Eighty and Over Sunday” emerged in the life of a small, rural congregation I was serving. It struck me that we had a significant number of elderly in our midst—people who for years had lived their faith and shaped the life of the community. We were wanting to hold some special services to be an evangelical outreach to those affiliated with or known to the congregation but who did not regularly attend. A service and reception honoring the elderly among us seemed a good way for families and friends to reconnect in a positive, life-giving way.
Acquired disability is the norm as we age. An acquired disability occurs after birth, typically from accident, illness, or increasing age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 71 percent of Americans aged eighty and older have a disability. Statistics Canada has found that 43 percent of Canadians over seventy-five live with a disability.
It’s in the news. It’s in our politics. It’s in our streets. And increasingly, it’s in our churches: diversity—or, more specifically, conflict over the ethnic, racial, and cultural differences that mark “us” as “us” and “them” as “them,” those who are “in” and those who are “out.”
For this Advent/Christmas issue of Reformed Worship, we asked our RW staff this question: “What congregational song related to the story of Christ’s birth do you find particularly meaningful and why?”
from Handel’s Messiah.
Words: Job 19:25–26; 1 Corinthians 15:20; adapt. by Charles Jennens
The theme for these Advent/Christmas/Epiphany visuals is “All Is Calm, All Is Bright.” It was inspired by the two hundredth anniversary (in 2018) of the composition of the well-loved Christmas carol “Silent Night! Holy Night” Mohr, LUYH 85, GtG 122, PsH 344. The visual elements incorporated into the sanctuary during the season carried great meaning and significance.
For about seven years in the 1960s, the Beatles recorded special Christmas songs and greetings for the members of its fan club (mailed to them on a 45 rpm—remember those?). One year the song was titled “Christmas Time (Is Here Again).” It has to count as one of the simplest of all Beatles songs as the five words of the title are sung over and over. And over. And over again.
“Can we please do something different for Christmas Eve this year?”
“Can we try something that will speak to those on the fringes of our community?”
If you plan worship, questions like this might be vying for attention in your own church. While services with traditional structures and themes may appeal to some, others, depending on their age and background, could find such an approach difficult to relate to.
This Advent series highlights the themes of promise, preparation, joy, and hope with a focus on how angels model worship in both the Nativity story and in Revelation.
Each week’s Advent readings were read by two members of our youth group.
We are a culture that fears the uncomfortable, looks for the easy option, and is quickly distracted by the latest shiny bauble. We are a culture that does whatever it can to avoid being confronted by the darkness and evil that surrounds us, to live in denial of the atrocities occurring even in our own communities. We are a culture that is quick to lay blame for the struggles of other humans at their feet rather than consider our own part in supporting systems that have created and maintained injustice. We don’t want to see or feel truth.
At a 2018 Worship Symposium workshop, painter and calligrapher Matt Plescher (mattplescher.com) showed participants how to do brush calligraphy. With Plescher’s permission, his work “God is with us” is adapted here for an Advent/Christmas visual. His original art is available free of charge at viascriptura.com.
When we enter a worship setting, we’re often met by a cacophony of sounds: the hum of friendly greetings, the strum of a guitar, the laughter of young children. We absorb God’s Word and proclaim God’s glory through speaking and listening and singing. But what happens when the person walking through the doors of our church is deaf? How does one participate in worship, specifically musical worship, without the ability to hear?
- Share stories of God’s grace: For ideas on how to do this, see crcna.org/FaithFormation/toolkits/faith-storytelling-toolkit.
- Symphony of praise: Invite children (and children at heart) to come forward and choose either a small percussive instrument, a flag, or a ribbon to use during a sung time of praise.
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
We all want to see more millennials active in the church. A simple observation most Sunday mornings bares the statistical truth that this demographic is much smaller than other generations in worship. Although this reality can be explained by several cultural and sociological obstacles, it is discouraging that more emerging adults (ages eighteen to thirty) are not active in the life and work of the church. The gifts and experiences of emerging adults are vital to the church’s flourishing, and the church has much to offer them in community, support, and spiritual formation.
The following is an adapted transcript of the first part of a session led by Dr. Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, Rev. Cindy Holtrop, Dr. Warren Kinghorn, and Dr. John Swinton at the Calvin Symposium on Worship, held in January 2018 at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this first section they discuss together the promises and pitfalls of worship and mental illnesses. The remaining portion of this session focuses on prayer and will appear in RW 130.
Recently I was interviewed for a podcast in connection with a blog I write for a couple of times each month. The interviewer asked the question, “What is the difference between a blog and a sermon?” It was a good question and not one I’d thought about much before. Whether what I came up with by way of an answer was very good or complete I don’t know.
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