Lately I’ve been struck by the frantic pace of life. Some folks are complaining about being overloaded; most simply look tired. Meanwhile, I feel increasingly compelled to help people rest in God’s presence.
Articles in this issue:
Sometimes, having an art education can be a problem when choosing books for your kids. There are many fine storybooks out there, but there are also many so-so offerings with overly simplistic storylines and color
palettes that include only primary colors.
And then there are the picture books of Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert. Clever and beautifully illustrated with cut and torn paper, they are a treat for kids and the adults who read with them.
All in the Family
Afew years ago, we designed a worship service for the first Sunday of Advent to introduce and explain the general themes of the season, including the lighting of Advent candles. In past years, the latter had received cursory attention, consisting of a short Bible reading followed by the lighting of the corresponding candle. I saw value in giving the Advent candle themes more attention, perhaps by “illuminating” their meanings (hope, love, joy, peace) visually. We decided to create a banner for each Advent candle.
This dramatic reading was written to show how the announcement of a coming Savior fit snugly into the history and expectations of God’s
people, how the Lord Almighty is a God of justice who watches over the needy, and how this God will be manifest in Jesus.
Forty or fifty years ago, there wasn’t much question of what you’d find when opening a hymnal: congregational songs displayed in four-part harmony. Glorious SATB! There is nothing like the sound of a congregation raising its praise in a robust balance of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Many of the best singing congregations in Reformed, Mennonite, and Lutheran traditions don’t even need the support of an organ or piano to complete their harmonies.
- He Came Down; How Many Kings; O Sing a Song of Bethlehem; Manger Throne
Discovering fresh worship music for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphanycan certainly be a challenge. In no other season is the pressure to singfamiliar songs so evident. And yet, in this season we are surrounded bywhat we already know. We hear the old Christmas strains on our commute,at Starbucks, and in the mall.
To help my faith community stay spiritually awake in December, I usetwo methods: creatively arranging old favorites and introducing newworld and modern songs. Here are a few suggestions for doing both.
Note: The readers’ parts should be adapted to fit the “voice” and experience of the readers as well as the context in which this script is used.
[Violin plays through “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154 one time.]
Reader 1: When I was a child, I had no patience for family reunions or for the drawn-out discussions about family genealogy that occurred over Sunday morning coffee at my grandfather’s house.
It’s coming, just like it always does, ready or not: the moment when the congregation becomes quiet and everyone’s eyes turn toward you. The moment when you take a deep breath and then do your best to unfold the mysteries of Scripture. The moment when you find out whether the sermon that seemed so compelling in your office can compete with this week’s episode of The Office.
Every preacher faces that pressure. But different preachers may take very different approaches.