On Christmas Eve at 10:30 p.m., St. John United Methodist Church will present their annual “Christmas Eve Concert and Lessons and Carols” as part of the Concerts with a Cause series.
Concerts with a Cause began in 2003 when the church got a new organ and wanted an excuse to share it with the community. The inaugural show was such a big hit, they just decided to keep the concerts going, said Jamie C. Garvey, St. John’s organist and director of music.
Concerts with a Cause is a free music series that showcases various prominent musicians. At each concert a “love offering” is collected and donated to different service organizations. Since its beginning in 2003, Concerts with a Cause has donated $132,365 to 38 organizations.
Normally, the concerts can be a little on the flashy side, but the Christmas concert with the lessons and carols combines the sacred and the secular.
“What we do on Christmas Eve at St. John is, we start with a 30-minute concert that is a little more — splashy, maybe — then the lessons and carols which are more formal and serious,” Garvey said. “The concert up front, from 10:30-11 is where we might have divas in beautiful gowns and do some sort of festive Christmas music that might not fit with the lessons and carols format. And the offering is taken up at the end of that concert.”
From 11 p.m. to midnight will be the lessons and carols. The program is based on the traditional “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” which was created in 1880 by Edward White Benson, the Bishop of Truro in Cornwall. Legend has it that the 10 p.m. program was devised as a way to keep men out of pubs on Christmas Eve. Whether true or not, the tradition was picked up by King’s College, Cambridge, and is performed in Christian churches all over the world on Christmas Eve.
“There are nine traditional lessons or Bible readings,” Garvey explained. “Each reading is read by a different person and then after each reading, carols are sung to reflect on that particular lesson or Bible scripture. The readings start with the scriptures that have to do with the coming of Christ, and then go through the birth and what does it all mean. So, it’s a storytelling format. It allows for ways to retell the story every year but using different ways. It’s obviously a sacred service and a worship service and not really a concert.”
The community is welcome to attend the whole program or they can leave after the first concert. Garvey said they usually fill the auditorium, which seats about 500 people, and that former choir members come into town from all over the country just to sing and participate in the Christmas Eve concert and carols and lessons.
Concerts with a Cause, “Christmas Eve Concert and Lessons and Carols”
St. John United Methodist Church
Tuesday, December 24
Free; Donations made will go to benefit The United Methodist Children’s Home