Human nature is such that we prefer the sweet to the sour, the easy to the hard, the light rather than the darkness. But for the light to seem bright, we first need to spend time in darkness. Similarly, we need Advent to comprehend the gift of Christmas. This series allows us to dwell in Advent, to notice that we’re living in between the two advents, to dare to look at the world’s darkness in order to better see the brightness of Christ’s light.
Articles in this issue:
Q We’ve had complaints of having too much of a “minor-key Advent” in our church. How would you respond?
A It all depends!
Advent is a time of great hope. But it is also a time to dwell honestly with the fact that our full hopes for Christ’s second coming are not yet fulfilled. Advent is also a time of waiting.
During Advent we wanted to draw all the generations in our congregation into the wonderful messages of hope, love, peace, and joy. To do that, we wrote dramatic scripts to reflect God’s command to tell the children the stories of his faithfulness. Storytellers represented the gospel characters who had received God’s message directly from angels: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.
We distinguish between these holy books
and the apocryphal ones. . . .
The church may certainly read these books
and learn from them
as far as they agree with the canonical books.
—Belgic Confession, Article 6
Last December, our worship committee was looking for an idea for our annual candlelight service. For our Advent worship we had used the series “The Places of Christmas” (RW 77), which traced the places along God’s story of redemption. To build on this theme, our worship team came up with “People and Places of the Nativity”—a service looking at the significance of the ordinary people and places of the nativity story.
Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Christ Community Church takes this quote by cultural critic Neil Postman seriously. According to the church’s vision statement, it “desires to be a vibrant, spiritual community that shapes the next generation of God’s champions.” One way this happens at Christ Community is by involving kids in creating visual art that helps lead the congregation to worship God.
"Why are there no good Christmas songs?” one of my college students asked last December. He was frustrated in his search for contemporary songs to use in our Sunday evening worship service. Though he found several good hymns and carols to use, he wasn’t coming up with anything new.
Snow falls gently outside the window. Inside, the fireplace spreads its mellow warmth through the family room. Firelight plays on the walls and ceiling as the children snuggle around you on the couch. There are cookies and milk, your favorite tattered Bible, and expectant eyes and ears. It’s time to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 again. What a beautiful family tradition!
Our Approach to God
[Sound of clock ticking; the words, “Teach us to number our days” appear one by one on screen. Piano plays “Now Is the Time to Worship” as PowerPoint slide dissolves into the words of the song. Throughout the service, words of all litanies and songs are projected on screen.]
Here’s the typical music director’s dilemma: you want to use instrumentalists in the service because that adds a unique dimension to your worship, but you also know there’s a wide range of ability among your willing volunteers; many, if not all, are amateurs.
How can you select repertoire that honors their capabilities and helps them reach their full potential in using their gifts to serve the Lord? Here’s some practical advice for doing just that.