One of my strongest memories, of growing up is the tradition we and many others used to share of coffee time after church on Sunday morning. Mom would always bake a cake on Saturday, and Dad would often invite visitors at church to come over for coffee, perhaps to stay for dinner. As a matter of course, one of the topics of conversation was the sermon we had just heard. I cut my theological teeth on those conversations, while listening to the adults wonder about this point or that emphasis or that interpretation. Sometimes conversations became very animated, even heated. Sermons mattered. Those conversations taught me how to listen to sermons until I too could begin to join in the discussions. After dinner, Dad or Mom always read again the passage the sermon was based on.
Reading the Bible after Sunday dinner was not unusual; that's what our family did after every meal, which also began and ended with prayer. But that was a different day, a day of "sit-down meals," which are getting rare enough to warrant that label.
North Americans still attend church in large numbers; but devotional life at home has become more and more individualized and hit-or-miss. In a 1992 survey, 90 percent of Christian Reformed Church members attended worship weekly, and 81 percent prayed privately at least once a day, but only 60 percent had family devotions at home. According to a 1997 survey conducted by The Banner (the denominational magazine of the CRC; see the August 25, 1997, issue) teens from a number of denominations at several Christian high schools indicated that just over half of their families (55 percent) have devotions together at least on a weekly basis.
Reformed Worship has not addressed the issue of home worship before, but in this issue the Advent and Christmas service planning series is linked to a resource for worship at home. We asked Scott Hoezee, pastor of Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and author of The Riddle of Grace: Applying Grace to the Christian Life (Eerd-mans, 1996) to prepare a two-pronged resource.
First comes our regular Reformed Worship Service Planning feature (see p. 4), with ideas for planning congregational worship during Advent and for Christmas Day. Second, and published separately, Hoezee prepared a set of devotions for home use based on the same Scripture passages chosen for the following Sunday's worship. Hoezee primes the pump, so to speak, to enable people to better hear God's Word at church on Sunday. On the following Monday or Tuesday, the devotionals reflect back on the sermon, and then they once more look forward to the next Sunday. (For a sample of one of the devotions, see p. 11, and for ordering information, see the inside back cover.)
Robert De Moor, our theological editor, writes on the following page of his attempts as a pastor to find ways to connect worship in church with worship at home. It was in response to voices like his that we developed this HomeLink resource as an extension of Reformed Worship. Let us know what you think. Should we attempt something like this more often?