The practice of preaching according to a lectionary is an old one, although Reformed and Presbyterian churches have not always used this method. The lectionary encourages both pastor and congregation to focus on the great salvation events recorded in Scripture. (See the article on page 14 for further background.)
The Advent wreath, at first glance, is just a pleasing seasonal decoration, much like strings of lights or mistletoe. A ring of evergreens, five bright candles—what could be more appropriate for the Christmas season? Not until worshipers understand how the wreath symbolizes the meaning of the Advent season do they begin seeing in the evergreen and candles a visual reminder of the coming of Christ.
Every year more North American congregations are discovering the beauty of a traditional English service called, very simply, "Nine Lessons and Carols." The structure of the service is as simple as the title: nine passages of Scripture are followed by nine carols. But the content of those readings and the traditional way of conducting the service have become very meaningful to many congregations.
"It's Tuesday and I still don't know what hymns we're going to sing on Sunday! I don't even have the text or sermon topic. How am I supposed to choose organ music that will integrate with the service"?"
Just then the phone rings. It's the pastor, and he's chosen his text. He's selected some hymns too, although he's still not sure which stanzas to sing.
"Oh well, at least I can choose the prelude, postlude, and offertory. I'll work on the hymns later—after he decides about the stanzas."