The Angels' Message
During Advent we wanted to draw all the generations in our congregation into the wonderful messages of hope, love, peace, and joy. To do that, we wrote dramatic scripts to reflect God’s command to tell the children the stories of his faithfulness. Storytellers represented the gospel characters who had received God’s message directly from angels: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.
People of various ages were involved in all facets of these dramas. Adults and children portrayed the characters’ stories powerfully. Children listened eagerly to the dramas and participated in a children’s choir. Our youth helped lead music and decorate the sanctuary. The seniors led the congregation in a parting message of hope, love, peace, and joy during the lighting of the Advent candles. These messages were adapted from the readings in “Linking the Advent Wreath to Our Faith Stories” (Reformed Worship 85) to include a congregational response.
Below you will find the drama for the fourth Sunday of Advent in the form of a stand-alone Christmas Eve service. The dramas for the other three Sundays are available online at www.reformedworship.org. Some of the songs listed were sung by the children’s choir or other ensembles and included brass instruments wherever appropriate.
1st Sunday of Advent
The Angel’s Message of Hope
C: Zechariah, Zechariah, did you really see an angel?
Z: Yes, my child. I should have expected it, but I didn’t. When I was chosen to burn incense in the temple, it was an honor. But presenting the peoples’ prayers didn’t seem to change anything for me. I had obeyed the Lord all my life, but my prayers for a child had not been answered. Israel had prayed for a Messiah for more than 400 years, but who could deliver them from the powerful Romans?
C: So why did you go on praying?
Z: I kept praying because I believed in God. But when an angel, a messenger from God’s very presence, told me I would have a son, I was filled with questions instead of hope.
C: So your son was a miracle baby?
Z: Yes! And the angel told me that my son John would be like Elijah! He would have a special message for all people who needed hope.
C: What was the message?
Z: The Messiah, our savior, was coming in God’s own miraculous way. He would deliver us. God wasn’t slow in keeping his promises, but patient.
C: I don’t like waiting.
Z: Learn to be still and know that God always hears our prayers. When I doubted God’s promise that he would give me a son, God took away my ability to speak until John was born. During that time I learned to trust that God hears even the silent prayers from our hearts. What are you hoping for this Advent, child, that only God can give you?
C: I’m hoping I can have another chance to be friends with my neighbor. We used to do everything together, but then I broke a promise to him.
Z: You need the message my son was born to bring. He told us to repent, to turn our hearts toward God and others. With God’s forgiveness there’s always hope. We can praise God with the angels for a living hope in Jesus!
Song: “Who Came Down from Heaven to Earth?”
2nd Sunday of Advent
The Angel’s Message of Love
C: Mary, did you see an angel too?
M: Oh, yes, I’m still amazed at Gabriel’s greeting! He called me “highly favored”: favored by God with whom nothing is impossible, favored even though I was an ordinary girl, favored even though I lived in the humble town of Nazareth! What could I say to such love except, “I am the Lord’s servant.”
C: Everyone must have been jealous of you because you were chosen to be the mother of Jesus.
M: No, my child. Most people couldn’t believe the angel’s message that my son was God’s Son, born by the power of the Holy Spirit. Most just judged by what they saw: a girl who became pregnant before she was married. God’s love, shown in this miraculous birth, was so great that only those who received heavenly revelations could really believe it was true before it came to pass. For example, Elizabeth’s child leaped in her womb and she accepted me as the mother of her Lord. An angel appeared to Joseph, or he would have divorced me because it was obvious that the baby was not his. No, my child, I had to cling to God’s love for me, not others’ acceptance. I could be strong in God’s unconditional love that lifts up the humble. He judges by the heart, not by appearances. My child, do you have God’s love in your heart? Do you welcome the poor and the weak, or do you stay at a distance and judge by what your eyes see: someone who isn’t as smart, or as pretty, or as strong as you?
C: Well, I’ve been wondering whether I should invite my neighbor to my party. No one else invites her because she can’t afford to bring a nice gift and she can’t invite us to a party in return.
M: When my son grew up he wasn’t invited to many parties either. But he invited all kinds of children into the kingdom of Heaven. He taught that the most important gift anyone can give is love. He said that if we only love those who can give us something in return, that’s NOT love. He said, “Love your enemies . . . Then you will be children of the Most High.”
C: My neighbor may be poor, but she always lets others go first; she’s not pushy or mean. I think she has a kind heart.
M: That’s worth thinking about. Being the mother of Jesus has given me much to ponder. God sent Gabriel with a wonderful message about Jesus’ birth. God also sent a difficult message through Simeon, the high priest. Listen to what was said about why Jesus was born.
Solo: “Breath of Heaven” (teenage soloist)
3rd Sunday in Advent
The Angel’s Message of Peace
(C= Child, J= Joseph)
C: Joseph, Joseph, Mary said that you saw an angel too!
J: Yes, I did. Actually, God sent his angelic messengers to me four times.
C: Wow! Did the angels give you the same message about the coming of the Messiah as Gabriel gave to Zechariah and Mary?
J: Well, the first message was about the birth of the Messiah. I loved Mary, but how could I believe what she said about her baby? I only knew that the child was not mine. I was afraid to take her as my wife or I too would be judged as disobedient to God’s law. Yet I didn’t want Mary to be shamed. Ending our engagement quietly seemed the only righteous solution. But I was troubled by so many questions! Why would Mary, a virtuous girl, be unfaithful to me and then lie about it? What had I done to deserve such unjust treatment? What would happen to Mary and her baby if I didn’t take care of them? I was afraid for them, but I was afraid for my reputation too. I couldn’t find any peace! Then an angel of the Lord appeared to me in a dream. The first thing he told me was to not be afraid to take Mary as my wife. She was telling the truth! I was to be the earthly father to the Messiah, God’s Son! Immediately I was filled with a peace that passes understanding.
