Share |

Angels and Songs

A Worship Series Planned by Youth

One of the more subtly challenging aspects of worship planning that our team faces is how to develop a sense of cohesiveness from week to week. How does the worship we facilitate this week relate to what we experienced the previous week or to what we will encounter next week?

Admittedly, this intentional continuity does not have to happen all the time. However, we have found that with the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent and for services within a defined three-to-six week sermon series, the more continuity we can bring between services, the richer and perhaps more poignant our worship becomes.

Historically, our worship planning team involved three people: Gillian, who is a member of our worship committee and an elder; a planner who served as a liaison with the musicians; and me as the preaching pastor. But over the past year we have experimented with a different approach to our worship planning. For each sermon series we invited a different group of people from the church to participate in the planning process.

Typically the group meets with Gillian and me about a month before the series is set to begin. I provide the sermon theme for the series and identify the Scripture texts. We then brainstorm other Scripture texts, songs, litanies, poems, visuals, and resources that could fit with the direction of the series. By the time we leave, not only have we compiled a list of potential resources, but we have also typically chosen a song, a short responsive reading, or a blessing that will be included in each worship gathering to bring additional continuity to the series. Then we begin drafting the worship services via email. For the most part, the order of worship is drafted 7 to 10 days before the actual service, providing us with plenty of time to make any needed adjustments.

One of the more exciting ways this approach bore fruit was when we engaged our middle school and high school youth in planning for Advent and Christmas last year. Gillian, Dave (our youth elder), and I met with a group of eight youth who had expressed interest in helping to plan our Advent services. Along with our typical brainstorming, we also spent time with the youth talking through some of the historic themes and emphases associated with Advent. As we planned, we added a second face-to-face meeting to give us a little more time to craft the flow of each service.

We decided to focus our Advent series on the angels and songs present in Luke 1-2 and to bring themes of hope, love, joy, and peace to the surface through the candle lighting, songs, and Scripture readings. As the services came together, a few common threads developed.

First, the youth found a way to incorporate the song “Dona Nobis Pacem” in several of the gatherings.

A team of youth led the congregation in singing it two of the weeks and a couple of other youth played it as an instrumental piece during the offering one week.

For another thread we adapted a few excerpts from The Jesus Storybook Bible in connection with our candle lightings each week. Though this reading occurred in different places within the order of worship, each time two youth would responsively read the excerpts and then lead us in lighting the candles.

The third thread we incorporated was a call-and-response as the younger children were leaving for Children and Worship. The kids would call out “Jesus is coming!” and the adults in the sanctuary would respond “He’s almost here!”

Overall, we have found this planning approach to be quite enriching. It has allowed for a greater diversity of songs and Scripture passages in the services, for more people in the congregation to actively contribute to our communal worship, and even for some discipleship conversations about why we worship the way we do. On top of that, there have been consistent comments from the congregation about how meaningful different worship series have been for them, and they have highlighted prayers, readings, or poems, not only the sermons, in making their comments. With the Advent/Christmas series in particular, our elders received feedback about how encouraging it was to see youth involved in leading several different aspects of the service.

Following are the orders of worship that our youth planning team developed with us for Advent.

First Sunday of Advent

Prelude
“On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry LUYH 70. Psh 327, WR 156
and “Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes” LUYH 60, Psh 335

Welcome and Announcements

God Gathers His People

Call to Worship
Isaiah 40:1-5

Prayer

Song: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (st. 1-4) LUYH 61, PH 9, Psh 328, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

Greeting

Song: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (st. 5-7) LUYH 61, PH 9, Psh 328, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

Song: “Dona Nobis Pacem” (led by a team of 10-12 youth) LUYH 73, PFAS 521

God Calls Us to Confess Our Sins and Receive Forgiveness

Advent Story
excerpted from Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2007), pp. 48-55

Lighting of the Advent Candle
“We light this candle as a reminder that the hope for our salvation does not come from our own hands, but from Jesus Christ.”

Prayer of Confession

Song: “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” LUYH 59, PsH 194, TH 197, WR 155

Assurance of Pardon and Call to Holy Living
Isaiah 44:1-5

God Extends His Covenantal Faithfulness through Baptism

Teaching

Song: “You Are Our God; We Are Your People” LUYH 35, PsH 272

Baptism

Communal Profession of Faith
Apostles’ Creed LUYH 783A, PsH 519

As children leave for Children and Worship and Sunday school

Children: “Jesus is coming!”

Adults: “He’s almost here!”

