Last week was Christmas ‘lessons and Carols’ service at the Saint John the Divine Episcopal Church at Houston, my new home, where is snows one day and is sunny the next. I was not excited at the prospect of attending a service which did not have the holy Eucharist, but Sunday morning is a time to be with God and God’s people so I was at the service. Little did I know how so captivating the lessons and carols can be. I attended both the morning service and the evening service of lessons and carols at SJD and loved worshiping God in both.
The way the sequence of songs and lessons were chronologically organized tracing human history right from the fall through the ‘4000 thousand years of winter’ to the redemption by Incarnation, to the day when the lions and lambs would lie beside each other was beautiful. But what was even more appealing was the way one form of worship alternates with another and keeps our souls and minds enthralled the whole time. The Word of God that precedes each song awakens the mind to be engrossed in the beauty and the pertinence of the Truth that exudes from Him. The age old songs which shall be sung for ages to come, true to their timelessness, and sung by a choir that feels and exudes its granduer, connect deeply any mystically with the soul. The whole experience creates a transcended sense of the Truth in our minds and hearts.
The age old carol songs carry with them a richness depth from of the age old Christian saints, something the musical creations of contemporary Christian TV celebrities seldom match up to.
There is something so awe inspiring about the lessons, about one person standing up before a rapt audience and reading aloud and clear the Word of God in it pure and glorious form, unadulterated by any human being’s expositions and interpreted by the great Interpreter in the hearts and the minds of ‘those who have ears’. The Word of God does not need human exposition, the Word of God is the ever- living Word of God. The Word enters our beings and has His ‘life’ there, thereby creating in us new life. This is experience of God is unadulterated transcended purity.
Some contemporary Christians don’t seem to be able to appreciate such unadulterated purity of experiencing God through lessons and carols, they assume that lessons and carols are a thing of the past. It is a pity that the modern man’s jaded senses demand a lot of aberrations in the form of jokes and rhetoric from the preacher to make the Word come ‘alive’ in them. But with Lessons and Carols there is no such aberration, either one gets the pure Word of God or one gets nothing. After all it is better to have nothing than to think one has got something of a ‘feeling’ only to realize at a latter stage that what one thought one had ‘got’ was just an illusion which was forcefully inculcated by the sheer will power when one comes to the Lord expecting to receive some ‘feeling’ than to give ‘ear’ to Him.
Apart form the beauty of the Word of God that was so apparent in the lessons and carols, the thing that struck me most in the service was the song ‘What child is this…’ It is a song that is loved by many cChristians.
‘…Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.’
God moved out of His ‘comfort zone’ in heaven, was willing to be born as a helpless baby and had to be dependent on others. It is a deep irony of how God places Himself at a position where He is dependent for His survival on His own creation. It spoke volumes to me because I was sitting in the Church disgruntled that God had brought me out of my ‘comfort zone’ in India where ‘freedom’ was the essence of my being, to a new land where the essence of my being had become anxiety and dependence. The loss of comfort and freedom was so disturbing and depressing to me, but there at the Lessons and Carols, in comparison to the loss that God had to suffer, mine feebled out.
I thank God for the wonderful experience with the lessons and carols at SJD. When I was walking out of the evening service, one gentleman shook hands with me and told me, “This is the neatest service I have ever been to”. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