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An order of service for an Advent carol service

An Advent carol service 

Leader           The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Choir             Those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shone

Choir             O nata lux de lumine – Tallis (O light, born of light)

Leader           In this service, we join with brothers and sisters around the world, and light candles to mark the signs that God has given to his people as we journey through Advent.

FIRST CANDLE: Abraham and Sarah, to whom the promise was first given.

We light our first candle to recall the men and women of faith in the Old Testament, to whom the promise would be given. 4000 years before the birth of Christ, God told Abraham and Sarah that one of their descendants would destroy sin and death, rule the world and bless all nations.  

(A person lights the First Candle)

Leader           Let us pray
All                 God of Abraham and Sarah and all the Patriarchs of old, we 
thank you for the promise that you have given us. Help us, like Abraham, to listen to your word and put our trust in your promises. We ask this in the name of the one born in Bethlehem as our Saviour and King, and who will return in his glory, Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.


 All         O come, O come, Emmanuel,
             and ransom captive Israel,
             that mourns in lonely exile here,
             until the Son of God appear:
                   Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
                   shall come to thee, O Israel.

             O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
             thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
             from depths of hell thy people save,
             and give them victory o’er the grave:

             O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
             our spirits by thine advent here;
             disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
             and death’s dark shadows put to flight:

             O come, thou Key of David, come,
             and open wide our heavenly home;
             make safe the way that leads on high,
             and close the path to misery:

             O come, O come, thou Lord of Might,
             who to thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
             in ancient times didst give the law
             in cloud and majesty and awe:
                   Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
                   shall come to thee, O Israel.

SECOND CANDLE: The prophets foretell the birth of Jesus

READING    Isaiah 2:1-5

Leader           The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
All                 those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has 

Choir             Jesus Christ the apple tree – Poston

Leader           As we light our second candle we remember the prophets, who spoke of the coming of Christ, of a Saviour who would be born, a king in the line of King David. They told us he would rule the world with wisdom and establish his kingdom of righteousness, justice and peace.

(A person lights the Second Candle)

Leader           Let us pray
Father God, we thank you for speaking to us through the prophets. Help us to listen to your word and to seek your kingdom above all things. We ask this in the name of the one to whom they pointed us, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


 All                  Hills of the North, rejoice,
river and mountain-spring,
hark to the advent voice;
valley and lowland, sing.
Christ comes in righteousness and love,
he brings salvation from above.

Isles of the Southern seas,
sing to the listening earth,
carry on every breeze
hope of a world’s new birth:
In Christ shall all be made anew,
his word is sure, his promise true.

Lands of the East, arise,
he is your brightest morn,
greet him with joyous eyes,
praise shall his path adorn:
your seers have longed to know their Lord;
to you he comes, the final word.

Shores of the utmost West,
lands of the setting sun,
welcome the heavenly guest
in whom the dawn has come:
he brings a never-ending light
who triumphed o’er our darkest night.

Shout, as you journey home,
songs be in every mouth,
lo, from the North they come,
from East and West and South:
in Jesus all shall find their rest,
in him the universe be blest.


THIRD CANDLE: John the Baptist

READING    John 1:5-9
Leader           The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
All                 those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has 

Choir             This is the record of John - Gibbons

Leader           As we light our third candle, we recall that God called John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming Saviour and King. John denied his own comforts and gave up his life in obedience to his call. John preached that because God’s ruler is coming, we should repent, turn back to God and show God’s love to others.

 (A person lights the Third Candle)

Leader           Let us pray
Lord God, Your witness John the Baptist prepared the way for your Son by calling people to turn to you. Help us to prepare ourselves to receive you again. Forgive us our love of things more than people, our wilful self-centredness, and our rebellion against you; and help us to live by putting our trust in you, today, tomorrow and always. Amen


All         On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
             announces that the Lord is nigh;
             awake and hearken, for he brings
             glad tidings from the King of kings.

             Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
             make straight the way for God within;
             prepare we in our hearts a home,
             where such a mighty guest may come.

             For thou art our salvation, Lord,
             our refuge and our great reward;
             without thy grace we waste away,
             like flowers that wither and decay.

             To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
             and bid the fallen sinner stand;
             shine forth, and let thy light restore
             earth’s own true loveliness once more.

             All praise, eternal Son, to thee
             whose advent doth thy people free,
             whom with the Father we adore,
             and Holy Ghost for evermore.

FOURTH CANDLE: Mary the Mother of Jesus

READING    Revelation 21:22-27

Leader           The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
All                 those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shone.

Choir             Mary had a baby – spiritual arr. Archer

Leader           As we light the fourth candle we remember Mary. When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of the Saviour and King, she said ‘Yes’. And so Christ was born in her, and she declared your praise with joy.

(A person lights the Fourth Candle)

Leader           Let us pray 
All                 Thank you, Father God, for the gift of your Saviour and King. Help us to be like Mary and to say ‘yes’ to you. We ask that through your Holy Spirit, Christ would live in us, so that we might be filled with your peace, love and joy, and declare your praises. We ask this in the name of the one born in Bethlehem. Amen.


Leader           The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
All                 those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has

Choir             Masters in the hall – Trad English

Leader           We leave the final candle unlit. It is the sign that although, when Christ was born in a stable 2000 years ago, he did bring God’s light into our dark world, and although he comes into hearts and minds that are open to receive him today, yet we still wait for him to come again. So let us pray.

All                Thank you, Father God, for the gift of our Saviour and King. Help us as we wait this Advent for Christmas to mark the people that you put on our way. We thank you for Abraham and Sarah, the prophets, John the Baptist and Mary. Help us, like them, to believe your promises, to seek your kingdom, to repent of our sins, and to be so filled with your love that we rejoice in the life transforming hope of the return of the King. Amen.

HYMN (the collection will be taken during this hymn)

All         Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
             once for favoured sinners slain;
             thousand thousand saints attending
             swell the triumph of his train:
             God appears on earth to reign.

             Every eye shall now behold him
             robed in dreadful majesty;
             those who set at naught and sold him,
             pierced and nailed him to the tree,
             deeply wailing,
             shall the true Messiah see.

             Those dear tokens of his passion
             still his dazzling body bears;
             cause of endless exultation
             to his ransomed worshippers:
             with what rapture
             gaze we on those glorious scars.

             Yea, amen, let all adore Thee,
             high on Thine eternal throne;
             Saviour, take the power and glory,
             claim the kingdom for Thine own:
             Thou shalt reign, and Thou alone.



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