‘Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols’ to be held at WFU

Students, staff and faculty from Wake Forest University’s Divinity School and music department have teamed up to organize the first “Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols” to be held in Wait Chapel on the university’s Reynolda Campus at 11 a.m. Dec. 3. The event is free and open to the public.

The one-hour church service features eight Scripture lessons and 16 hymns all designed to prepare participants’ hearts and minds for the coming of Christ. The lessons and carols will begin with an ensemble choir performance of “Creator of the Stars of Night” and continue with the congregation singing the processional hymn “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns.”

The entire service takes participants from the Old Testament lesson, which proclaims the coming of the Messiah to Israelites living in exile and longing for the savior, to the final lesson that celebrates the birth of Christ and the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Readings from the biblical books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Luke and Mark, among others, reinforce the message that the Messiah is coming, and non-traditional carols have been chosen to highlight the Advent season’s message of not only waiting for Christmas, but embracing the mystery of God in our lives. Although similar festivals occur all over the world, the Wake Forest event will be unique because organizers have chosen music that reflects the diverse background of the campus and surrounding communities.

“The larger meaning of Advent tends to get lost because our society rushes from Thanksgiving to Christmas each year,” says Jill Crainshaw, an organizer of the event and Associate Dean for Vocational Formation in the Divinity School. “One purpose of this event is to give people space to celebrate and to wait and long for the peace and justice that haven’t happened yet. We have worked to develop a service that is relevant to the deep human longings of this community.”

The service, adapted from the traditional “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” held each Christmas Eve since 1918 at King’s College in Cambridge, England, features song selections taken from African-American, French Calvinist, German Lutheran, Israeli, Moravian and Catholic traditions. Carols like “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” and “My Lord, What A Morning” may not be well known to people, but the tunes have a unique way of reinforcing the message that God is at work in their lives, Crainshaw says.

In addition to the diverse song selections, Susan Borwick, professor of music at Wake Forest, has written a new piece of music to accompany lyrics to the song “She Walked In The Summer: A Song of Mary and Elizabeth.” The lyrics were written in 1968 by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, and the song is part of the service’s sixth lesson, which tells of Mary’s visit with her cousin Elizabeth.

“The themes of peace, love, joy and hope are all running through this service,” says Katherine Amos, an event organizer and associate dean for academic affairs for the Divinity School. “This is a different type of worship service that centers in on the Bible and music. For this service, you have the word of God, and then you hear the word interpreted in music.”

For more information about the service or to arrange coverage, contact Jacob McConnico at mcconnjn@nullwfu.edu or 336-758-5237.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Events