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September 1997

When Advent doesn't feel like Christmas: a series for Advent and Christmas, page 1 of 2

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, all around the world." At some point during the upcoming holiday season we will almost certainly hear those familiar lyrics on the radio, on a TV special, or at the mall.



One reason we don't accept advertisements in Reformed Worship is that we always have more to print than we have room for. So here's an in-house "ad" to let you know of a few new products we're working on at CRC Publications that will be ready this fall/winter.

Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture

Available September 1997. See Q&A (p. 44) for information about this important report/study guide on worship.

Top Ten Ways to Keep Advent Preaching Fresh

Thanks to comedian David Letterman, everyone seems to have a "top ten" list for something. With a touch of embarrassment for joining in the chorus and a genuine longing to be helpful to pastors who find themselves preaching in Advent "yet again," I humbly offer my own contribution: Top Ten Ways to Keep Advent Preaching Fresh.

10 Plan ahead and plan communally.

When Advent doesn't feel like Christmas: a series for Advent and Christmas, page 2 of 2

Lighting the Advent Wreath

Christmas Reading

White Candle

"Today we light the Christ candle as a reminder of Jesus, the Light of our world and the light shining in our hearts. We read from John 1:1-9."

Your Worship Could Use a Little Bach: Advent readings from Luke combined with the spiritual power of 'Jesus, Joy'

Jesus, Joy of All Desiring" may be the single most recognizable piece of music written by johann Sebastian Bach. But although this movement from one Bach's cantatas is familiar, the complete cantata is seldom used in worship today. One reason worship planners avoid this and other Bach worship cantatas is that they seem too daunting.

Weeping in Bethlehem: A service of healing for those who suffer the pain of abuse

When you stand in your congregation and look out over the faces of men, women, and children, do you ever wonder who has been abused? Perhaps you have seen bruises on a child's arms or a woman parishioner with a black eye. Sometimes the effects of abuse are obvious. More often the bruises and scars are hidden—under clothing, under sad eyes, under years of trying to forget or compensate. Abuse is not something most of us are comfortable thinking about or being confronted with.

Body Building: Worship that develops strong community

Fragmented and alienated, individualistic and competitive. Those are words people use to describe our society. Can they be used to describe our churches as well?

A Staged Testimony: God uses a proud actor to announce the humble birth

I am not a Picasso, a brutal misogynist who inflicted terror on nearly every female around him. Neither am I a Hemingway, a drunken lout given to baring his chest and knuckles at the drop of a hat. I adore Van Gogh, but I would not off my ear for anyone.

What Child is This? A Christmas candlelight service

The following worship service took place at the Ridgewood Christian Reformed Church of Jenison, Michigan, on the Sunday evening before Christmas—traditionally a candlelight service involving the adult choir. This year we wanted to expand the involvement to include the junior choir and as many teens as possible. Since Christmas is a family time, we felt it was important to include all ages and make it a family gift—our gift to God, celebrating his gift to us.

Christmas Around the World: A children's drama that celebrates the spread of the Gospel


Three wise men
Children dressed in costumes representing some nationality. Each carries the flag of the country represented; for our drama we chose

—Europeans (Germany)
—Asians (Japan)
—South Americans (Venezuela)
—Native Americans (Canada)
—African (Malawi)

[Stage is two levels of risers, empty except for a floor mike, a lectern, and a candle. Angel enters.]

Introducing HomeLink

One of my strongest memories, of growing up is the tradition we and many others used to share of coffee time after church on Sunday morning. Mom would always bake a cake on Saturday, and Dad would often invite visitors at church to come over for coffee, perhaps to stay for dinner. As a matter of course, one of the topics of conversation was the sermon we had just heard. I cut my theological teeth on those conversations, while listening to the adults wonder about this point or that emphasis or that interpretation.

A Time to Weep -- During Advent

Lament is a sign of both honest faith and resolute hope. When we worship together, we bring with us our experience in the world, from our most profound joys to our most painful sorrows. Like the Old Testament psalms, thoughtful liturgy allows us to express the whole range of our experience in ways that are fitting to the message of the gospel.

On Mutual Greetings, Expressing Brokenness in Worship, and Church Choirs

Once more in this issue, we have selected (some Q&A's from the final section of Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture, a report to the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) synod in June 1997. The purpose of this study is to equip church leaders with perspectives and insights that will help them make decisions about worship—decisions that are biblically and theologically informed as well as culturally discerning.

Linking Lone Voices: Why we have to start integrating pulpit and supper table

Quiz time! Without digging out that old bulletin, what did your pastor preach on last Sunday morning?

Not a clue? You're in good company. You belong to the ninety-and-nine percent of the Coro's sheep who don't remember either.

Songs for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany


Again in this issue at Reformed Worship, we offer a glimpse at the forthcoming Psalter Hymnal Handbook, a large project that is nearing completion at long last. You will be hearing much more about it in the next issues of RW!

Books: Leading in Worship; Worship in Spirit and Truth

Leading in Worship by Terry L. Johnson. Oak Ridge, TN: The Covenant Foundation, 1996.184 pp.
Worship in Spirit and Truth by John Frame. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1996.171 pp.

Here are two books by conservative Presbyterians who do not at all agree on how Presbyterians (and other Christians) ought to worship.

Johnson's book consists of two main sections—an essay on Reformed worship and a collection of liturgical resources. We'll look at the second part first.

Video: The Art and Craft of Playing Hymns

with Sue Mitchell-Wallace. Kingston, NY: Selah Publishing Company, 1995, in cooperation with The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. Two videos with accompanying 44-page workbook. $80.00.

I've had the privilege of singing in a congregation with Sue Mitchell-Wallace at the organ. In these helpful videos, she offers a resource that will provide any organist—or pastor or congregational member—a stimulating and challenging view of the high calling of leading God's people in congregational song at the organ.



As an additional idea for the I AM series in RW 42, consider creating artwork like this unusual quilt design by Janet Holleman, Cambridge Station, Nova Scotia. She writes: