What Are You Waiting For?

A Series for Advent and Christmas

The following series was a collaboration of the Revs. Bruce Ballast, Bob DeVries, and Chris Walker of Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven, Michigan. Covenant’s worship could be described as contemporary and modern yet creatively rooted in the ancient liturgy of the church. This Advent series on waiting was particularly well received as a foil to the busyness of the church’s cultural context.

Reformed Worship chose to publish this series this year because of our year-long focus on the connection between what we do in worship and our week-long faith practices. Waiting is one of those spiritual disciplines that we as Christians exercise as we await Christ’s second coming, but also as we wait for answers to our prayers and as we show patience toward individuals or circumstances that we wish would change but haven’t yet. As the world around us rushes toward Christmas and demands instant gratification, the church pauses to experience the waiting of Advent.

Each of the calls to worship originally appeared as a simple video with Advent-related music accompanying the projected text. The calls could also be read with the whole congregation, or each Scripture could be assigned to a different member to read or recite. You may want to invite a child to ask the questions. We have added a script for lighting the Advent candles, but if you do a spoken call to worship you may want to light the Advent candles directly after the call instead.

Because of copyright issues, we have written a new sending/blessing that reflects the same themes as the one originally chosen. Included in the original series were a number of dramas. We could not fit them into this issue, but we have provided links to them and are grateful to Ruth Saukas for her willingness to share them with our subscribers.

As is our normal practice, we list both the congregational songs used and some alternative suggestions.

May you and your congregation be blessed in your Advent waiting.

—RW

Week 1

Active Waiting

GATHERING

Call to Worship: Waiting in Hope
What are you waiting for?

We wait in HOPE for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
But if we HOPE for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it patiently.

Where is your HOPE?

For the grace of God has appeared that offers
salvation to all people.
It teaches us to live in this present age
while we wait for the blessed HOPE—
the appearing of the glory
of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But as for me, I watch in HOPE for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior.
—adapted from Psalm 33:20; Romans 8:25; Titus 2:11–13; Micah 7:7

Advent Candle Lighting
Advent is a time of waiting.
We wait in anticipation of Christmas,
the celebration of Christ’s birth.
We wait in expectation and hope for the day when Christ comes again.

Today, we light the candle of hope.
As we wait, let us be people of hope.

[The first candle is lit.]

Song
“Hallow Your Name” Pierce
or “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Wesley, LUYH 56 (vs. 1, 2), GtG 83, SSS 64

Scripture Reading
Psalm 63:1

Song and Prayer
“Hear Us from Heaven” Anderson

[Allow time in the middle of the song for spoken prayer about waiting for Christ’s return.]

Or:
“Hear My Cry, O God, and Save Me (Psalm 77)” Morgan, LUYH 893, GtG 781, PfAS 77A

[Follow with a spoken prayer.]

Song
“Lord, I Need You” Stanfill and Maher
or “I Need Thee Every Hour” Ortega

Prayers of the People

Offering
Instrumental music: “Hope of the Nations” Doerksen

Drama
“Football,” by Ruth Saukas

[This drama is available at tinyurl.com/RW-141-Football but will need to be adapted for your context.]

Sending and Blessing

The following can be used throughout the series.
As you wait for Christ to return,
live as people of hope*, and go with God’s blessing.
May hope in Christ’s return sustain you,
God’s peace saturate the world around you,
the joy of the Holy Spirit strengthen you,
and the love of the triune God encircle you,
in this moment and in all the moments to come. Amen.
—Rev. Joyce Borger
*Change to reflect the week’s theme of hope, peace, joy, love, or light.

WORD

Scripture Reading
Luke 12:35–40

Sermon
“Active Waiting”

Sermon Notes
Waiting for Godot is the classic play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters are told to wait for Godot, who never shows. Its message is that waiting for God is futile and foolish. Jesus describes it another way in Luke 12:35–40. This passage is the parable of the servants who are waiting for their master to return. Waiting is part of the Christian life. In light of this parable, we are called to wait patiently for Jesus’ return—his second Advent—expectantly (not a passive waiting, but watching for God’s activity) and faithfully (doing what God has called us to do in service while we wait).

This first message is intended to set the stage for Advent: the people were waiting for something to happen.