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God Speaks to Us through His Word

Scripture
Luke 1:5-25

Message
“Intruding on the Mundane” (Zechariah’s Angel)

After 400 years of “silence” from God, suddenly God sends an angel to announce God’s good news: the Savior is on his way! This good news intrudes into the mundane and ordinary rhythms of God’s people. God’s word is simultaneously cosmic and intensely personal, because it comes to two people, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who have borne decades of unanswered prayers in the face of unrelenting barrenness. They, like God’s people, had embraced a mundane way of life in which they had learned to cope with God’s apparent silence. With the angel’s announcement, hope is rekindled—though perhaps overwhelmingly so—and we discover that God is not as distant and uncaring as we might have thought. Zechariah’s forced silence amid his disbelief becomes a posture inviting all to watch and wait with anticipation for what God is about to do!

Prayer

Song: “Blessed Be Your Name” LUYH 343

God Invites Us to Respond with Our Offerings

Offering

Offertory Prayer

God Sends Us Out by His Grace

Blessing

Song: “Come, Lord Jesus” SNC 103, SWM 13

Second Sunday of Advent

Prelude
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” LUYH 78, PH 309, PsH 342, TH 162, WR 181
and “Shout to the Lord” LUYH 603, SNC 223 SWM 49, WR 94

Welcome and Announcements

God Gathers His People

Call to Worship

Advent Story
excerpted from The Jesus Storybook Bible, pp. 116-121

Lighting of the Advent Candle
“We light this candle as a reminder that it is because of God’s love for the whole world that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save us.”

Song: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” LUYH 56, PH 2, Psh 329, SWM 83, TH 196, WR 153

Prayer

Greetings

Song: “God of Wonders” LUYH 4

God Calls Us to Confess Our Sins and Receive Forgiveness

Call to Confession
Isaiah 55:1-7

Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardon and Call to Holy Living
Isaiah 55:6-13

Song: “Great Is the Darkness” (Gerald Coates, Noel Richards)

As children leave for Children and Worship and Sunday school

Children: “Jesus is coming!”

Adults: “He’s almost here!”

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God Speaks to Us Through His Word

Scripture
Luke 1:26-38

Message
“Overshadowing” (Mary’s Angel)

Hope for God’s people has been rekindled. And now, in a remarkable demonstration of God’s lavish grace, God sends an angel to announce God’s favor to Mary: “The promised Savior is coming through you!” Yet it is not Mary’s favor with God that is central here. Rather, Mary’s faithful submission to God’s plans flourishes in God’s overshadowing presence: the Lord is with you! What seemed impossible—both that God would send the Savior and that Mary, a woman with no husband and no social standing, would be part of God’s unfolding plan—becomes a reality because of God’s overshadowing, loving presence. Mary’s response invites us into a posture of receiving and recognizing God’s presence with us as we watch and wait with anticipation for God’s salvation.

Prayer

Song: “I Lift My Eyes Up” LUYH 652, SNC 208

God Invites Us to Respond with Our Offerings

Offering

Offertory Prayer

God Sends Us Out by His Grace

Blessing

Song: “Dona Nobis Pacem” (led by a team of youth) LUYH 73, PFAS 521

Third Sunday of Advent

Prelude

Song: “Mighty to Save” LUYH 611

Song: Instrumental variations on “O Come, O Come Immanuel”

Welcome and Announcements

God Gathers His People

Call to Worship
Psalm 146

Special music

Greeting

Song: “Savior of the Nations, Come” LUYH 74, PsH 336

Prayer

Advent Story
excerpted from The Jesus Storybook Bible, pp. 144-151

Advent Candle Lighting
“We light this candle as a reminder of the joy that is ours because God is faithful to all his promises: Jesus Christ is coming!”

God Calls Us to Confess Our Sins and Receive Forgiveness

Song: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” (st. 1 & 2) LUYH 69

Scripture
Psalm 15

Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardon and Call to Holy Living
Colossians 1:22, 23; 3:12-14

Song: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” (st. 3&4) LUYH 69

As children leave for Children and Worship and Sunday school

Children: “Jesus is coming!”

Adults: “He’s almost here!”

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God Speaks to Us Through His Word

Scripture
Luke 1:39-56

Message
“Singing with Mary”

Mary’s song expresses a deep delight in God’s faithfulness as God extends his mercy from generation to generation, wrapping the poor and downtrodden within the story of God’s grace. Here the hope and love of God begin to burst forth into joy as God overturns the oppressive systems and structures, choosing instead to remember and elevate those who seem to have been forgotten. The good news of the coming Savior will be good news for those who have been overlooked and forgotten for so long.

