A God Second-to-None - Micah 7

A Christmas or Christmas Eve service focusing on the Christmas story through the eyes of Micah, presenting God's gift of grace and forgiveness through his son. This is the final service in an Advent series on Micah and the hope that he pronounced.

Micah's Hope

This series of worship services explores the season of Advent through the eyes of the prophet Micah.

Theme of the Service

This service is designed for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Though we normally expect the Christmas story to be front and center on Christmas Day, this service is somewhat different. It includes the Christmas story but also presents Micah's description of God as gracious and forgiving through his Son.

* * *

Prelude: "Joy to the World"
"O Come, All Ye Faithful" [see <href="#music">music notes]

The Reading of Luke 2:1-7
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Call to Worship

*Song: "O Come, All Ye Faithful" PH 41/42, PsH 340, RL 195, RN1, TH 208, TWC 173, UMH 234 [see <href="#music">music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
People of God, as you come to worship on this Christmas day, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen!

*The Worshipers greet one another

*Response: "Joy to the World" PH 40, PsH 337, RL 198, SFL 137, TH 195, TWC 146, UMH 246 [see <href="#music">music notes]

Lighting the Advent Candles: [see <href="#liturgy">liturgy notes for an explanation of Advent Candles]

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world;
the one who follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life.�
We light these candles as a sign of the coming light of Christ.

(Four Advent Candles are lit.)

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
on them light has shined.
Isaiah 9:2, NRSV

I will lead the blind
by a road they do not know,
by the paths they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do
and I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16, NRSV

The LORD says to his servant,
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. 
from Isaiah 49:6, NRSV

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Isaiah 58:8, NRSV

[on the eve of Christmas or on Christmas Day]
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For the darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Isaiah 60:1-3 NRSV

Christ has come.
We light this Christ Candle because Christ has come!
(The Lighting of the center Christ Candle)
Come, Lord Jesus, our light and our salvation.
Let us walk in the light of the Lord. (TWS, D.1.4.27)

Anthem: Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come?, Folkerts [see <href="#music">music notes]

The Reading of Luke 2:8-12
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Songs: "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" PH 37, PsH 353, RL 221, TH 216, TWC 169, UMH 229 [see <href="#music">music notes]
"Away in a Manger" PH 24/25, PsH 348/349, RL 213/214, SFL 129, TH 204/205, TWC 147/149, WOV 644, UMH 217

The Reading of Luke 2:13-14
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Songs: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" PH 31/32, PsH 345, RL 196, TH 203, TWC 171, UMH 240 [see <href="#music">music notes]
"Angels We Have Heard on High" PH 23, PsH 347, RL 206, TH 214, TWC 152, UMH 238

Anthem: Gloria in Excelsis, Vivaldi
or: Glory to God, Sinni and Hansen [see <href="#music">music notes]

The Reading of Luke 2:15-20
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Song: "Once in Royal David's City" PH 49, PsH 346, RL 201, TH 225, TWC 161, WOV 643, UMH 250 [see <href="#music">music notes]

The Pastoral Prayer

The Offertory:
The offering of music: "Once in Royal David's City" [see <href="#music">music notes]
The offering of our gifts:

The Reading of Micah 7:14-20
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "A God Second-to-None"
Text - Micah 7:18-20

The Prayer of Application [see <href="#liturgy">liturgy notes]
O God, who is a God like you, who pardons sin
and forgives the transgression of the remnant of your inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot,
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
O preserve us in this mercy forever and ever,
so that we may walk in the light of your Word,
and may escape all the dangers from Satan and the world,
through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Redeemer. Amen. Amen. Amen.

*Song: "O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God" PsH 297, TH 6

*The Benediction and Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" PH 29, PsH 356, RL 224, SFL 131, TH 224, TWC 151, UMH 251

Postlude: "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" [see <href="#music">music notes]
or: "Go, Tell It on the Mountain"

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

This sermon is not an ordinary "Christmas Sermon." Instead of focusing on the narratives of the Christmas story, it presents the great eternal truths of the forgiving grace of God that are embedded within the Christmas story. Therefore, the reading of the text and the sermon are preceded with the reading of the Christmas narrative. The sermon text is the climax of Micah's message. It presents the superiority of God, a second-to-none-God in contrast to all the inferior gods that are presented around us. Many of these little gods make their way into our Christmas celebrations.

The closing verses of Micah's prophecy are his exclamations of praise. These exclamations are cumulative, based on all that he has spoken of in earlier chapters. He has met his broken and abused countrymen, taken them on a journey through exile in Babylon, and confronted them with the judgment of God, but now he speaks to them of God's mercy. The result is a doxology! Our immersion in the Christmas story should not result merely in sentimentality, but in doxology.

