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Longing for More

We long for more. Especially at Christmastime, we long for more. I don’t mean the common longing for toys and family, carols and jolly feelings, eggnog and Santa. I mean a real, deep longing for something that actually fills us up and satisfies. We long for Christ to be with us.

But, truth be told, even those of us with Christ in our lives are often overwhelmed by the wants and worries of life. We waver and we grow weary. Can this human longing for more, which is so endemic in our lives, be overcome at Christmas? I know of only one possible, positive answer to that question: Christ.

Christ can transform our wants and weariness—our worry and our wavering—into profound wonder. Wonder comes when we recognize that only God’s presence can fully address our longing and emptiness. It’s not that all our longing suddenly disappears with the coming of Christ. But longing is transformed, overcome, superseded, and trumped by the reality of God’s presence with us in Christ.

Editor’s note: These introductory words were written by Paul DeVries, pastor of Brookside Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in an Advent devotional for the congregation to use. The service plans that follow are designed to be used alone or in tandem with this devotional, which will be published by Faith Alive this fall under the title Longing for More: Devotions for Advent. Bulk discounts are available. For more information, visit FaithAliveResources.org.

First Sunday of Advent: We Want

Gathering

Prelude

Welcome and Call to Worship

God’s Greeting and Our Greetings

Gathering Songs
“Come, Lord Jesus” SFL 138, SNC 103, SWM 13
“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” CH 244, PH 2, PsH 329, SFL 122, SWM 83, TH 196, WR 153

Reading (based on Isaiah 40:6)

Leader: A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry? All people are like grass.”

Reader 1: My job is dissatisfying, and it doesn’t even pay the bills. I long for something different.

Reader 2: We’ve been married for years now. When will we have a son or a daughter?

Reader 3: I’d really like a nicer car. My neighbor and my brother-in-law just bought brand-new ones. Why shouldn’t I?

Reader 4: I’ve been sick for so long, I can’t remember the last time I felt healthy. Will God ever heal me?

Leader: All people are like grass.

Reader 2: There is so much suffering and poverty in the world. When will God bring justice and peace?

Reader 4: We really need a larger home. Our kids have to share bedrooms, and there just isn’t enough room when all their friends come over.

Reader 3: I don’t have any friends at school—I sit alone every day at lunch. When will I have someone to hang out with?

Reader 1: My children are grown and have moved away. I long for the days when all my kids were home with me.

Leader: All people are like grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall.

Song: “The Longing” (Joel Hanson and Tony Woods)
(see box)

Morning Prayer

Offertory

The Longing

In each heart there is a longing
In each soul a desperate cry
To know if life has some true meaning
Or if we simply live and die
Earthly pleasures and possessions
Leave the sinking spirit dry
In each heart there is a longing
Only Jesus satisfies

In each life there comes the question
Is there more than meets the eye
And what will we see of the eternal
When the well of days runs dry?
So we search with so few finding
The difference between truth and lies
While in each heart there is a longing
Only Jesus satisfies

Mystery on a hillside
The purest love expressed
Guilty lips cry forgive me
In that moment I found rest

So we search with so few finding
The difference between truth and lies
While in each heart there is a longing
Only Jesus satisfies

—Lyrics by Joel Hanson and Tony Wood. © 2000 New Spring, Inc./Careers-BMG Music Publishing/Winning Pitch/River Oaks Music.
Used by permission.

Hearing God’s Word

Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-8; Matthew 20:20-28

Message: “We Want”

Responding in Faith and Service

Reader 1: On this first Sunday of Advent, as we wrestle with many wants, we hear these words from Isaiah 40 (vv. 1-5):

Reader 2: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Reader 1: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’”

Reader 2: We have many wants, but what we need is you, God. We need the light of Christ to come to us—to comfort and save us from our sin.

