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Advent/Christmas Articles

The Lord's Supper and the Least

Churches introduce the Lord’s Supper in their liturgies in various ways. Some use a recommended form, while others write their own. The latter might explore a topic such as the presence of Jesus at communion, or communion and children. Here, I’d like to consider another aspect of the Lord’s Supper: how it addresses the burdens we carry when we come to the table.

Whatever Happened to the Second Coming?

This article is also available in Spanish and Korean at reformed worship.org. Don't forget that you will need the password found on the inside front cover.

한국어    Español

¿Qué pasó con la segunda venida?

도대체 재림에 무슨 일이 생겼는가?

 

Q

It has been years since I've heard a sermon or sung a song about Jesus' second coming. Why? How do we recover that?

A

Rejoice in God

The Hymns of K. Lee Scott

Keaton Lee Scott is a native of Langdale (now Valley), Alabama, where he was born on April 19, 1950. He received his bachelor of music and master of music degrees from the University of Alabama in 1973 and 1976, respectively. Since that time he has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Schools of Music at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Samford University, and as organist/choir director at several churches. But his main occupation has been the writing of music.

As for Me and My House

A Covenant Renewal Service Based on Joshua 24

At key moments in their history, God’s Old Testament people renewed their covenant relationship with God. The following service is based on one of those moments as chronicled in Joshua 24. It invites the congregation not only to remember but also to rehearse and reenact the story as their own. Some congregations find such a rehearsal of God’s covenant particularly meaningful as they transition into a new year.

Gathering

Scripture: Joshua 24:1

Sonny's Cupcake Cafe

A Christmas Play

What can a small congregation do to meet the needs of children and families? Traditional age-stratified classes don’t work when there are only one or two children per grade level.

Light for Our Wilderness

A Candlelight Service

While candlelight services often take us through the Christmas story with opportunities to sing beloved carols, this service is unique in that it focuses on our wilderness. So many of us relate to that dry place, that dark place, that lonely place, a place of despair, of yearning. The world around us is such a place, and it is to such a place that Christ came to be our Light. This service provides a beautiful and meaningful way to approach Christmas.
—JB

The Word Became Flesh

Creation-Friendly Worship in Advent and Christmas

For centuries, John 1 has offered the church perhaps its favorite Advent text outside of the birth narratives of Luke. But have we ever stopped to think about what was going through the mind of the author when he chose the word logos (word) to describe Jesus? Perhaps we are so used to the strange choice that we don’t realize how inscrutable it sounded the first time Western ears heard it. But make no mistake: it was utterly clear and eminently meaningful to John’s original audience.

A Visual Choir

An Advent Installation and Interview with Hannah Garrity

What is she doing? She has my dream job! I need to know about that job!”

The first time Hannah Garrity witnessed an artist creating visual art in worship, it nearly took the wind out of her.

Who Do You Say I AM?

Incorporating Messianic Texts in Worship

Every fall as we approach the Advent and Christmas seasons, I find myself searching for an entry point to these annual celebrations. What will “ignite” the planning process? Which idea, word, image, or song will come to mind and become the foundation of the eventual Advent chapel service at school or Christmas Eve celebration at church?

Missional Preaching for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

Recently I served as the chairperson for a search committee that was seeking to hire a new professor of missions and missiology at Calvin Seminary. That task meant that I had the chance to bring myself up to speed a bit on the current state of conversations about missions and where some of the primary foci are in the field of missiology.

Worship Amid Pain

The Mission of God in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Songs

We are pleased to introduce a new series of writers for this Noteworthy column. This column and the ones appearing in the next three issues, though authored by an individual, are the result of a collaboration between four Canada-based writers who are associated with various colleges that make up the University of Toronto. In this issue we will hear from Swee Hong Lim. The other three collaborators are Christina Labriola (RW 118), Hilary Donaldson (RW 119), and Becca Whitla (RW 120).
—JB

The Ghost of a Chosen Legacy

The ghosts of a chosen legacy
curl in rattling whispers, echoes of that
tarnished triumphal exodus rendered by the cleavage
of a foreboding sea and heralded
through the inciting song of Miriam.  
The Israelite root hacked down, defiled
and tormentingly grafted in the crucible promise
of a pagan adopted daughter to a widowed Mara,
the gleaner only rescued by the bestowed favor of a kinsman redeemer,  
his honor bound by the threads of marital covenant.
The tangled ancestry unfurling to seize

Angels and Songs

A Worship Series Planned by Youth

One of the more subtly challenging aspects of worship planning that our team faces is how to develop a sense of cohesiveness from week to week. How does the worship we facilitate this week relate to what we experienced the previous week or to what we will encounter next week?

