A Service of Lessons and Carols was first conducted in Truro, Cornwall, England in 1878, on Christmas Eve, with Christmas carols only. Two years later, the new Bishop of Truro instructed that nine lessons from Scripture be added, with the new formula of carols and lessons being held for the first time in 1880. By 1918, the first Lessons and Carols began at King’s College, Cambridge, which for many years has been the most recognized evening of Lessons and Carols with their boy’s and men’s choirs. A Service of Lessons and Carols, during Advent or Christmas, is most often associated with the Anglican Church, but has spread to many other denominations over the years.
Lessons and Carols are offered at St. James Parish during the 10:15 a.m. service on the second Sunda of Advent. A Service of Lessons and Carols taps into the story of salvation through the history of scripture, culminating with the Annunciation to Mary by the angel that she will conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, and usher in a new age through her Child, Jesus. Lessons and Carols, above all else, reminds us that God’s coming among us has long been expected and, in our story, long delayed. “Come, thou long expected Jesus” the hymn sings. We have waited for so long. Lessons and Carols allows us to celebrate the anticipation of Christ’s coming among us, all over again. Come join us for this exciting time of worship and anticipation as we continue to wait for the long-expected Jesus.
On the feast of Candelmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple. The feast has been celebrated since at least the beginning of the 4th Century, where it is referenced by bishops in sermons of the day that have survived. In 1887, the diary of a nun named Egeria, who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 381 AD, refers to the liturgy of the Presentation in Jerusalem. The feast is often called Candlemas, because light is an important part of the readings, and candles are often blessed and used at the service. The feast was once referred to as the Feast of the Purification of Mary. In Luke 2: 22-40, Mary and Joseph take the infant Jesus to the Temple, 40 days after His birth, so that Mary may be ritually purified. Jewish custom at the time was that women were ritually unclean after giving birth and would be purified 40 days after the birth.
While coming to the Temple, Mary encounters the old seer Simeon, who takes the baby Jesus into his arms and celebrates that he has at long last seen the Messiah. His beautiful Song of Simeon (BCP, 135) gives us a glimpse into who Jesus will be. Mary is warned that her heart will be pierced to, foreshadowing Jesus’ death.
Candlemas is a celebration of Simeon’s recognition of Jesus, and of Anna’s, and Jesus’ entrance into the community of people who would ultimately become his followers and disciples.
God our Father, source of all light, today you revealed to the aged Simeon your light which enlightens the nations. Fill our hearts with the light of faith, that we who bear see these candles may walk in the path of goodness, and come to the Light that shines forever, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The service begins with us all processing with candles into the church together. People are encouraged to bring candles that they might use in the coming year; they will be blessed later on. As we move through the season after Epiphany and await the beginning of Lent, recognizing and celebrating our Lord, who is the light of the world, seems most fitting.
Holy Thursday - Traditionally, the parish keeps vigil, with volunteers who will spend an hour “with Jesus,” through the night, as He goes through His arrest and trial.
Good Friday - Noon service includes short readings, Taizé music, and much time for reflection. At the evening service we observe the Veneration of the Cross, and taking of Holy Eucharist from the Reserved Sacrament, honoring Jesus as He lays dark in the tomb. For a fleeting moment, we feel outside the reach of Jesus, who is taken from us and placed into the ground, away from us. The low point of Holy Week, as Jesus dies on the Cross.
Saturday, The Great Easter Vigil - at sundown we process into the Church from the front lawn, after the lighting of the Easter fire outside, and begin with the glorious strains of the Exsultet. After readings and remembering Jesus’ sacrifice, we bring up the lights and find the joy of Alleluia again, for the first time since before Ash Wednesday. Childcare will be available during the service.
Easter Sunday - Jesus is risen indeed! Joy abounds as we celebrate with uplifting music, a renewed altar, and a dedication of our Chapel. An Easter egg hunt will follow the 2nd service, after we have gathered in the parish hall for fellowship and refreshments.