Notice that in our text (v.18-20) he speaks of God's mercy in five different statements and/or figures of speech: he pardons (v.18), forgives or passes over it (v.18), does not hold on to his anger (v.18), treads our sins underfoot (v.19) and hurls our sins into the depths of the sea (v.19). All are similar but with slight nuances of expression, and the repetition serves to reinforce the power of the words and the assurance the repentant Christian has. All this is possible through the ministry of his Son, Jesus Christ, and because of the incarnation (at Christmas!).

This message can be a healthy corrective balance to the sentimentality that often is conveyed with the Christmas story.

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America;
Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

You will notice much congregational singing throughout this service. Congregations come to worship on Christmas ready to sing. We encourage you to use additional instruments in accompanying these songs; brass on the strong carols and strings on the quieter carols can be very effective in combination with either piano or organ. Encourage your high school instrumentalists to participate by asking them, preparing music well in advance of the service and practicing with them. Have your vocal ensembles add descants where possible, or have them provide 4-part accompaniment for the congregational singing for some stanzas.

Suggestions for prelude and opening hymn accompaniments are as follows:

ANTIOCH ["Joy to the World"]

Organ:
Behnke, John A. Five Familiar Carols for Christmas. Hope 1749 [1994] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Christmas Hymn Improvisations, set 3. Morningstar
MSM-10-137 [1998] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. A Christmas Suite. Morningstar MSM-10-109 [1990] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 3. AMSI OR-6 [1983] (E-M)
Ferguson, John. A Christmas Triptych, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-141 [2000] (M)
Ferguson, John. Augsburg Organ Library Christmas. Augsburg
ISBN 0-8006-5935-X [2001] (M)
Haan, Raymond H. Festival Hymn Preludes. SMP KK329 [1985] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. Five for Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-139 [1999] E-M)
Langlois, Kristina. 5 for the Christmas Season. Morningstar MSM-10-146 [2000] (M)
Held, Wilbur. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 4 Concordia 97-7032 [2005] (E-M)
Schaffner. Five Christmas Carols in Baroque Style. Concordia 97-6194 [1993]
(adaptable for piano, M)

Piano
Carter, John. Carols for Piano. Hope 232 [1987] (E-M)
Carter, John. Still More Carols for Piano. Hope 8175 [2002] (E-M)
Larson, Lloyd. Joy to the World. Alfred 22429 [2003] (E-M)

Handbells:
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Christmas Joy. Agape 1185 [1984] (3-5 octaves, M)
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Joy to the World. Agape 2156 [2000] (3-5 octaves with organ
and opt. trumpet, brass and tympani, level 3)
Sanders, Patricia A. The Twelve Bells of Christmas. Agape 1717 [1994] (2 octaves, E-M)
Sherman, Arnold B. Joy to the World. Concordia 97-6448 [1994] (3-6 octaves, D)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar
MSM-10-555 [2001]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

ADESTE FIDELES ["O Come, All Ye Faithful"]

Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Christmas Hymn Improvisations, set 3. Morningstar
MSM-10-137 [1998] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. A Christmas Suite. Morningstar MSM-10-109 [1990] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Adeste Fideles. Concordia 97-5992 [1988] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 2. AMSI OR-3 [1981] (M)
Dupre, Marcel. Variations on Adeste Fideles. (Smith) H. W. Grey GSTC 982 (M-D)
Kosche, Kenneth. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 2. Concordia 97-7015 [2003] (E-M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice. vol. 1 SMP KK234 [1978] (adaptable for piano, E-M)
Schaffner. Five Christmas Carols in Baroque Style. Concordia 97-6194 [1993]
(adaptable for piano, M)
Whitford, Homer. Five Choral Paraphrases, set 1. H. W. Grey [1941] (E-M)

Handbells:
Thompson, Martha Lynn. O Come, All Ye Faithful. Morningstar MSM-30-101
[1987] (4-5 octaves, M)
Sanders, Patricia A. The Twelve Bells of Christmas. Agape 1717 [1994] (2 octaves, E-M)
Wagner, Douglas E. O Come All Ye Faithful. Agape 1262 [1986] (3-5 octaves, M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar
MSM-10-555 [2001]
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ,. vol. 2. CPH 97-6851 [2000]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg
11-9292 [1968]

The choral anthem "Arise, Shine, For Your Light Is Come" by Davis Folkerts is published by Selah 241-198 [1990] (SATB and piano, flute and opt. guitar; concertato; E-M).

