September 2002

RW 65
Advent/Christmas
Reformed Worship issue cover

Articles in this issue:

  • Some of you may have noticed my new byline as “senior research fellow” for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. With the completion of the new hymnal Sing! A New Creation, I had thought of kicking back a bit, but instead I accepted an invitation to join the growing staff of the Institute, which has had a close relationship with Reformed Worship throughout the Institute’s short five-year history. So now I serve in two arenas for the support, encouragement, and renewal of worship on the congregational level.

  • We were just finishing a ten-week series on “the big words” of Reformed doctrine. The word for Thanksgiving Day was providence, God’s continuing care for the world. As we started putting the service together, it became clear to us that we could sing practically the entire message. The idea of having a “lighter” service after all of the heavy doctrine was appealing. But how could we get all of the songs we wanted to sing into a one-hour time frame?

  • Singing the Church Year

    Unlike other LOFT services, which take place on Sunday night and go for seventy-five minutes or more, this hymnsing service took place on a Friday morning and lasted under twenty-five minutes. It was part of a week-long project of educating students about the seasons of the church and what it means to find our identity, as Paul says, in Christ, inserting our stories into his story, giving our own lives context and purpose.

  • I have often been struck by how different psalms fit different parts of the entire church year. For this Advent service I related specific psalms to the season of Advent in the traditional lessons and carols format. The anthems we used reflected themes in those psalms. Because the budget for our small choir allowed for only one new anthem, I chose several older anthems—some now out of print—from their library. You may want to choose different anthems, depending on your resources. Many of the psalms came from Sing!

  • Quentin Schultze asks many questions here that churches should be asking. Author of Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age (Baker, 2002), Schultze continues to study technological issues that affect worship planning and leadership. After reading “all of the literature I could find on technology and worship,” Schultze offers the following list of questions as a place to begin thinking, not as an exhaustive list.

  • Some time ago, while reading Richard Foster’s book Streams of Living Water (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998), it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to plan a series of worship services based on this book. I was also beginning to plan for the upcoming Advent and Christmas services. As I began to explore the possibilities of combining the two ideas, I was struck by how nicely the two fit together.    

    In his book, Foster contends that the Christian religion is comprised of six great traditions of faith:

  • John Bush explains, “This candlelight service has been used here at Northbrook Presbyterian for at least twenty-five years; it follows an elegant holiday feast held at the church. I integrated this ‘service of light’ into an Advent Service of Evening Prayer.”

    [The congregation are holding unlighted candles. Two readers, also holding candles, gather at the Advent wreath, facing the congregation. The appropriate Advent candles are already lighted.]

  • It happens every time we use a new visual in our worship. One gentleman in my church catches me after the service and asks me what each part of the new visual means. We look at the banner, and I describe how the final piece came to be: what we started with, what problems we encountered while constructing it, and what pleasant surprises happened along the way.