Thinking Deeply

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
—John 1:14, The Message

It’s that time of year again. Time to prepare for Advent and Christmas, looking for a new take on the old story, trying to find some creative ideas to get the juices flowing. But, as we all know, those ideas can’t be too involved because the months around Christmas are busy. As you and your congregation begin to prepare for this important season, may I make one suggestion? Leave room to think deeply.

The Church Year as Evangelistic Resource; Active and Passive Advent Piety; and Weaving Together Christmastide and New Year's Day

Q

So often, church year seasons drive our worship planning process. But terms like “Advent” and “Epiphany” don’t communicate well. They end up being barriers to our audience—especially our audience of the unchurched. What can we do about that?

A

Near to You

A Dramatic Reading for Three Voices

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak.” (Psalm 50:7)

“To hear God speaking, to listen to his voice, does not necessarily involve the auditory senses, but is like a field of vibrations that surround one’s life and one’s horizon with an engaging reality that overwhelms what is in sight before one.” (from Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar [Ignatius Press, 1986])

The Ancient of Days Sends the Savior King

A Litany for Christmas

This litany was originally written for a Bible study group’s Christmas worship celebration. It could easily be adapted for a larger worship gathering or a small family worship time. Make sure to have someone read the section titles to signal the liturgical moves in this litany. The original intent was for a different person to read each paragraph. However, if you use this in a church setting, it may be best to split the readings between three or four individuals. —JB

What Name Is Given in Bethlehem?

A Christmas Drama

Participants

  • Two Readers
  • Six Choral Readers (three “First Choral Readers” and three “Second Choral Readers”)
  • Soloist
  • Four Umbrella People
  • Mary
  • Seeker
  • Accuser
  • Sick woman

Props

  • Five umbrellas:
    • red—the blood of Christ (salvation)
    • green—green pastures (protection)

Welcome, Welcome Jesus

The Story Behind the Song

In late 2011 we decided to write a Christmas song for our congregation and to have the children of the congregation help us. We invited them to bring lyrics or ideas to include in the song as they came forward for their time with the pastors. They did so for a four-week period.

We (Veena Kulkarni and John Groen) then sat down and began crafting the lyrics. We had no tune in mind, but the lyrics came together with little resistance. They seemed to have a certain logic to them. After a couple of meetings they were in place.

Article Resources: 

Isaiah's Peaceable Kingdom

An Advent and Christmas Series of Lessons and Carols

The book of Isaiah, which has often been called “the fifth gospel,” preaches the Advent and Christmas gospel in ways that resist both hopelessness and sentimentality. Its texts are full of both unbending realism about the terror of sin and injustice, and resolute hope in the coming of the Messiah and the peaceable kingdom that this Messiah would usher in. This service of lessons and carols journeys through the book of Isaiah sequentially, with readings and music drawn from ten different chapters.

A Time for Waiting

A Children's Advent Celebration

Mirroring the Psalms in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” with Psalm 74

Let’s face it: Advent has been hijacked. Most people, including many Christians, consider Black Friday to be the beginning of the Christmas season. But long before the crush of holiday shopping at the end of November, Christmas lights festoon our streets and malls and the sound of Christmas jingles is inescapable.

Prepare the Way

Prepare the Way is a series created by the Wesleyan Church that features four weeks of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas. Included are sermon outlines; small group lessons for children, youth, and adults; and more. Many additional resources, including PowerPoint backgrounds, devotionals, and family service ideas can be found at wesleyan.org/323/advent-2013-prepare-the-way.

Christmas Unwrapped

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! For those who observe it, Christmas is a day of much anticipation and celebration. In my home it is no different. Blessed with many friends and family, we have multiple celebrations to attend and gifts to exchange. It is a busy time with all the preparations and events at church. And there are so many traditions: the children’s Christmas pageant, our church’s Living Nativity, the Christmas Eve candlelight service, monkey bread on Christmas morning, family worship. Christmas is a wondrous time—a joy-filled time.