Alternative harmonizations and choral resources on the following hymns coordinated in the service with readings from Luke 2 can be found in the following:

W ZLOEBIE LEZY/INFANT HOLY ["Infant Holy, Infant Lowly"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

Sedio, Mark. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

CRADLE SONG ["Away in a Manger"]

Choral Resource:
Powell, Robert J. Away In a Manger. GIA G-2856 [1985]
(SATB, congregation, string quartet and organ; concertato; E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
David, Anne Marie. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

MENDELSSOHN ["Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg
11-9190 [1964]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Farlee, Robert Buckley. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg
ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

GLORIA ["Angels We Have Heard on High"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

The following two anthem suggestions could echo the angels' song as sung by the congregation:
Vivaldi, Antonio. Gloria In Excelsis. Walton W2043 [1961] (SATB and keyboard; E-M)
Sinni, Steve/Hansen, Greg. Glory to God. GlorySound A 7312 [1999]
(SATB and keyboard; E-M)

Suggestions for offertory music are as follows:

IRBY ["Once in Royal David's City"]

Organ:
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 5. AMSI SP-102 [1985] (E-M)
Farlee, Robert Buckley. Augsburg Organ Library Christmas. Augsburg
ISBN 0-8006-5935-X [2001] (E-M)
Phipps, Karen Emmett. Organ Music for the Seasons, vol. 3. Augsburg Fortress
ISBN 0- 8006-7564-9 [2003] (M)
Visser, Larry. Noels on Christmas Themes. Leupold WL600090 [1998] (M)
Wold, Wayne L. God with Us. Augsburg 11-10975 [1999] (E-M)

Handbells:
Page, Anna Laura. Once in Royal David's City. Brentwood OTH-1054 [1986]
(3 octaves with organ and C instrument, E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Resources for the closing hymn can be found in:

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN ["Go, Tell It on the Mountain"]

Choral Resource:
Helvey, Howard. Go, Tell It on the Mountain. Beckenhorst BP1438 [1994]
(SATB and keyboard; black gospel style; M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Burkhardt, Michael. As though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555
[2001]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 [1986]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Hampton, Keith. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Suggestions for the postlude could include:

UNE FLAMBEAU, JEANETTE ISABELLA ["Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella"]

Organ:
Chapman, Keith. Christmas for Organ. McAfee [1976]
Lovelace, Austin C. Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella. Concordia 97-5722 [1982]
Uehlein, Christopher. Augsburg Organ Library – Christmas. Augsburg 11-11074 [2001]

Handbells:
Lloyd, Sallie. Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella. Beckenhorst HB27 [1982]
(3 octaves, E-M)

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN ["Go, Tell It on the Mountain"]

Organ:
Held, Wilbur. Christmas Comes Again. Morningstar MSM-10-113 [1991] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (E)

Piano:
Carter, John. Carols for Piano. Hope 232 [1987] (E-M)
Carter, John. Easy Hymns for 4 Hands. Hope 8146 [2002] (E-M)

Handbells:
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Christmas Joy. Agape 1185 [1984] (3-5 octaves, M)
Sanders, Patricia A. The Twelve Bells of Christmas. Agape 1717 [1994] (2 octaves, E-M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. Many churches customarily have visitors on Christmas. These may be relatives who have come to be with family members for the holiday season, or people who do not normally attend worship except for Christmas. Therefore, the opening of worship should be warm, welcoming and hospitable. Words of welcome should be included in the Call to Worship, and the time of greeting one another should be informal and especially warm.

2. The Christmas narrative from Luke 2 is read in four parts in this service. It is important that the Christmas story is set before the worshipers since some (many) may be visitors and not regular worshipers. We suggest that multiple lay readers be included. Consider the inclusion of children as readers, especially for the opening readings from Luke 2. It may be wise to consider providing some encouragement and coaching to children who are readers so they can do so clearly and confidently.

3. Notice that all the Advent Candles are lit today. The four outer candles are lit at one time, and after the readings the center white Christ Candle is lit. Again, consider including multiple lay members in these readings.

4. The prayer of application is a very historic Christian prayer. Though the language of it has been updated, this prayer was written and prayed by Jerome, a church leader about 300 years after Christ. Shortly after the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther prayed this prayer to end his study of Micah. As the prayer is prayed by worshipers today, we sense our unity with the Body of Christ who pin their hopes on the mercy of Christ. You may wish to state this in your transitional statements into the prayer or provide a historical note in the bulletin. Notice that Jerome's prayer makes use of Micah's closing words. The prayer ends with a threefold "Amen," which is the worshiper's way of proclaiming that they really do believe this with all their heart. You may wish to lead this prayer individually, or print it and have everyone pray it in unison.

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