RESPONSE

Communion

Songs
“My Soul in Stillness Waits” Haugen, LUYH 63, GtG 89, SSS 75
“Hope of the Nations” Doerksen

SENDING

Sending and Blessing
[See sidebar on p. 4]

Week 2

Waiting for Light

GATHERING

Call to Worship: Waiting in Peace
What are you waiting for?

Let the PEACE of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body,
you were called to PEACE.
And be thankful.

LORD, you establish PEACE for us;
all that we have accomplished
you have done for us.

Where is your PEACE?

Submit to God and be at PEACE with him;
in this way prosperity will come to you.

PEACE comes with Christ.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth PEACE to those on whom his favor rests!”

From the God of PEACE.

The God of PEACE will soon crush Satan
under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

PEACE is near: God with us!

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and PEACE kiss each other.

The birth of Christ is the birth of PEACE.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What are you waiting for?
—Adapted from Colossians 3:15; Isaiah 26:12; Job 22:21;, Luke 2:13–14; Romans 16:20; Psalm 85:9–10; Romans 5:1

Advent Candle Lighting
Advent is a time of waiting.
We wait in hope.

[The first candle is lit.]

As we wait, we join the Spirit’s work
in spreading peace wherever our lives take us.
And as peace spreads, so does Christ’s light.
Today, we light the candle of peace.
As we wait, let us be people of peace.

[The second candle is lit.]

Songs
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73
“God Who Comes to Save” Parsley or “LORD, You Have Lavished on Your Land (Psalm 85)” Post, LUYH 65, PfAS 85A

[At the end of the song, Psalm 85:9–10 is projected. The song fades into a time of silence, allowing time for the congregation to meditate on the verses.]

“Lord, Most High” Harris and Sadler, LUYH 593, SSS 448
or “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” Cooney, LUYH 69, GtG 100, SSS 68

Offering
Instrumental music: “Instrument of Peace” The Porter’s Gate

Prayers of the People

WORD

Scripture Reading
John 1:1–18, 9:5

Sermon
“Waiting for Light”

Sermon Notes
The prophecy addresses the fact that people look on the earth and see only distress and fearful gloom, and they know they will be thrust into utter darkness. But a time is coming when the people walking in darkness will see a great light, and on those living in the land of deep darkness a light will dawn. Light does several things: it shows reality (and therefore guides); it energizes (gives energy in place of lethargy); and it dispels darkness (light and darkness cannot coexist). We’ll also look at what Jesus says in John 9:5: “I am the light of the world.”

What were people waiting for in the Old Testament? They were waiting for someone to speak into the darkness and gloom and replace it with light.

RESPONSE

Songs
“Shine on Us” Smith
“Come Light Our Hearts” McCracken

SENDING

Sending and Blessing
[See sidebar on p. 4]

Week 3

Waiting for Strength

GATHERING

Call to Worship: Waiting in Joy
What are you waiting for?

Light shines on the righteous,
and JOY on the upright in heart.
REJOICE in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.

Where is your JOY?

Sing for JOY to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!

You make known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with JOY in your presence.

Joy? Even in pain or questions?

In the midst of a very severe trial,
their overflowing JOY and their extreme poverty
welled up in rich generosity.

Let me hear JOY and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed REJOICE.
Restore to me the JOY of your salvation,
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

What brings JOY to God?

I have no greater JOY than to hear that my children
are walking in the truth.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my JOY may be in you
and that your JOY may be complete.

JOY comes with our salvation!

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for JOY to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song.

With JOY you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and JOY are in his dwelling place.

What are you waiting for?
—adapted from Psalm 97:11–12; Psalm 81:1; Psalm 16:11; 2 Corinthians 8:2; Psalm 51:8, 12; 3 John 4; John 15:10–11; Psalm 98:3–4; Isaiah 12:3; 1 Chronicles 16:27

Advent Candle Lighting

Advent is a time of waiting.
We wait in hope.

[The first candle is lit.]

We wait in peace.

[The second candle is lit.]

As we wait, we are filled with joy—not because our lives are perfect, not because we don’t have any struggles, but because we find our strength in God, the God of our salvation. We are joyful because God sent God’s Son, Jesus Christ, into this world so we may be saved.

Today, we light the candle of joy. As we wait, let us be people of joy.

