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.
Written to be sung following the second stanza (“God of God . . .”) of “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
Gently she holds him, deity enshrouded.
Love comes redeeming our mortal estate.
Sharing our dying, firstborn of our rising.
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!
Most churches celebrate the season of Advent. But for many pastors and worship committee members, this season can be a challenge. There are, it seems, only a limited number of ways to retell the Christmas story in a way that is fresh and insightful.
With this in mind, we decided to base our Advent worship on the theme of Christmas carols. It was a challenge to select just a handful of songs to focus on during the four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Day, but we chose these five popular carols:
Voice 1: A reading of Matthew 2:13–14
When [the magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.
What if . . . ?
What if the angel hadn’t warned Joseph in a dream that Herod was seeking to kill Jesus?
This Christmas service of songs and readings examines Jesus’ birth and how he is the fulfillment of God’s covenant from four perspectives: Isaiah the prophet, Mary the mother of Jesus, Paul the apostle, and the believers living in the present time. As the covenant people living under God’s faithfulness, we shall re-examine our role or responsibility in this grand story.
The Chronicles of Narnia have held a special place in my heart and life for many years. They invite me to imagine other worlds and give me fresh insights into the ways the biblical narrative of creation, sin, and sacrifice can be understood and experienced. I’m not alone in my deep appreciation for all the times that Aslan, Lucy, Eustace, Reepicheep, and other Narnian characters have popped into conversation as illustrations from another world for how we might live in this world.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the scope of the incarnation. Jesus was born and dwelt among us. But who is the ‘us’? Were there ever any borders, either physical or metaphorical, that Jesus stayed within? Any study of Scripture is quick to show that Jesus made it a practice to cross as many borders as possible in his time on earth.
It hit me a couple of weeks ago when I realized the worship planning team or someone—the pastor, probably, late Saturday night—used a banner I had designed at least fifteen years ago to signal this Sunday was Communion Sunday. Surely we must have done something different or new since then, right? Nope. I couldn’t think of anything beyond an on-screen graphic done up a couple of years ago for a Good Friday service.
It is common to come into a church and hear music. Singing, on the other hand, is another issue.
I have worked at several kinds of churches, including Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and non-denominational. I’ve been a choir director, worship leader, and organist. I’ve noticed a common thread about singing running through every church: Each has a pastoral musician whom they trust.
Note: This article is adapted from the introduction of Visser’s book The Birth of Jesus the Messiah: The Stories of Matthew and Luke for Preaching and Teaching, (WestBow Press, 2017).
At the Calvin Worship Symposium in January, world-renowned New Testament scholar N. T. Wright emphasized that congregations and Christians today need the broad themes of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. We treat Scripture in devotional or moral bits, but we don’t know how the Scriptures go together. While the Revised Common Lectionary does provide some tools for this—it essentially organizes the church year around the life of Christ—it is missing the narrative or chronological journey through the Scriptures.
Recently Reformed Worship was able to pose the following questions about the incarnation to three individuals.
I’ve sometimes heard the phrase “incarnational worship.” What does that mean? What is the significance of the incarnation for our daily living and worship?
Here are their responses:
- 1 of 27