Advent Service-planning Ideas

The practice of preaching according to a lectionary is an old one, although Reformed and Presbyterian churches have not always used this method. The lectionary encourages both pastor and congregation to focus on the great salvation events recorded in Scripture. (See the article on page 14 for further background.)

The lectionary and music recommendations for the four Sundays of Advent 1986 are offered as a guide to enrich worship. The suggestions are to be implemented with freedom and imagination on the part of the congregation. The pastor and others involved in worship planning will decide which Scripture selections will be used explicitly for the sermons and which hymns will be sung (whether from the selections here or other choices). We encourage readers’ to respond indicating whether they would like to see this feature presented on a regular basis for the other church seasons.

The readings presented here are from the Common Lectionary: The Lectionary Proposed by the Consultation of Common Texts (Church Hymnal Corporation, 1983). This lectionary is the result of the combined efforts of many American denominations.

Service–Planning Suggestions for Advent

The following Scripture readings and related hymns are intended to help you plan worship services that point toward the meaning of Christ’s coming into the world.

Scripture passages are taken from the Common Lectionary for Advent 1986. Hymn page numbers are given for four hymnals. (Note that numbers preceded by a "p" refer to selections in the proposed new editions of these hymnals.) Organ and choral con–certato music for several of the hymns is listed in other articles in this issue.

The Hymnbook (HB)
Westminster Press, 512 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219

Psalter Hymnal (PH)
CRC Publications, 2850 Kalamazoo Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560

Rejoice in the Lord (RL)
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 255 Jefferson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Trinity Hymnal (TR)
Great Commission Publications, 7401 Old York Road, Philadelphia, PA 19126



Isaiah 2:1—5
The vision of universal peace in the last days is both a foreshadowing and an echo of the peace promised in Bethlehem. The reference to many peoples is a prelude to all the people blessed by Christ’s birth (Luke 2:10).

Matthew 24:36–44
Jesus warns his people to be prepared. They must not be so caught up in the bustle of daily activity that they miss the urgent summons of his second coming. Spiritual watchfulness should govern our Advent worship, and a constant readiness should characterize our anticipation of his coming again.

Romans 13:11—14
As we anticipate the second coming of Christ, we must be awake and ready to do battle. As we clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ and walk in the light, we continue to battle the powers of darkness. Advent should be a time of both joyful anticipation and sober watchfulness.

Psalm 122
As the pilgrims approached Jerusalem, they were filled withjoyous anticipation of worship. Soon they would be in the city and in the temple—soon they would be in the presence of the Lord. The psalmist prays for the peace, the shalom, of Jerusalem; we confess that Christ has brought peace to the world.

Christian, Dost Thou See Them
(HB 360,PH 464,TR 483)

Christ Is the World’s True Light
(HB 492, PH pl8c–3, RL 181)

Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness
(PH 423, RL 536)

Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding
(PH p8–3)

The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
(HB 232, PH pl9–10, RL 607, TR 236)

Psalm 122:
(Three different metrical settings)
(HB 439, PH p!22, TR 276)



Isaiah 11:1—10
The coming of the Branch from Jesse is accompanied by both the gifts of the Spirit and the fear of the Lord. The fear will be an experience of dread for those who have reason to expect the Lord’s judgment, and a feeling of awe and reverence for those who anticipate his rule of shalom.

Matthew 3:1–12
Isaiah and John the Baptist have always been prominent figures in Advent celebrations. John stresses that Christ’s coming is far from Hallmark celebration; it is an advent that calls forth discipline and sacrifice. And again, the promise of the Spirit is woven into the coming of the Lord.

Romans 15:4—13
The arrival of Christ’s rule brings hope, joy, and peace. This peace should come to expression in the life of God’s people. A mutual, servant–like acceptance will promote harmony in the congregation and give praise to God.

Psalm 72:1–8
Psalm 72 is one of the "royal psalms," sung at the coronation of a new king. Central to this prayer for the king is the ideal, the vision, that the king will be just and compassionate and that he will especially protect the needy. The church has traditionally seen this as a messianic psalm since the ideal of the compassionate ruler finds its ultimate expression in Christ.

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People (Isa. 40)
(PH 406, RL 169, TR 148)

God Is Working His Purpose Out
(HB 500, PH pl8a–l7, RL 425, pTR pTR)

Isaiah the Prophet Has Written of Old
(PH pl9–5)

Surely It Is God Who Saves Me (Isa. 12)
(PH pl89)

Tell Out, My Soul (Song of Mary)
(PH p21–23, RL 182, TR pTR)

Psalm 72:
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
(HB 146, PH p72, RL 232, TR 224)



Isaiah 35:1—10
Chapter 35 is a wonderful shout of praise for redemption and freedom in the Lord—redemption physically as well as spiritually. The journey to Zion is a journey of joy, both because the wilderness is blooming and because the Lord is present.

Matthew 11:2–11
Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist summarizes the message of the kingdom of God: it is a message of hope, of healing, of salvation—especially for the needy. John, the herald of Christ, spoke great words and was the greatest of his age—but even (or especially?) the least in the kingdom will surpass John.

James 5:7—10
The coming of the Lord often appears to be tardy. But James urges us to be patient and reminds us that the Lord’s coming is indeed near—if we can only perceive the Lord’s timing.

Psalm 146:5–10
The psalmist praises the Lord as the Creator of the world and the Provider for his people. The psalm contains a wonderful "catalog" of the loving deeds of God, who gives food to the hungry and raises up those who are bowed down. The words are reminiscent of the words from Isaiah that Christ applied to himself (Luke 4:18–19).

Come, Thou Long–expected Jesus
(HB 151, PH 335, RL 183, TR 145)

Hail to the Brightness
(HB 505, RL 180, TR 274)

Hark! the Glad Sound
(PH p8–4, RL 251, TR 162)

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
(HB 231, PH p8–8, TR 233)

Psalm 146:
Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah
(PH 301)



Isaiah 7:10—16
This is a difficult passage with widely varying interpretations. However, the central fact of "Imma–nuel," of God with us, shines through clearly. "Im–manuel" is a fitting summary of Advent and Christmas, of both hope and fulfillment.

Matthew 1:18–25
Matthew reasserts that God is with us in the birth of Jesus. Joseph, initially troubled, proves himself to be a person of integrity and faith as he obeys the angel of the Lord.

Romans 1:1—7
Paul’s self–indentification and greeting are filled with themes that he "unpacks" later in the letter. He alludes to both the sonship and the lordship of Jesus, referring to his birth as well as to his resurrection. Paul and the prophets of old preach the same message: hope from and obedience to the Lord.

Psalm 24
The God whom we worship is the great God who founded the earth and whose victorious rule governs in history: "The earth is the Lord’s," and "He is the King of glory." We can worship this God rightly only if we have "a pure heart"—that is, if we acknowledge his kingship in our lives.

Lift Up Your Heads
(HB 152, RL 185, TR 146)

O Come, O Come, Immanuel
(HB 147, PH 331, RL 184, TR 147)

O Lord, How Shall I Meet You
(PH p8–6,RT 368, TR 119)

Savior of the Nations, Come
(PH p8–9, RL 189, TR 165)

Psalm 24:
Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates
(PH pl60a)

The Earth and the Riches
(PH p24)

The Earth with All That Dwell Therein
(HB 38, RL 66)

Harry Boonstra ( is former theological editor of RW and emeritus theological librarian of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Reformed Worship 1 © September 1986, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.