Canticles of Luke - 12/6/15


 Gloria Dei will celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent (12/6/15) with an Advent Lessons and Carols service centered on the Canticles of Luke. These canticles have inspired composers over the years and this service will offer a variety of that music.

The Gospel of Luke contains four canticles (songs) to God within its first two chapters. Three of those four songs have been cherished and used from the early centuries of Christianity in the daily liturgies of the Church - Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Prayer at the Close of the Day. The fourth one echoes through each Christmas season.

The songs arise within the whole story of God and God’s people. They represent both the tradition and theology of Old Testament poetry as well as the message Luke tells through the rest of his Gospel (and the book of Acts). By adding this poetry to his account of Jesus' birth, the author of Luke slows down the reader so the reader may savor the story of God-With-Us, the center of the Christian narrative. 

In Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the song praises God’s actions in past tense. The works of God are so certain that she proclaims them as accomplished. The song describes a radical reversal of fortunes: the hungry will be filled, the lowly lifted up even as the rich will be sent away empty and the mighty brought down. 

Although Zachariah experiences a miraculous birth of a son, his Benedictus (1:67-79) instead praises God for sending Jesus. The song, better called a prophecy, summarizes both Jesus’ and John’s roles in the future.

The third of the canticles, the Glorificamus (Luke 2:14), celebrates the angels’ appearance to the shepherds on the night that Jesus is born. The words ring out across Christmas celebrations. (One of my favorites is the recitation by Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, to illustrate what “Christmas is all about” for Charlie Brown.)  

Finally, in the Nunc Dimittis, (2:29-32), Simeon, an old man at the end of his life, declares that Jesus brings salvation to all people….a light to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

If you join us at worship on December 6 (8 am or 10:30 am), or if you just read through the texts, ask yourself how do you respond when God intervenes in your life? With songs of praise? 

For more on the Gospel of Luke, see Luke by Fred B. Craddock (c. 1990), a part of the Interpretation Series of Bible commentaries by John Knox Press.


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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


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