Prayer

Song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” LUYH 88, PH 44, TH 201, WR 180

God Invites Us to Respond with Our Offerings

Offering
“Dona Nobis Pacem” (youth instrumental as the offertory)

Offertory Prayer

God Sends Us Out by His Grace

Charge to the Congregation

Blessing

Song: “God With Us” (Graham Kendrick)

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Prelude

Song: “There Is a Redeemer” LUYH 833, SNC 145, SWM 128, WR 117

Song: “Here I Am to Worship” LUYH 567, SMW 6

Welcome and Announcements

God Gathers His People

Call to Worship
Isaiah 65:17-25

Prayer

Song: “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” LUYH 70, PsH 327, WR 156

Greetings

Song: “Blessed Be the God of Israel” LUYH 67, SNC 104, WR 158

God Calls Us to Confess Our Sins and Receive Forgiveness

Advent Story
excerpted from The Jesus Storybook Bible, pp. 170-175.

Lighting of the Advent Candle
“We light this candle as a reminder that God wraps us in the peace of his promise to make everything new—including us!—in Jesus Christ.”

Prayer of Confession

Song of Assurance
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” LUYH 79, PH 48, PsH 351, TH 221, WR 190

As children enter Children and Worship and Sunday school

Children: “Jesus is coming!”

Adults: “He’s almost here!”

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God Speaks to Us Through His Word

Scripture
Luke 1:57-80

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God!

Message
“A Light Has Come” (Zechariah’s Song)

Zechariah rejoices as the miracle of God’s faithfulness unfolds through the birth of John the Baptist. Elizabeth proclaims her son’s name to be “John.” When the people doubt her, Zechariah writes “His name is John,” a declaration that brings him freedom from his silence. That naming, as with the naming of prophets’ children in the Old Testament, conveys a glimpse of who God is and what God is about to do among his people: God has not forgotten his people, but has turned his attention to his beloved! This love from God is so great and so unexpected that it leads Zechariah to proclaim that God’s salvation is actually a light that will transform all peoples—a bold declaration from someone living under military and economic occupation by another kingdom. Peace on earth, which has been so obviously elusive and undesired, is suddenly possible because of what God is about to do.

Prayer

Song: “God Reigns! Earth Rejoices” LUYH 91, PsH 97

God Invites Us to Respond with Our Offerings

Offering

Offertory Prayer

God Sends Us Out by His Grace

Blessing

Song: Refrain of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” LUYH 76, PH 41, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182

Christmas Day

Prelude
“Once in Royal David’s City” LUYH 87, PH 49, PsH 346, TH 225, WR 183
and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” LUYH 76, PH 41, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208 WR 182

God Gathers His People

Call to Worship
Luke 2:1-7

Prayer

Song: “Joy to the World” LUYH 92, PH 40, PsH 337, SWM 94, TH 195, WR 179

Greeting

Song: “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” LUYH 98, PH 28, PsH 355, TH 207, WR 198

Song: “How Great Our Joy” LUYH 90

God Calls Us to Confess Our Sins and Receive Forgiveness

Scripture
John 1:1-5, 9-11

Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardon and Call to Holy Living
John 1:12-14

Song: “What Child Is This?” LUYH 95, PH 53, TH 213, WR 184

Christmas Story
excerpted from The Jesus Storybook Bible, pp.176-191

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Song: “The Candle Song” (Graham Kendrick)

God Speaks to Us through His Word

Scripture
Luke 2:8-20

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God!

Message
“A Savior Is Born” (Angels’ Song)

Joy to the world! A Savior is born! The angels sing their own song in declaring the mystery and wonder of God’s faithfulness as Jesus is born in Bethlehem. Continuing with the underlying theme of God’s self-revelation to the most unexpected people, the angels sing their song to a group of shepherds keeping watch over sheep in the fields, while Jesus, God’s own Son and the Savior of the world, is born in a stable. The questions then come to us, the most unlikely of people generations later: Will we go and see this Savior who has been born? And having seen him, will we go away rejoicing, spreading this good news wherever we go?

Prayer

Song: “Angels We Have Heard on High” LUYH 82, PH 23, PsH 347, SWM 90, TH 214, WR 188

God Invites Us to Respond with Our Offerings

Offering

Offertory Prayer

God Sends Us Out by His Grace

Blessing

Song: “Ere Zij God” LUYH 84, PsH 214, SWM 95, WR 732