Solo: “Come to Us, O God” (Barbara Bridge), st. 1
(see Noteworthy, p. 40)

Musical Interlude and Lighting of the Advent Candle

Solo: “Come to Us, O God,” st. 2

Celebration of the Lord’s Supper

God’s Blessing

Postlude

Second Sunday of Advent: We are Weary

Gathering

Prelude

Choral Call to Worship: “An Advent Prayer” (Allen Pote)

Song: “O Come, O Come Immanuel” LUYH, CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

God’s Greeting and Our Greetings

Song: “Savior of the Nations, Come” PH 14, PsH 336, WR 168

Litany (in unison)

O God, you are our God; earnestly we seek you;
our souls thirst for you, our bodies long for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
    (adapted from Ps. 63:1)
Almighty God, during this Advent season, we are weary.
Our days are hectic, and our minds run ahead long into the night.
We rush from one Christmas activity to the next,
and can’t find rest after each long week.
Jesus speaks these words to us today:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29)
When we feel overwhelmed,
when we are filled with worry,
when our activities lack purpose and our tasks seem endless,
instill within us your peace, O God.
We long to calm ourselves in your presence and quiet our ambition.

Morning Prayer

Hearing God’s Word

Scripture: Isaiah 40:27-31; Galatians 6:7-10

Message: “We Are Weary”

As the planning team studied the Scripture texts and the sermon synopses provided, it seemed natural to have the Advent candle lighting occur at the end of the service as the answer to the longing explored in the rest of the service. This necessitated a change in the regular order of worship and in the expected placement of the candle lighting at the beginning of worship.

The Advent candle litanies were written by Rebecca Tellinghuisen, a member of the planning team.

Responding in Faith and Service

Reader 1: We’ve gathered here on this Advent Sunday to draw near to you, God. Our hearts long to be close to you. Help us this season to open our hearts so that you may draw near to us. Open our eyes to the true light that came into the world as we wait to receive it again. Open our ears to the truth of your Word.

Reader 2: Hear the Word from the prophet Isaiah (40:28-31): “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

Reader 1: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Reader 2: We grow weary, God. So many things in this world make us weary. We need your strength. We need the light of Christ to come to us to strengthen us and give us peace.

Anthem: “Come to Us, O God” (Barbara Bridge), st.1
(sung by choir)

Musical Interlude and Lighting of the Advent Candles (choir hums while candle is lit)

Anthem: “Come to Us, O God,” st. 2 (sung by choir)

Song: “Joy to the World!” LUYH, CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SFL 137, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179

Offertory

God’s Blessing

Song: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” CH 259, PH 22, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189

Postlude

Third Sunday of Advent:
We Worry

Gathering

Prelude: “Oh, Leave Your Sheep” (arr. L. Visser)

Welcome and Call to Worship

Song: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” LUYH, CH 244, PH 2, PsH 329, SFL 122, SWM 83, TH 196, WR 153

God’s Greeting and Our Greetings

Song: “Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes” PsH 335

Scripture: Matthew 6:25-27

Prayer

Scripture: Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:4

Litany

Loving God, when we worry about our mother who is ill, our friend who is lonely, our son who has turned away from his faith, turn our eyes to Jesus, our shepherd. When we worry about our to-do list at work, how to pay the mortgage, or whether we can stay in our home as we age, give us courage to watch for Jesus without fear. Jesus calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. Give us peace as we let Jesus guide us through the questions and uncertainties we face today.

Song: “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” (st. 1-2) LUYH, CH 688, PH 387, PsH 591, TH 599, WR 440

Morning Prayer

Hearing God’s Word

Scripture: Isaiah 40:9-11; Luke 12:29-40

Message: “We Worry”

Responding in Faith and Service

Reader 1: We’ve gathered here on this Advent Sunday to draw near to you, God. Our hearts long to be close to you. Help us this season to open our hearts so that you may draw near to us. Open our eyes to the true light that came into the world as we wait to receive it again. Open our ears to the truth of your Word.

