Saturday, April 23, 2011

Liturgy and Hymnody Review: Var hälsad, sköna morgonstund

Sucha, James Gerhardt Eklund, Editor. Swedish Julotta Service. Boulder, CO: Voice of the Rockies, 2002 & 2006. Booklet. $1.75 (LH)

In the Swedish Lutheran/Evangelical Covenant tradition, Julotta is celebrated in the early morning of Christmas Day, beginning at 5 or 6 a.m. This tradition started during the Middle Ages in Sweden. The church is illuminated with candles in windows, and any other place that will hold candles. Congregation members will come to church when it is still dark, only to find the church lit only by candlelight inside to welcome in the light of the Christ child. Juniper bushes are cut and branches are placed around the altar and down the aisle. The altar is aglow with candles and a gold emboidered cloth placed on it. Communion may be served during this service, following the sermon. Each individual is given a candle and it is lighted during the opening hymn to welcome in the light of Christ through his birth. (3)
Julotta is pronounced: yule-loota (2).
This booklet of an early morning Lutheran Christmas Day service could be used by nearly any Lutheran congregation (and especially by those familiar with Service Book and Hymnal such as the ELCA, AALC, and NALC) with minimal preparation by musicians and choir. 

Scripture readings for The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Dawn from Lutheran Service Book could be easily substituted for the two readings on page 7. Similarly, congregations could use their usual wording of the Apostles' Creed (8, or Nicene Creed if the Sacrament is celebrated) as well as the Words of Institution and Lord's Prayer (12).

Sucha, the editor, proves to be quite the hymn scholar, as noted from this service and his prior work on The Service Hymnal: A Lutheran Homecoming. During the service though, such enlightening italicized notes may be distracting. I have routinely included such historical and theological insights in an "About the Service Music" section of a Christmas Eve bulletin. 

Booklets are affordable and re-usable. An example recording is also available.

In the LCMS congregations of our Wyoming District, early Christmas services are rather rare. A resurrection and spread of Julotta among Lutherans (beyond historic Swedish circles) could be even more reason to get up early in celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord!

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.