Easter Festival Worship Suggestions

Easter is the chief festival day of the year. Make every effort to make it look and feel and sound like the chief day of the year! To quote Emeril: Kick it up a notch. Could the pastor wear a special stole? Might this be an opportunity to process in on this day? What about special banners or tapestry? Choirs and musicians are used to pulling out all the stops. Consider what might be done to pull out the stops in the visual arts or an enriched liturgical practice. (Speaking of pulling out all the stops, remember that playing EVERYTHING loud soon makes everything sound the same. Remember that Easter was also a quiet morning, a reflective morning, etc.)

One musical resource that can cover a lot of bases on Easter is Rose’s Hymnal Companion for Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion: Lent, Easter. This photocopyable resource contains many of the Easter classics for organ/piano and a wide variety of instruments. Have a flute, euphonium, and trumpet in your Easter ensemble? Don’t worry. All the parts are covered in this one publication.

Worship planners are wise to consider a bulletin that contains all liturgy and hymns for this festival day. A large format is preferable (11x17). If the parish copy machine is not up to that task, perhaps a local printer will be. Consider the Easter Day bulletin a “keepsake” bulletin that you will encourage people to take home with them. Include page-long “advertisements” for any the next BIC, pre-school/school enrollment, etc. Be sure these have the same look as the service that precedes them. The electronic editions of Christian Worship and Christian Worship Supplement are must buys from Northwestern Publishing House.

Perhaps Introduce Your Parish To the Paschal Candle

The Paschal Candle is a KEY symbol of the Easter Season. It is proper to place the Paschal Candle in a prominent place in the chancel for the 50 days of Easter. After the Easter Season, the Paschal Candle is placed next the baptismal font. (See Romans 6 for the Easter/Baptism connection.) If your parish does not have a Paschal Candle, consider placing a Paschal candle and its stand on the parish wish list or make it an item for memorials.

Here is a sample of an education piece that was done for Faith, Antioch’s guidebook:

Next to the baptismal font, you will see a very ancient symbol of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. All candles are snuffed out on Good Friday. Traditionally, the paschal candle is relit on Easter Eve, symbolizing the triumph of the resurrection over the satanic powers of darkness and sin.

The paschal candle remains lit for the seven Sundays of Easter. The candle is also lit for baptisms throughout the year. This serves to connect Christ?s Easter victory with the Sacrament of Baptism as God himself does in Romans 6:1-4.

Because the Paschal Candle is symbolic of Christ, it is a grand candle with beautiful decorations. Our Paschal Candle is 36? long. This is not too large however. It is recorded that during the Middle Ages, Salisbury Cathedral had a Paschal Candle that was 36 feet high!

Opening Hymn

Jesus Christ Is Risen Today
CW #157
Consider singing the hymn antiphonally. Consider something inserting something like this in the bulletin: To be sung as follows: v.1-All, v.2-Men, v.3-Women, v.4-All- sing in parts

Song of Praise

It is proper during the season of Easter to use an alternate canticle in place of ?Glory Be.? Consider especially “This Is the Feast” (CW #265) or “Thanks Be to God” (CWS #788). On Easter Sunday, I regularly have the choir sing the verses and the congregation sing the refrains.

First Lesson

Isaiah 25:6-9
The Lord has prepared a banquet of salvation

Second Lesson

1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Hope and life for the life to come

Gospel

Mark 16:1-8
He is risen!

Psalm

Setting of Psalm 118 abound. It is difficult to decide which to chose. Consider the following:

For a more traditional approach to Psalm 118 use the setting in Christian Worship Supplement on page 57. I have the choir sing the verses in unison. The congregation joins in the refrains and Glory Be.

For a piano-based accompaniment, my favorite has been Easter Alleluia. It contains a setting of Psalm 118 AND a Verse of the Day. Piano, guitar, and flute are the primary instruments. A light percussion part could easily be added. It can be ordered at by clicking here.

Remember to place the entire Psalm in the bulletin.

Verse

Use the Verse of the Day section of Easter Alleluia under the Psalm section.