C: What about your other three messages from angels?
J: The whole world needs peace, my child. Once I had given our son the name of Jesus, as the angel had told me, I thought often of what the name Jesus means.
C: His name means he would save his people from their sins, right?
J: Yes, but before Jesus was two, evil people tried to destroy him and God’s plan to restore peace between himself and mankind. Herod was so furious at the news of the birth of another king that he had no peace until he killed all the little boys in Bethlehem. But God sent another angel to warn us and tell us to flee to Egypt. God had already spoken of this escape through the prophet Hosea when he said, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” What a mighty God we serve! Even when there is no peace around us, he can keep us safe and give us peace within. Jesus came to give us peace, but not the kind of peace the world gives. He can keep our hearts from being troubled.
C: What about the third visit? Were you still afraid?
J: After Herod’s death, angels appeared to me two more times in dreams. First, an angel told me to return to Israel because those who were trying to take Jesus’ life were dead. Then, in a second dream, I was warned again to go to Nazareth in Galilee rather than Judea where Herod’s son was reigning. God was really in control, fulfilling another prophecy that Jesus would be called a Nazarene; I just had to trust and obey him.
C: That reminds me of a song my mother sings when I’m scared of the dark. I can go to sleep when I remember that angels are watching over me.
Song: “All Night, All Day” SFL 199
4th Sunday of Advent or Christmas Eve
The Angels’ Message of Joy
Songs of Proclamation:
“Angels We Have Heard on High” CH 278, PH 23, PsH 347, SFL 133, SWM 90, TH 214, WR 188
“Once in Royal David’s City” CH 286, PH 49, PsH 346, TH 225, WR 183
“Do You Hear What I Hear”
Call to Worship
Opening Song: “Silent Night, Holy Night” stanzas 1, 3 CH 253, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186
(C & C2=children, S & S2=shepherds)
C: Were you one of the shepherds who saw the angels the night Jesus was born?
S: Yes. At first I was terrified! But the angels told us not to be afraid, because they were bringing a message from God. After we heard their message, we found everything just as the angels told us. Christ the Lord was wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. He truly came and lived among us as Immanuel. This really was good news to share with everyone!
C2: But why would God choose shepherds to tell the good news?
S2: Our people have always been on a journey, and the Lord has been our shepherd. God often sent heavenly messengers to our ancestors. Zechariah was visited by an angel before his son John was born. And remember Abraham, who took his flocks and went where the Lord called him to go? When he was a sojourner in the promised land, he received angel visitors. They gave him the good news that he would have a son, even though he was old.
C: That must have been hard to believe.
S2: It was at first. But Abraham’s faith was strong. It was so strong that he was willing to sacrifice his one and only son for God. But when God saw Abraham’s faith, an angel stopped Abraham and provided another sacrifice. Now we have seen how God has provided a Savior for all mankind. God has given his one and only Son.
Song: “Silent Night” stanzas 2, 4
C: Wasn’t Moses a shepherd too?
S: Yes, he was. In fact, it was while Moses was leading his father-in-law’s flocks in the desert that the Lord spoke to him from a burning bush.
C: And God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt where they were slaves!
C2: And Moses had a shepherd’s staff that turned into a snake!
C: And when Moses raised his staff over the Red Sea, the waters divided!
S: God had prepared Moses to be a shepherd for God’s people by being a shepherd of sheep first. Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and to the very mountain of God where the angel had appeared to him. Really, God was shepherding Moses and Israel. An angel of God and a pillar of cloud traveled in front of them to guide them or behind them to protect them.
S2: Now the angels have led the way to a Savior who will deliver us from our bondage to sin.
Song: “O Come, O Come Immanuel” stanzas 1, 2, 3 CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154
C: I know another shepherd who points to Jesus. David was a shepherd boy.
C2: And he wrote a Psalm that we still know well.
“The Lord Is My Shepherd” SFL 200, SWM 192
“Away In A Manger” CH 261/262, PH 24/25, PsH 348/349, SFL 129, SWM 87, TH 204/205, WR 203/205
S: The angels told us to go to Bethlehem, the town of David. God chose David and took him from the sheep pens to be a shepherd of his people and become their ruler. Now we have seen the Son of David whom God promised—the one who will sit on the throne forever and ever. We were amazed to find the King of kings in a manger just as the angels said. He was more like a lamb than a king. But God has always used lambs to bring us peace with him.
C: Like the Passover lamb?
C2: The blood of the lamb was a sign for the angel of death to pass over.
C: We’ve been celebrating the Passover by sacrificing lambs ever since.
S2: This lamb will take away the sin of the world. He will be the perfect sacrifice to bring peace between God and man. Glory to God for this inexpressible gift!
C: So what can we give him if he is our Passover Lamb, our Good Shepherd, and our King of Kings?
Song: “What Can I Give Him?” CH 263, SFL 142, SWM 89
[During the offering we played a CD of the song “The Little Drummer Boy” and a 7th grade boy mimed its message.]
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-14
Message: Great Joy!
Solo: “What Child Is This” CH 281, PH 53, TH 213, WR 184
Lighting of the Advent Wreath (taken from RW 85, p. 10)
Leader: Today we light the candle of joy. In Luke 2:10 the angel told the shepherds:
People: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Leader: Jesus’ birth brings us great joy. Let us pray: Dear God, give us joy in our hearts, now and forever. Help us to tell other people about this joy too. Amen.
Closing Song: “Joy to the World” CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SFL 137, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179
Doxology: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” CH 258, PH 29, PsH 356, SFL 131, TH 224, WR 218