If John Calvin were a member of your worship committee, what comments might he have about the shape and content of the liturgy your congregation follows on Sunday morning! Would he be impressed with your creative litanies, warmed by your pastor's folksy opening remarks! Or would he be critical of some of your more innovative practices, appalled that you celebrate the Lord's Supper only four times a year?
Articles in this issue:
I preached through Micah last year. Using the lectio continua method, I organized a series of sermons that spanned the Sundays from Thanksgiving to New Year's and focused on the messianic hope of this ancient Hebrew prophet. A summary of that series appears on these pages.
If your holiday liturgy is a string of special numbers and exciting extras, your congregation may be missing the true communion of Christmas.
My first congregation was a small and struggling Reformed Church in a sagging, central-Jersey factory town. Our average attendance was no more than fifty, and we didn't have a choir because we couldn't afford a choir director. But in spite of our humble circumstances, the five Christmases I worshiped there were the best Christmases of my life.
I Am the Lord Your God
The story of a hymn usually begins with a text, but this one starts with a tune. A little over 150 years ago, Nicholas I, Czar of Russia, ordered Alexis Lvov to compose a national hymn tune. For years Russians had been singing a Russian text to the English melody for "God Save Our Gracious King." Nicholas thought it was time his people had their own hymn. Lvov responded by composing the melody we now know as RUSSIA, or RUSSIAN HYMN.
The following music is appropriate for use in the worship service during the Advent, Christmas, or Epiphany season. The list includes music used with the children in our church school music program over the past several years. Those titles with a star (*) were used in the 1987 candlelight service. All music is sung in unison with piano accompaniment. Optional two parts, descants, or instruments are indicated below.
All carols unannounced
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" Manz
"Sinfonia" (Christmas Oratorio) J. S. Bach
"In Dulci Jubilo" Dupre
Choral Invitation and Processional:
"O Come, Little Children" Schultz
"Once in Royal David's City"
(The congregation shall rise and join on stanzas 5 and 6.)
Include the Whole Family of God in Your Christmas Celebrations
The leaves were just beginning to change color a few years ago when I noticed the first displays of Christmas decorations in a local department store. It shouldn't have come as any surprise. In our highly commercialized society, shopping malls are known distorters of time and season: bathing suits and shorts appear in January, heavy winter coats in the midst of a major July heat wave.
The first time I walked into a church and found two French Provincial pink and blue stuffed chairs near the pulpit, I thought they had been brought in for a drama of some sort. I was participating in a worship conference and had arrived early to check out the piano, organ, and sound system. I assumed someone would remove the chairs after the drama section of the program.
Practical comments on bringing new life to acoustically dead sanctuaries
The building committee needed a break. They had been discussing the acoustical problems in their sanctuary for over an hour. They had read the complaints, studied the estimates from a contractor, and argued back and forth about the importance of a good sound system.