Christmas Concert 2008


Westminster Carol………………………………………………………………….. Orchestra

The Sounds of Christmas Joy………………………………………………….. Orchestra

I am truly happy to see all of you here and I extend a warm welcome to each of you. Tonight is our sixth annual Christmas concert, titled “The Glory of Christmas.”

Beethoven’s ninth symphony ends with a much longer version of the excerpt the orchestra just played of Joyful, Joyful.  This song has been performed in many places and for many occasions.  While not particularly a Christmas carol, the joy we feel during this season lends itself toward singing the “Ode to Joy” of Beethoven’s.  When we begin to realize what Christ’s birth meant to the world, to mankind, and even to us today, we can’t help but be thankful and joyful.

Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World with the meaning for the text taken from Psalm 98:4-9. About 100 years later Lowell Mason took his text and put it to music he had written which was inspired by songs from Handel’s Messiah.  The combination of Watts’ text and Mason’s tune breathed the Christmas spirit. Even though the text doesn’t come from any of the gospel accounts of Christ’s birth, the truth, that the Lord is Come, has inspired many for many years.

Christmas truly is a glorious season. There are many reasons this time of the year is so special – we gather with friends and loved ones, we share our blessings with the less fortunate and there are many other family traditions that warm our hearts. But the most important reason is remembering the sacrificial gift that an almighty God bestowed on a spiritually destitute world. When the eternal God became flesh on Christmas night, His everlasting love began to effect the redemption of all mankind. The angels came and announced that Christ the Lord had come as a babe and proclaimed peace and good will to men and glory to God. As we celebrate the Savior’s birth, let us give God the glory of Christmas. Please join with us as we express our joy and thankfulness to God, and attempt to glorify the greatest Giver of Christmas.

Just over two thousand years ago, God’s people were in darkness. The Lord had not spoken to them for over 350 years. They had his written word, but no prophets had spoken, and the last prophets had promised a Messiah. Some like Simeon and Anna, and Zechariah and Elizabeth, longed for God to speak to them again. They desired that their Savior would come and dwell with them and deliver them. Matthew 1 says they shall call His name JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins. He could do that because He is Emmanuel-God with us. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” communicates the longing of God’s people for their Savior.

You’ll notice on the back of your program the words to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” We are going to sing this together as we give the orchestra a chance to find seats in the auditorium and for the college choir to get in place. This would also be a good time to make sure you don’t have any potentially embarrassing disturbances on your person like cell phones, watch alarms, or crying children, that may go off in the next hour or so. Let’s sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel…………………………………………………… Audience

The word “noel” means a joyful shout of exhilaration, traditionally in reference to the birth of Christ. And the first noel that was heard was when the angels proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” to the poor shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem. The carol “The First Noel” tells the Christmas story from the angels’ announcement, to the wise men following the star to the place where Jesus was. It ends by telling us all “with one accord” to “sing praises to our heavenly Lord.” We are to do this because as he has made heaven and earth out of nothing, He has also bought mankind by His blood. Our woodwind-string ensemble will play an arrangement of this song and later this evening our mixed ensemble will sing the words for us.

The First Noel……………………………………………… Woodwind String Ensemble

Born This Day Medley……………………………………………………. Brass Ensemble

Joy to the World, Hallelujah!…………………………………………….. College Choir

Sing, Choirs of Angels…………………………………………………. College Ensemble

One of the unfathomable concepts of Christmas, one of the truths that makes this season so special, is the idea that at Christmas the transcendent, eternal God was born of a virgin, took flesh upon himself and lived among mankind.  We learn this from Matthew 1:21-23 which says, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.  Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” “He’s Emmanuel,” answers questions we would have as we view the birth and life of God on earth. But Christmas itself is about a child, a babe. Many of the songs of the season speak of this including the next few ladies songs we’ll hear.  “Gesu, Bambino,” speaks of the wonder of an Almighty God humbling Himself in the form of a helpless child, and the Negro spiritual, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” reminds us that even in the world today… we still don’t know “Who He was.”

Gesu, Bambino……………………………………………………………………. Ladies Duet

Sweet Little Jesus Boy…………………………………………………………… Ladies Trio

He’s Emmanuel……………………………………………………………….. Ladies Chorus

Gentle Mary Laid Her Child…………………………………………………. Mixed Trio

The First Noel………………………………………………………………. Mixed Ensemble

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

In our imagination we see a calm, quiet town outside Jerusalem on a winter night. But Bethlehem must have been quite busy, for all of King David’s descendants were there at this time.  The emperor of Rome declared that all the world should be taxed, and all of David’s lineage were to appear and be accounted for in Bethlehem.  Now it was lambing time in Bethlehem so the shepherds were out in the fields round about the town, and it’s a good thing, because if they weren’t out there, there probably wouldn’t even have been room in the stable below the inn where a poor couple who’d come to be taxed from Nazareth had to stay since there was no room upstairs.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)

The flocks of Bethlehem were not just any sheep. The shepherds of Bethlehem were employed especially to supply lambs for the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. God had taught His people to picture the covering of sin by shedding the blood of a young, innocent lamb and offering it as an atonement for individual sins. And so, the precious, innocent lambs born in Bethlehem would very soon be slaughtered to temporarily appease the wrath of God on a man’s sin.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

It wasn’t just any couple that had to stay in that stable. The poor couple was recently married and the woman was expecting her firstborn, but it wasn’t just any child she was expecting.  An angel had appeared to her and declared that she would bring forth a Son and call His name Jesus, because He would be a Savior.  She would conceive this child without knowing a man; the Holy Ghost would overshadow her and this Son would be called the Son of God.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

