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Advent Through the Eyes of the Psalms

The psalms touch every emotion. They are genuine cries to God, longing for hope, and shouts of praise that lead us into a closer relationship with our Lord. This service uses the psalms through the eyes of Advent. In Advent we wait, we remember what God did for his people in the past, and we rejoice in our salvation. We also look ahead, knowing that our Lord, the King of glory, is coming, full of truth and grace.

This service was used by Mayfair Christian Reformed Church in December 2011. It is based on a service that the Calvin College Woman’s Chorale and the Calvin College Campus Choir did in 2006 in their Service of Lessons and Carols at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.

Organ Prelude

Scripture Reading: John 1:1-18

God’s Greeting and Mutual Greeting

Opening Hymn: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” (st. 1-3) LUYH 56, PH 2, PsH 329, TH 196, WR 153

Advent Psalms of Lament and Waiting

Light first candle

Reader: A reading from Psalms 42 and 43: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

All: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Choral anthem from Psalm 43: “Send Out Your Light and Your Truth” PFAS 43A, PsH 165

Reader: Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from those who are deceitful and unjust deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off? Why must I walk about mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

All: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Hymn from Psalm 74: “O Come, O Come Immanuel” (st. 1, 4, 7) LUYH 61, PH 9, PFAS 74A, PsH 328, TH 194

Meditation from Athanasius (c. 295-373): “And, among all the books, the Psalter has certainly a very special grace, a choiceness of quality well worthy to be pondered; for, besides the characteristics which it shares with others, it has this peculiar marvel of its own, that within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul. It is like a picture, in which you see yourself portrayed and, seeing, may understand and consequently form yourself upon the pattern given.”

Athanasius, On the Incarnation (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1946), p. 103

The Shepherd God Protects and Disciplines the Sheep

Light 2nd candle

Reader: A reading from Psalm 80: Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

All: Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Reader: O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

All: Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Reader: You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches; it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the river. Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.

Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

All: Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Hymn from Psalm 23: “Shepherd Me, O God” (refrain only, 2 times) LUYH 456, PFAS 23H, SNC 181

Meditation from Eugene Peterson: “These psalms that teach us to pray are, all of them, prayers of people gathered as a community before God in worship. Some of them most certainly originated in solitude, and all of them have been continued in solitude. But in the form in which they come to us, the only form in which they come to us, and therefore in the way they serve as our school of prayer, they are the prayers of the community before God in worship. Prayer is fundamentally liturgical.”

Eugene Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), p. 83

God’s Salvation Leads Us to Calm Repose and Triumphant Joy

Light 3rd candle

Reader 1: A reading from Psalm 63:1-7 and Psalm 66: O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Reader 2: So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

Reader 1: Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Reader 2: So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

Reader 1: My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

Choral anthem from Psalm 131: “Like a Child” (st. 1-2) PFAS 131E, WR 162

Reader 2: Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.

Reader 1: Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you. All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”

All: Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

Reader 2: He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—let the rebellious not exalt themselves.

All: Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

Choral anthem from Psalm 131: “Like A Child” (st. 3)

Reader 1: For you, O God, have tested us;

Reader 2: you have tried us as silver is tried.

Reader 1: You brought us into the net;

Reader 2: you laid burdens on our backs;

Reader 1: you let people ride over our heads;

Reader 2: we went through fire and through water;

Reader 1: and 2: yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

All: I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

Reader 1: I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats.

Reader 2: Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.

Reader 1: I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.

Reader 2: If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

Reader 1: But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

All: Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

Reader 2: The Word of the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Choral anthem from Psalm 131: “In You, O Lord” (Haas) PFAS 131B

Meditation from Walter Brueggemann: “Israel’s prayer—even though stylized and therefore in some ways predictable—is rarely safe, seldom conventional, and never routine. It is characteristically daring, outrageous, and adventuresome. Israel’s prayer is indeed limit-language that pushes to the edge of social possibility, of cultural permit, of religious acceptability, and of imaginative experimentation.”

Walter Bruggeman, The Psalms and the Life of Faith (Augsburg Fortress, 1995), p. 50

The King of Glory Comes, Full of Truth and Grace

Light 4th candle

Hymn: “Silent Night, Holy Night” LUYH 85, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186

(For the following section Reader 1 is a child, Reader 2 is an adult).

Reader 1: A reading from Psalm 24: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.

Reader 2: Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

Reader 1: And who shall stand in his holy place?

Reader 2: Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.

Reader 1: They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation. Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Reader 2: Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

Reader 1: Who is the King of glory?

All: The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.

Reader 2: Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

Reader 1: Who is this King of glory?

All: The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

Reader 2: The Word of the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Hymn from Psalm 98: “Joy to the World” LUYH 92, PH 40, PFAS 98D, PsH 337, TH 195, WR 179

Meditation from John Calvin: “On the other hand there are the psalms which we desire to be sung in the Church, as we have it exemplified in the ancient Church and in the evidence of Paul himself, who says it is good to sing in the congregation with mouth and heart. We are unable to compute the profit and edification which will arise from this, except after having experimented. Certainly as things are, the prayers of the faithful are so cold, that we ought to be ashamed and dismayed. The psalms can incite us to lift up our hearts to God and move us to an ardor in invoking and exalting with praises the glory of his Name.”

John Calvin, “Articles Concerning the Organization of the Church and of Worship at Geneva Proposed by the Ministers at the Council, January 16, 1537,” XX, I, 5, in Calvin: Theological Treatises, ed. J.K.S. Reid (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), p. 54

Offering/Offertory

Choral Anthem from Psalm 148: Let All Creation’s Wonders LUYH 555, PFAS 148A

Meditation from Cassiodorus (c. 485- c. 580): “... the psalms make our vigils pleasant when in the silence of night the choirs hymn their praise. The human voice bursts into melody, and with words skillfully set to music it leads us back to him from whom divine eloquence has come for the salvation of the human race.”

Cassiodorus: Explanation of the Psalms, vol. 1, trans. P.G. Walsh (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1990), p. 24

Prayer

Reader: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have sent your Son to be our Savior: our light in the midst of darkness, our hope in the face of threats, our peace amid turmoil.

All: In your word we have seen him and know that your promises are true.

Reader: Send us forth from this place to reflect Christ’s light in our lives, and to bear witness to this sign of hope. And as we go, grant us, we pray, your peace.

All: Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us your peace.

Reader: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel (based on Luke 2:29-32).

Hymn: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” LUYH 76, PH 41/42, PsH 340, TH 208, WR 182

Psalm and Benediction from Psalm 67

Reader: As we go from this place, please join in this benediction from Psalm 67: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,

All: that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.

Reader: Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

All: Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.

Reader: Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

All: The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Reader: May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (1 Thess. 5:23-24)

All: Alleluia! Amen!

Postlude