "There is more love somewhere" (congregation)

This service, which is not a very traditional Lessons and Carols format, was quite an organizational feat involving many people getting into the right place at the right time as well as moving a few props. Baby Jesus was fussy before the pageant began but miraculously she settled down when she was handed over to Mary. (Yes, in this pageant Jesus was a female, being the only baby available for the part.)

When so many from our youthful Manhattan congregation return to their parents’ homes in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia and other places around the country, the lessons and carols service has become the time when we draw together as a congregation. We are small and we have our share of problems, but at Christmas we appreciate each other and unite to celebrate not only our faith but our community. I was gratified to have been able to organize a service where everyone could experience a solid spirit of community.

Afterwards we went over to Menno House, the boarding house owned and operated by the church, for a bountiful meal contributed by members of the church. We ate and socialized and rejoiced in the warmth of the Christmas season. In this post, I hope I've shared a little Christmas joy with all of you.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

1 comment:

mbg said...

Thanks so much for the play-by-play. Wish we could have been there! We miss you all. Love, m and m