Darkness to Light: a Liturgy of Advent Lessons and Carols

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Instrumental Only?

Throughout history, the Church kept Advent as a season of great solemnity - a time in which to meditate upon the ultimate issues of death, judgement, hell and heaven. Advent, though, was also a time of great rejoicing, for Christ would come, not only as Judge, but also as Savior, and would usher in the Kingdom of God. Advent, therefore, provided a vivid preparation for Christmas. Processions from west to east, and the use of lights, spoke of the Church's hope in the coming of Christ - the Light of the world - to banish sin and darkness.  Antiphons were sung, calling upon God to deliver his people, and readings from the Old Testament were seen as pointing to the fulfillment of God's purposes in Jesus.

This liturgy has been developed and used at the great English Cathedral at Salisbury and at St. James Cathedral in Chicago, and aims to recapture that Advent longing and hope. It begins in darkness with the Advent Responsory, in which Christ's coming is announced. The Blessing of Light follows, and, as the service unfolds, the cathedral is transformed from darkness to light.

The service is structured around the Great "O" Antiphons of Advent, sung by the choir and congregation. (O Come, O Come Emmanuel.)  These were sung originally as Antiphons to the Magnificat at the Evening Office from 17th to 23rd December, and have provided a rich source of devotional imagery in Advent.  The readings and music serve to complement the Antiphons, and help us reflect on the theme of the Christ who comes to judge and save his people.  The Service ends in confident hope in the One who is to come.  Even so come, Lord Jesus.

The scripture readings come in pairs. An Old Testament reading speaks of God’s promise. A New Testament reading proclaims how the promise is being fulfilled in Christ. And each pair is accented by a musical response that heightens our expectation and invites our trust in the coming of Christ as Judge and Redeemer.

Everything you need is here! All anthems, responses, the order of service, congregational parts ... everything. And of course, you can tailor this service in many different ways to suit your own congregation.

The EXTRAS (ZIP) file contains the congregational antiphons, the choral antiphon scores with handbells, a WORD doc of the entire service to cut as paste as you see fit, and the congregational parts to the first hymn. The last hymn is in your hymnal (or should be) and if it is not, feel free to substitute a hymn of your own.

You can read more about this service here:

Darkness to Light — A Liturgy of Advent Lessons and Carols

Click here to go to the Darkness to Light music suggestions.