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September 2007

A People of Advent, a People of Hope

I don’t know anyone who enjoys waiting. We do whatever we can to avoid it. We scrutinize each checkout line to predict which one will be the fastest. We speed up to make it through the yellow light so we don’t have to stop for the red. We use ATM machines, automated lanes, and Instant Messaging in hopes that we won’t need to wait. But try as we might, waiting is unavoidable. Christians are a people living in advent—an in-between time, a time of waiting.

Choosing a Solid Rock

A New Year's Eve Service

This New Year’s Eve service is really a series of three services connected by music sung by the congregation. Each section focuses on a different part of the Old Year or New Year.

In the first section we thank God for what he has done for us in the past. In the second section we ask God to forgive us as we enter into a New Year, and in the third section we are reminded to start out the New Year with a solid foundation. Each section consists of songs, Scripture
readings, a short reflection on the topic and the Scripture reading, and prayer.

Between Two Advents

Some years ago Bill Murray starred in a movie that riffed on Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol . Murray played the Scrooge figure in the film: a hard-nosed television executive who disliked everything about Christmas except for the fact that his TV network could make a lot of money off the holidays.

Priesthood of All Believers

Q I feel that lay participation in worship has gotten out of hand in my church. People use the line “priesthood of all believers” to justify everything and the kitchen sink. Is this really what Luther had in mind when he stressed this doctrine?

A My guess is that there’s more to your question than simply this doctrine, perhaps having to do with good communication within the congregation. Here I’ll simply address the doctrine itself.

Awesome in Glory

A Dramatic Reading for a Service on Glory

A Treasured Friend

Robert E. Webber (1933--2007)

In April 2007, Robert E. Webber finished his eightmonthbattle with pancreatic cancer. There have beenand will be many tributes to him (see Webber influenced countless worship leadersthrough his books and articles on worship renewal, histeaching in countless classes and seminars, and his expansiveand entrepreneurial vision in producing the amazingComplete Library of Christian Worship and in forming theRobert E.

In the Fullness of Time

A Primer on the Church Year

This is the first of a two-part series on the church year. Part 1 presents a general context for the use of the church year and a brief introduction to the Christmas Cycle (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany). Part 2 will discuss the Easter cycle (Lent, Easter, Pentecost)—the most ancient of the church seasons, as well as the twentieth-century developments that have pointed us back toward this useful tool for telling the good news.


O ComeEmmanuel:A MusicalTour of DailyReadings forAdvent andChristmas byGordon Giles.ParacletePress, 2006.

This daily devotional for Advent andChristmas by Gordon Giles, vicar ofst. Mary Magdalene’s Church, Enfield,North London, presents one entry foreach day from December 1 throughJanuary 6. Each daily entry includesthe text of a hymn or carol, the authoror source of the text, and a tune nameoften associated with it.

Linking the Advent Wreath to Our Faith Stories

Faith formation is an important part of a church’s ministry. This is the first in a series of articles with suggestions for how to encourage faith nurture in your worship and in your congregation. One denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, is celebrating a year of focus on faith formation.

The following readings have been adapted from those in Reformed Worship 57, pp. 3-13.

News and Notes

Reformed Worship Wins Awards!

Reformed Worship is a member of two Christian journalistic associations—theAssociated Church Press (ACP) and the Evangelical Press Association (EPA).Both hold annual awards competitions for member publications in variouscategories; entries are judged by professional writers, journalists, and visualartists. These awards are the church press equivalent of the Oscars. OK, notnearly as glamorous . . . there’s no red carpet and we don’t get to make aspeech when we receive them.

Advent Transformations

Five Service Plans for Advent and Christmas

Advent draws our attention to Christ. When our attention is focused on him, our attitudes are transformed from our human reactions to his life-giving way.

The characters in the Advent story experiencedthe transformation of their questioning and fearfulhuman attitudes by encountering God. Through theseAdvent services, we encountered God, confronted ourhuman attitudes, and experienced and celebrated the transformingpower of Christ’s love on Christmas Day.

Light of the World

Visually many of our celebrationsaround Advent and Christmasfeature light as a main ingredient.Lighted trees, sparklingstars, warm candlelight, glisteningsnow, bright reflective wrapping andbows—all are turned on “high” duringthis season. Yes, we’re fighting off longgrey days and even longer dark nights—but in so many ways we’re remindingeach other that even though darkness isall around, the Light has come.

From Waiting to Fulfillment

An Advent Service of Lessons and Carols

On the Twelfth Year of Planning

Lessons from Advent and Christmas Planning

Let’s be honest: those of us who plan and lead worshipare often exhausted by January 1. Too oftenwe pour our imagination, energy, and time into theworship services and programs of the season andthen crash afterward. After a few decades of thiscycle, a few lessons have emerged for me. Try them on forsize, and just for fun use the lyrics at the end to sing themto the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Mothers of Messiah

Monologues to Use with Advent Candles

Genealogies often look like a grocery list of names. But if you
take the time to “listen,” a genealogy reveals a story—a thread
woven into the history of a family that connects one generation
to the next.

The genealogy in Matthew 1 tells the story of Christ’s human
ancestors; evidence that God became flesh and dwelt with us. Jesus
was born into a family whose history, like ours, is filled with stories
of heroes and stories that people might prefer to leave hidden.

Name Above All Names

A Christmas Candlelight Service

At Inglewood we try to involve all age groups inworship as much as possible. For this servicethe children created a banner of many of thenames of Jesus; Scripture readers representedevery age group; high schoolers distributedcandles; the junior high group lit the candles. Both adultand children’s choirs participated in the service. Thenames of Jesus were projected on a screen as the serviceprogressed.


God’s Greeting

A Song Worth Singing

Reclaiming the Congregation's Voice

This article continues the conversation begun in RW 84 by Martin Tel on the state of congregational song. —JB


Martin Tel’s article “They Just Don’t Sing Like They Used To” (RW 84) outlines several cultural and architectural challenges to congregational singing.

First, our culture has turned music into a commodity that is professionally produced and passively received.

Songs from the Gospels

In Matthew's Gospel There Are Five; Angels in the Field Appear; My Soul Does Magnify the Lord

These three songs for Advent and Christmas are scheduled for inclusion in a forthcoming hymnal based directly on New Testament texts copublished by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and Faith Alive Christian Resources. The committee charged with selecting Scripture texts that are most likely to be connected to preaching texts for the collection has found it a very interesting exercise.

Pulpit Politics

Are They Oil and Water?

Though written from the perspective of someone living in the United States, the insights in this article apply to citizens of all nations. In the next issue of Reformed Worship we will address the same topic from a Canadian perspective. —JB

Setting the Table

Helping Your Congregation Prepare for Communion

How should pastors prepare themselves and the churches they serve to participate in communion?

Addressing Sexuality in Worship

Each time we gather as a congregation there are those among us who are struggling with sexual temptation. As worship leaders we are called to help God’s people present our struggles—even the ones we’d rather ignore—before God and receive God’s care. We need to come before God honestly.

We Have AIDS

The Church Must Respond

Advent is a time of waiting and expecting thecoming of our Savior. The Hebrew people faithfullyawaited the promised Messiah during atime of captivity, and we also live and wait amidpain and suffering. We await the second comingof our risen Christ and we anticipate the fulfillment ofGod’s promises, even in the face of global tragedies.

AIDS is one of those tragedies. With more than 12 millionchildren orphaned by AIDS ( and entiregenerations of people dying, it is time for Christians totake a stand.