Those desiring a grand sound to introduce the Gospel of the Lord’s resurrection should consider Irish Alleluia by Richard Proulx. Parts for brass can be purchased separately. The alleluia refrain is a contagious sing. The choir sings the verse proper. Order here.

Those desiring an ancient feel to the Verse should consider having the choir sing Hymn 144 by chanting it. (I have a men’s choir do it without accompaniment.) Then let the entire congregation, together with organ, for the Alleluia (the hymn’s last three lines). Again, place it in the bulletin.

Anthem

The Tomb Is Empty
David Haas
Order here. Note, the mp3 recording on the site has guitar, synth, etc. It can be sung with a simple piano accompaniment as well.

This has been a favorite of my choirs over the years. Must buy. Consider “building” the piece over its five stanzas. I’ve done it something like this:
v.1-Women sing melody
v.2-Men join in on melody
v.3-5 Choir in parts.
We push the tempo just a little bit faster for each of the stanzas.

Hymn of the Day

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness
CW 156

Be sure to play this hymn in a bright and rhythmic manner. Good organ settings on this tune abound. Perhaps have the organ “sing” one of the stanzas for the congregation. Something like this could be placed in the bulletin:

To be sung as follows: v. 1 – All; v. 2 – Men; v. 3 – Women; v. 4 – Organ; v. 5 – All
The congregation is encouraged to take a moment to meditate upon the words of stanza four while the organ plays a “musical commentary” on the words.

A wonderful concertato on the hymn can be found at NPH by clicking here.

A great pre-service option on this hymn tune would be Michael Burkhardt’s Partita on Awake My Heart with Gladness for organ. It contains several variations on the hymn tune. Organists shouldn’t feel obligated to play the entire piece if one of the variations is outside their technical comfort zone. Click here.

Prayer of the Day

M: Heavenly Father, God of grace, you have brought us into a new and living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
C: Christ is risen!

M: For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive.
C: He is risen indeed!

M: He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification.
C: Alleluia!

M: We marvel at the love you showed by your willingness to sacrifice your Son to pay for our sins; we bow down in adoration at your mighty power, which raised him from the dead.
C: We praise you for sending the true Life and Light into the world.

M: Lord Jesus, God of grace, you have filled our hearts with resurrection joy by your victory over sin, death, and the grave.
C: You have conquered the darkness and given us comfort and hope.

M: With the Church of every age, we offer you unending praise, for you have crushed Satan’s head and have removed our guilt.
C: You are risen!

M: Dear Savior, we who are weary and burdened come to you for rest, knowing that because of your perfect redemption there is now no condemnation for us.
C: You are risen indeed!

M: Take away our doubts and fears, and daily renew in us the joy of our salvation.
C: Alleluia!

M: Holy Spirit, God of grace, you have called us by the gospel and brought us to saving faith in our risen Lord.
C: We glorify you for opening our eyes to see the light of life.

M: Keep us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
C: He is risen!

M: As we journey through life, make us yearn for the day when you will give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ.
C: He is risen indeed!

_Special prayers and intercessions may follow._

M: Hear us, Lord, as we bring you our private petitions.

_Silent prayer_

M: Work through us as we proclaim the saving message of the crucified and risen Jesus near and far, so that many others may hear your call, obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, and join us before the throne of our God and of the Lamb.
C: Alleluia! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Alleluia! Amen.

© 1999 Northwestern Publishing House. Reprinted by permission.

Sermon Hymn

Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia
CWS #719

Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands
CWS #720

The first option for the Sermon Hymn is a wonderful African tune that is easily learned by the congregation. It is a wonderful hymn for part singing by the choir.
The second option takes the classic Luther Easter hymn and combines it with a new tune by Prof. Kermit Moldenhauer. Keep the tempo moving on this one. A new concertato can be found by clicking here.

Closing Hymn

I Know that My Redeemer Lives
CW #152 vv. 1-2, 7-8

Second Option:

He Is Arisen! Glorious Word
CW #162

Rev. Aaron Christie

Aaron Christie serves pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Waukesha, WI. He also serves the synod as a member of the WELS Commission on Worship and a frequent presenter and consultant for the WELS School of Worship Enrichment.

Full biography »