Reflections on "Lessons and Carols" -- Peter Bryant
One of my favorite events of the year is the presentation of Lessons and Carols at First Baptist during our Christmastime observances. I grew up in a very non-liturgical church. You might almost say it was anti-liturgical. In my earlier years as a Christian I never would have imagined myself enjoying participating in any kind of liturgical-like worship. But I have come to appreciate, and anticipate with great joy, the holy time that I experience, not only at First Baptist, but at other seasonal events by the Mercer Singers and the Choral Society at St. Joseph Catholic Church, which are liturgical in nature.
These traditional and liturgical events are a reminder to me each and every year of our Messianic hope. This is a hope which not everyone in the world can experience in their temporal lifetimes, but which I firmly believe they will ultimately experience in their eternal relationship with the living Christ. This is a hope which I frequently take for granted during the business of everyday life, but which I find myself focused upon each and every year, at this time of the year, in no small part due to the Lessons and Carols.
I enjoy the liturgical lessons (readings), which are the same every year, because they focus my mind and heart on the perpetual story of the Messiah. This is a story which begins with the powerful mythology of Adam and Eve in Genesis and ends with the powerful mythology of an innumerable host of humanity living with their Creator and Redeemer in eternal glory in Revelation. Don’t mistake my usage of the word mythology with fairy tale as the new Atheists unwittingly do. The power of myth, as taught to us by Joseph Campbell, is not attenuated in Biblical literary style. An appreciation of this power should be a part of our appreciation of the Bible as the greatest literature ever bestowed upon humanity. It has enabled, and I personally believe will continue to enable, the Biblical stories to speak to humanity millennia and perhaps thousands of millennia removed from their sources.
I also enjoy the carols, which are different every year, because they focus my mind and heart on the infinite possibilities of expressing our adoration and worship of our God. Music has long been a part of my life; and, I believe it is now my small ministry to my local humanity. In music we are able to paint a mosaic in the air of the Messianic beauty which we can truly appreciate only in our deepest private reflections. It is no secret to many of my friends at First Baptist that I was first attracted to our congregation through the music of the choir. This is no reflection on the preaching, but rather on the power of music. Music, though finite in its resources, just like every other temporal phenomenon, seems, and I believe is, infinite in its potentiality to give glory to God and to edify human beings.
So there is sameness and variety in this thing we call Lessons and Carols. There is tradition and there is innovation. There is repetition and there is the singular. One of the best descriptions I have ever encountered of evil is that evil is eternal boredom. If good is the opposite of this monotony we know as evil, then Lessons and Carols are among the ultimate of that which can be called good. They certainly are for me. I hope they are for you.