[The third candle is lit.]

Song
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee / Angels We Have Heard on High” Maverick City

Drama
“December Giving,” by Ruth Saukas

[This drama is available at tinyurl.com/RW-141-December-Giving but will need to be adapted for your context.]

Song
“Come Light Our Hearts” McCracken
or “With Joy I Heard My Friends Exclaim (Psalm 122)” Hopson, LUYH 66, PfAS 122F, PH 235

Prayer
Prayers of worship, confession, and intercession for those needing comfort or lacking joy.

WORD

Scripture Reading
Isaiah 40:1–11

Sung Word
“Comfort, Comfort Now My People” Winkworth, LUYH 59, GtG 87
“Everlasting God” Brewster

Sermon
“Waiting for Strength”

Sermon Notes
Chapter 40 is a transition chapter in Isaiah. The first 39 chapters deal mostly with judgment and punishment. Now the attention turns to the servant songs and the promise of blessing. So the first call is for comfort. The people are facing exile in Babylon. Now is the time to give hope, and hope is seen in the promise that Judah’s hard service (exile) is completed, and her sin has been paid for. The time is coming when the Lord will show up.

In this sermon we talked about comfort in the Heidelberg Catechism’s sense of “strength.” The comfort that God gives is not just an encouraging pat on the back or kind words, but strength to move forward. We need to get ready, in a way. The picture of every valley exalted and every hill made low reflects a coming king and a people preparing the way by leveling things so the king’s glory could be seen as he arrived.

The other part of comfort in Isaiah is that their enemies, the Babylonians, are going to be destroyed just as grass withers and flowers fade. Then God will come to his people and give strength. We jumped to the end of the chapter to focus on the idea of “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” The overall idea of waiting for comfort means we’re waiting for strength to make a difference, to become part of God’s new reality.

RESPONSE

Songs
“Soon and Very Soon” Crouch, LUYH 482, GtG 384, SSS 357
“Go, Tell It on the Mountain” Spiritual, LUYH 93, GtG 136, SSS 90

SENDING

Sending and Blessing
[See sidebar on p. 4]

LEARNING FROM SUBSCRIBERS

Intercessory Prayer

Every week toward the end of the worship service, my pastor leads the congregation in intercessory prayer, when we pray for the church and the world and about different issues. I will always bring home (or download) the worship bulletin, and I will continue that prayer in my daily devotion. As I pray for those affected by COVID-19, for example, I ask myself, what does God want me to do during the pandemic? Perhaps provide supplies for those in need, or perhaps bring comfort to those affected by the virus. Intercessory prayers help individual worshipers see beyond their own needs, and they foster a spiritual vision that enables the church, in word and in deed, to serve and love the world that God created and loves.
Edmund Saw, Hong Kong

Week 4

Waiting to Be Satisfied

GATHERING

Call to Worship: Waiting in Love
What are you waiting for?

May your unfailing LOVE come to me, LORD,
your salvation, according to your promise.

“My unfailing LOVE for you will not be shaken,
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

God first LOVED us.

This is how God showed his LOVE among us:
He sent his one and only Son into the world
that we might live through him.

We LOVE because he first LOVED us.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in LOVE to all who call to you.

We respond with LOVE.

A new command I give you: LOVE one another.
As I have LOVED you, so you must LOVE one another.

LOVE is patient, LOVE is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
LOVE does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly LOVED,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness, and patience.

We are saved because of LOVE.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying,
“I have LOVED you with an everlasting LOVE;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing LOVE
and with him is full redemption.

He has remembered his LOVE
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

LOVE comes with Jesus’ birth.

The Father LOVES the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
“The reason my Father LOVES me is that I lay down my life,” Jesus said.
For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son.

What are you waiting for?
—adapted from Psalm 119:41; Isaiah 54:10; 1 John 4:9, 19; Psalm 86:5; John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 13:4, 6; Colossians 3:12; Jeremiah 31:3; Psalm 130:7; Psalm 98:3; John 3:35; John 10:17; John 3:16

Advent Candle Lighting
Advent is a time of waiting.
We wait in hope.

[The first candle is lit.]

We wait in peace.

[The second candle is lit.]

We wait in joy.

[The third candle is lit.]