When this special child was finally introduced to the world, His spokesman did not call Him the Son of God.  Rather, he called Him the Lamb of God.  This reminds us that the precious Babe of Bethlehem, born with the temple lambs, and laid in a manger would also be sacrificed. But since He is the Son of God, His sacrifice would not temporarily, but would eternally cover the sins of every man who would place their trust in Him.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

O Holy Night…………………………………………………………………….. Male Chorus

See Amid the Winter Snow…………………………………………………. Male Chorus

Celebration………………………………………………………………… Pianos and Organ

Hopefully, you have enjoyed the selections so far, and in a few moments our church choir and orchestra will come and finish the night out for us. While we enjoy music and praising God in this way, there are many other things our church does to help the community around us. Many of you may see our buses going through the neighborhoods each Sunday morning. We provide transportation to church for hundreds of people weekly. Many of the children we bring to church will be participating in our annual children’s Christmas program titled, No Room in the Inn, on the 21st, Christmas Sunday morning. Every Thursday evening our church hosts a chapter of Reformers Unanimous. This is a local church based program to help people break the strongholds of addictions in their lives. On a weekly basis, we invite seniors to what we call “Jolly 60’s,” where anyone who’s retired can interact with other people and participate in various enrichment programs. Also on Thursdays, while teens and adults are learning in classes programmed for them, our Master Clubs program is available for the children to be involved in. During the summer, Camp Fairhaven provides daytime activities, crafts, sports, and swimming to hundreds of children. Along with other activities we also hold church services in nine area nursing homes.

On your program you’ll see the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Let’s stand while we sing this carol and the choir and orchestra take their places.

O Little Town of Bethlehem……………………………………………………… Audience

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of the most famous of American authors. He was from an important family of America’s founding and his parents determined that he would be well educated. By the time he was 22, he was a professor at Bowdoin College and was writing textbooks. At 27, he was brought to Harvard College and everything seemed like it couldn’t go wrong. Within a year of moving to Boston, his wife of three years died suddenly. For seven years Longfellow worked and wrote until he married again at the age of 31. He had five children from this marriage and began to see great successes for his literary works. In 1861, his second wife burned to death in a tragic accident and the Civil war tore apart the country he loved and his family had helped to found. While tending to his nineteen-year-old wounded son and other wounded soldiers from the war, Longfellow asked God and others around him, “Where is the peace?” On December 25, 1963, he wrote five stanzas that showed the hopelessness of the world around him, and the song would not be happy if it were not for the last two which remind us that “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.” While we think of peace on earth, good will toward men, we remember that while the earth may be violent, our God is sovereign and watching, and will someday rule the earth in righteousness. Before the choir sings that song, they will sing a song, which asks and answers the question, “Who is He in Yonder Stall?”

Who Is He in Yonder Stall?…………………………………………………………… Choir

I Heard the Bells……………………………………………………. Choir with Orchestra

We have a tradition of playing some selections from the “Messiah,” by George Frideric Handel, each year. “Messiah” is an oratorio that is performed many times during the Christmas season. It was written to tell of the life of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and its text is taken entirely from Scripture. It is divided into three parts. The most familiar part is the first one, which tells of the prophecy of the Messiah’s coming and the fulfillment of that prophecy when He came at Christmas. The second part tells of Christ’s passion on the cross and his eventual triumph over all the earth. The last part tells of Christ’s work throughout eternity. The “Messiah” is appropriately sung anytime of the year including Easter when it was first performed and, of course, Christmas.

The fourth song in the oratorio is “And the Glory of the Lord.” The text is taken right from Isaiah 40:5 which says, “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

The “Hallelujah Chorus” tells of Christ’s work throughout eternity when He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over heaven and earth forever and ever! When the oratorio was first performed, King George II, suddenly stood up at the beginning of the Hallelujah Chorus. Whatever the king did, everyone else would follow, so everyone stood. There is much conjecture as to why the king stood; some think he was just stretching his legs; he was hard of hearing, so some believe he thought he heard his national anthem; others like to think he stood out of respect for the message of the music; nevertheless, many still stand today whenever this Chorus is sung.

After the Chorus, we’ll hear two more selections from our keyboard instrumentalists.

And the Glory of the Lord……………………………………… Choir with Orchestra

Hallelujah Chorus…………………………………………………. Choir with Orchestra

The Nativity………………………………………………………………… Piano and Organ

O Holy Night with Away in a Manger…………………………… Piano and Organ

The Westminster Carol, which we started with and is included in our final selection, is a very popular tune and the Latin words are quite familiar to us – Gloria in excelsis Deo. As far back as 130 A.D., churches were encouraged to end all their Christmas songs with this phrase, which is drawn from the message the angels gave to the shepherds the very night Christ was born – “Glory to God in the highest.” The song’s four verses embrace the angels’ visit to the lowly shepherds and the shepherds’ response. The angels’ coming to men who worked menial jobs in the fields and informing them of the birth of the Son of God symbolizes that Christ came for all people, rich or poor, humble or powerful. The shepherds’ response was to bow before the humble manger Mary laid the Savior in.

The “Canticle of Praise,” or song of praise blends the songs “Angels We have Heard on High” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” As we leave, let us adore and worship the Christ of Christmas, the Lord of all.

Canticle of Praise…………………………………………………… Choir with Orchestra

I would like to invite you to fellowship in the foyer of our recreation building where we have coffee, ice cream and other refreshments for sale along with a musical CD of Christmas music our church has produced.

Again, I want to thank you for coming, and I trust you were uplifted by the truths of the season around us. I invite you to worship with us every Sunday, but in particular this Sunday, when we’ll have a special Christmas service at 10:30 a.m. which will include a children’s Christmas program. Good night and May we all have a Merry Christmas!

Canticle for Instruments………………………………………………………….. Orchestra

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