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A Voice Cries Out...: Creative Approaches to Selected Scripture Readings for Advent

How well do you “hear” Scripture?

For some people the spoken or written word is powerful. But others “hear” more clearly through other senses. Worship leaders face the challenge of presenting the Scripture to people who have a variety of intelligences and learning styles. How can we help all these people hear the Word of God with greater clarity and understanding?

One way is through the use of creative Scripture readings such as those shared below. Reading Scripture as dialogue (John 1:6-8, 19-28 or Luke 1:26-38) is the first step towards the visual. Reading Scripture with suggested dynamic differences (Isa. 40:1-11) or with a crescendo of sound, as more and more voices join in (Isa. 9:2-7), creates new aural sensations that will engage those who learn through music. Presenting Scripture as a monologue (Luke 1:47-55) or play brings it to life in delightfully new ways that will reach those who learn through picture and body as well as word.

The creative Scripture treatments on these pages are designed to remain faithful to the original Scripture while adding new sensory elements that appeal to a variety of learning styles. The readings are selected from those assigned by the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for Advent this year, which is Year B (see p. 5 for an explanation of the structure of the RCL). Readings with congregational participation will need to be projected on a screen or provided in the worship bulletin.

November 27, 2005

Mark 13:24-37 (slightly adapted from the NIV)

A Reading with Congregational Response
Keep watch.

Jesus said, “In those days, following distress, ‘The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’”

Therefore, keep watch.

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Keep watch because you do not know the hour.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

When will Messiah come back?

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.”

Therefore, keep watch.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

We will watch!
December 4, 2005

Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)

Litany on Comfort

(Quietly) Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.(Tenderly) Comfort, O comfort my people.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

(Curiously) Comfort, O comfort my people.

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

(Confidently) Comfort, O comfort my people.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

(Rejoicing) Comfort, O comfort my people.

A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.

(Weakly) Comfort, O comfort my people.

The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

(Fading away) Comfort, O comfort my people.

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

(Proclaiming) Comfort, O comfort my people.

See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

(Boldly) Comfort, O comfort my people.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

(Gently) Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
December 11, 2005

John 1:6-8, 19-28 (NRSV)

Scripture as Dialogue
Participants:

Narrator
Pharisee 1 (has an attitude)
Pharisee 2 (has an attitude)
John the Baptist
Jesus

Note: The two Pharisee characters can be combined into one person if necessary, but using two different people as if they are ganging up on John the Baptist will add interest to the story, especially if they act in an intimidating way towards him.

Narrator: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him,

Pharisee 1: Who are you?

Narrator: He did not deny it, but confessed,

John the Baptist: I am not the Messiah.

Pharisee 2: What then? Are you Elijah?

John the Baptist: I am not.

Pharisee 1: Are you the prophet?

John the Baptist: No.

Pharisee 2: Who are you?

Pharisee 1: Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?

John the Baptist: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Narrator: Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him,

Pharisee 1: Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?

John the Baptist: I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.

Narrator: This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

December 24-25, 2005

Psalm 98 (NRSV)

Christmas Adaptation of the Psalm

Note: The words to the hymn “Angels, from the Realms of Glory” have been interspersed with the words to the psalm to create a Christmas interpretation of the joy expressed throughout this psalm reading. The hymn text could be sung as well, though reading rather than singing the familiar words might help the congregation think more about the words.

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory

.

Angels, from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth.

The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

Ye, who sang creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

God with us is now residing, yonder shines the infant light.

Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.

Seek the great desire of nations; you have seen his natal star.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

All creation, join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it

.

Evermore your voices raising to the eternal Three in One.

Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King!

Art by Tanja Butler, from Graphics for Worship 2.0 CD (© 1999, Augsburg Fortress, 1-800-421-0239, www.augsburgfortress.org). Used by permisssion.