As we wait, we are filled with love: love for God, love for others, and, yes, love for ourselves. We love because God first loved us. God loved you so much that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to save you. Nothing can satisfy our longings except God’s love.

Today, we light the candle of love. As we wait, let us be people of love.

[The fourth candle is lit.]

Songs
“Here Is Love” Rees, arr. Redman
“O Come Let Us Adore Him” Hillsong

[Conclude with the quiet singing of the refrains:
O come, let us adore him . . .
For he alone is worthy . . .
We’ll praise his name forever . . .]

Option
“O Come Let Us Adore Him” Maverick City

Scripture Reading
Joel 3:7–16

Songs
“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” (with tune HYFRYDOL) Wesley, LUYH 56, GtG 82, SSS 64
“My Jesus, I Love Thee” Featherstone, LUYH 366, SSS 303

Offering

Scripture Reading
Joel 3:17–21

WORD

Sermon
“Waiting to be Satisfied”

Sermon Notes
Another thing people wait for is a sense of purpose or satisfaction in life. That’s the image of water. We need it for life, but we spend our money on things that don’t satisfy.

We’ll explore the various things people put in the place of God and explore how God brings meaning into life and death. You need to come and recognize (and confess) that you have no resources (“You who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1)) and acknowledge that Jesus is the only way to life. You can’t have one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world. It’s all or nothing.

RESPONSE

Songs
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73
“God With Us” Torwalt or “Lord, You Were Rich Beyond All Splendor” Houghton, LUYH 75, TH 230

SENDING

Sending and Blessing
[See sidebar on p. 4]

Christmas Eve / Christmas Day

Love’s Arrival

GATHERING

Prelude
“Waiting Here for You” Tomlin, Reeves, Smith

Welcome

WAITING & LONGING

Scripture Reading
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel.

Sung refrain: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

Sung refrain: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73

“I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David;
what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
—Isaiah 7:14; 11:1–3; 22:22

Song
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Latin, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73

Prayer
Advent Prayers of Waiting

[A culmination of all of our waiting during this Advent series, acknowledging Christ’s arrival as the one in whom we find hope, joy, peace, and love. This prayer can be split among four people, each taking one of those themes. Between each of the short prayers, the appropriate Advent candle can be lit.]

Poem
“Waiting,” by Brett VanTol (see p. 12)

LOVE IS HERE

Songs
“See, Your Savior Comes” Kendrick
“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” Sears, GtG 123, SSS 89

Scripture Reading

Reader 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Reader 2: He was with God in the beginning. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

Reader 3: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

All Readers: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

Reader 2: We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Reader 1: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

Reader 3: This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And everyone went to their own town to register.

Reader 1: So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Reader 2: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Reader 3: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Reader 1: While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
—adapted from John 1:1, 4–5, 9, 14; Luke 2:1–7; Matthew 1:22–23; 1 Timothy 1:15

[The Christ candle is lit.]

Songs
“What Child Is This?” Dix, LUYH 95, GtG 145, SSS 105
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” Brooks, LUYH 88, GtG 121, SSS 80 with chorus from “Here I Am to Worship” Hughes, LUYH 567, SSS 395
“O Come, All Ye Faithful” Wade, LUYH 76, GtG 133, SSS 96

Scripture Reading
Reader 1: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,

Reader 2: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Reader 1: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

All Readers: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Reader 3: When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,

Reader 1: “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Reader 3: So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Reader 2: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
—Luke 2:8–20

Songs
“Joy to the World” Watts, LUYH 92, GtG 134, SSS 95
“Angels We Have Heard on High” French, LUYH 82, GtG 113, SSS 93

Candle Lighting with Songs
“O Holy Night” Cappeau, WR 187
“Silent Night! Holy Night” Mohr, LUYH 85, GtG 122, SSS 83
[As the singing transitions to “Silent Night,” light from the Christ candle is passed among the congregation.]

SENDING

Sending and Blessing
[See sidebar on p. 4]

A series of Advent and Christmas illustrations from artist, Vaughan Duck, whose work is used above and on p. 8 and 11, can be found on Lightstockphoto.com. These could be used for banners or on screen.

Chris Walker is an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church and serves as pastor of worship and the arts at Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, where he has served and worshiped with his family since 2010.