Worship Service for December 31, 2023
A Service of Lessons & Carols






Watch this week’s service above.

Today’s Lessons, Carols, and Hymns:
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Once in royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor and meek and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heav’n above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing by,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
there his children gather round,
bright like stars, with glory crowned.


1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

14And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.



When long before time and the worlds were begun,
when there was no earth and no sky and no sun,
and all was deep silence and night reigned supreme,
and even our Maker had only a dream—

The silence was broken when God sang the Song,
and light pierced the darkness and rhythm began,
and with its first birth-cries creation was born,
and creaturely voices sang praise to the morn.


2   
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5a
and he shall be the one of peace.



O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by;
yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
and, gathered all above
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the king,
and peace to all the earth!


26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”...38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.



The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
with wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame:
“All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favored lady.” Gloria!

“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honor thee;
thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
most highly favored lady.” Gloria!


18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23   
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.



Lo, how a rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
as seers of old have sung,
it came, a flow’r so bright,
amid the cold of winter,
when half-spent was the night.

This flow’r, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor
the darkness ev’rywhere.
True man, yet very God,
from sin and death he saves us
and lightens ev’ry load.


8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14     
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.



Angels we have heard on high,
sweetly singing o’er the plains,
and the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains.

Refrain
Gloria in excelsis Deo;
gloria in excelsis Deo.

Come to Bethlehem and see
him whose birth the angels sing;
come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn king. Refrain


1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6     
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.



The first Noel the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Refrain
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel!
Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
shining in the east beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night. Refrain

And by the light of that same star
three wise men came from country far;
to seek for a king was their intent,
and to follow the star wherever it went. Refrain


1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


Refrain:
Go tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and ev’rywhere;
go tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born!

While shepherds kept their watching
o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens
there shone a holy light. Refrain

The shepherds feared and trembled
when, lo, above the earth
rang out the angel chorus
that hailed our Savior’s birth. Refrain

Down in a lonely manger
the humble Christ was born;
and God sent us salvation
that blessed Christmas morn. Refrain



Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king;
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all you nations, rise;
join the triumph of the skies;
with angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king!”

Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
Hail, incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel! Refrain

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
ris’n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise each child of earth,
born to give us second birth. Refrain




Worship Leaders: Pastor Colleen Cox, Nancy Kennedy, Cecilia Skoniczin, Karen Nein, Nathan Nakonecznyj, Gary Smith, Patrick Skoniczin

Music: Deb Jenks (organ and piano), Pastor Bonnie Oplinger (piano), Carol Aulenbach (piano), Donnasue Thompson (flute), Peals of Grace, Cecilia Skoniczin (soloist), Senior Choir, Children’s Choir, Men’s Ensemble, Women’s Ensemble


Additional Resources:

View and print the pre-reader’s version of this Sunday’s children’s bulletin: Pre-reader’s Version
View and print the reader’s version of this Sunday’s children’s bulletin: Reader’s Version


The radio program Sing for Joy follows the weekly Sunday lectionary through music and reflection. To listen, click here: Sing for Joy. Program host Pastor Bruce Benson ties the biblical readings of the day with musical selections from a number of sources brought together by Dr. John Ferguson, retired professor of organ and church music. The program is produced by St. Olaf College.


Portions of today’s liturgy by Rev. Sarah Speed, A Sanctified Art LLC, sanctifiedart.org.

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE #A-730287 and CCLI licenses #21502973 and #21502966. All rights reserved.

Liturgies and music graphics from Sundays and Seasons, © 2023 Augsburg Fortress Publishers. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Augsburg Fortress Publishers under license #SB143962.