Reader 2: Hear the Word from the prophet Isaiah (40:9-11): “You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’”

Reader 1: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

Reader 2: We worry, God. Our fears can trouble and consume us. We need your comfort. We need the light of Christ to guide us and keep us close to you.

Solo: “Come to Us, O God” (Barbara Bridge), st. 1

Musical Interlude and Lighting of the Advent Candles

Solo: “Come to Us, O God,” st. 2

Song: “Once in Royal David’s City”(st. 1, 3, 4, 5) CH 286, PH 49, PsH 346, TH 225, WR 183

Offertory: “Angels We Have Heard on High” (A. Jordan)

God’s Blessing

Song: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” CH 249, PH 41/42, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182

Postlude: “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” (Fedak)

Fourth Sunday of Advent:
We Waver

Gathering

Prelude

Welcome and Call to Worship

Gathering Songs
“Here I Am to Worship” SWM 6
“Your Name” (Paul Baloche)

God’s Greeting and Our Greetings

Songs
“O Come, O Come Immanuel” LUYH, CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154
“My Soul in Stillness Waits” LUYH, SNC 95

Scripture: Isaiah 40:12-14

Morning Prayer

Hearing God’s Word

Scripture: Isaiah 40:12-26; Romans 4:18-25

Message: “We Waver”

Responding in Faith and Service

Reader 1: We’ve gathered here on this Advent Sunday to draw near to you, God. Our hearts long to be close to you. Help us this season to open our hearts so that you may draw near to us. Open our eyes to the true light that came into the world as we wait to receive it again. Open our ears to the truth of your Word.

Reader 2: Hear the Word from the prophet Isaiah (40:21-26): “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Reader 1: “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.”

Reader 2: “‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Reader 1: We waver, God. We can be so fickle and feeble. We need your mighty strength. We need the light of Christ to reveal your steadfast presence.

Song: “Come to Us, O God” (Barbara Bridge), st. 1

Musical Interlude and Lighting of the Advent Candles

Song: “Come to Us, O God,” st. 2

Song: “Everlasting God” (Chris Tomlin)

Offertory

God’s Blessing

Song: “O Come, Let Us Adore Him” CH 496, SWM 102, WR 114

Postlude

Christmas Day: We Wonder

Gathering

Prelude

Welcome

Call to Worship (Isa. 9:6)
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

Songs
“Joy to the World!” (st. 1, 2, 4) LUYH, CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SFL 137, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” (st. 1, 3, 4) CH 249, PH 41/42, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182

God’s Greeting and Our Greetings

Song: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” (st. 1, 2, 4) LUYH, CH 259, PH 22, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189

Opening Ourselves to God

Reader 1: We’ve been waiting for the Savior. Waiting with hearts that are often preoccupied with our own wants and desires . . . with hearts that are weary and worn . . . with hearts that are subject to fears and doubts.

Reader 2: But these waiting hearts have longed for so much more. We long for God’s comfort and peace—for God’s guidance and strength. We’ve been longing for our Savior.

Reader 1: Today we light the Christ candle. We celebrate this good news: that Christ the Savior is born! The true light that gives light to everyone has come. Let our waiting hearts rejoice and be glad!

Lighting of the Advent Candles

Song: “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” CH 279, PH 37, PsH 353, TH 216, WR 221

Anthem: “He Is Born” (arr. Forrest)

Morning Prayer

Hearing God’s Word

Scripture: Luke 2:1-11; Romans 5:1-8

Message: “We Wonder”

Responding in Faith and Service

Songs
“Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” LUYH, CH 273, PH 28, PsH 355, TH 207, WR 198

“Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” (st. 1, 3) CH 277, PH 31/32, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185

Offertory: “Angels We Have Heard on High”

God’s Blessing

Song: “Angels We Have Heard on High” (st. 1, 3) LUYH, CH 278, PH 23, PsH 347, SFL 133, SWM 90, TH 214, WR 188

Postlude