Joy to the world, the Lord has come! For those who observe it, Christmas is a day of much anticipation and celebration. In my home it is no different. Blessed with many friends and family, we have multiple celebrations to attend and gifts to exchange. It is a busy time with all the preparations and events at church. And there are so many traditions: the children’s Christmas pageant, our church’s Living Nativity, the Christmas Eve candlelight service, monkey bread on Christmas morning, family worship. Christmas is a wondrous time—a joy-filled time.
Prepare the Way is a series created by the Wesleyan Church that features four weeks of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas. Included are sermon outlines; small group lessons for children, youth, and adults; and more. Many additional resources, including PowerPoint backgrounds, devotionals, and family service ideas can be found at wesleyan.org/323/advent-2013-prepare-the-way.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” with Psalm 74
Let’s face it: Advent has been hijacked. Most people, including many Christians, consider Black Friday to be the beginning of the Christmas season. But long before the crush of holiday shopping at the end of November, Christmas lights festoon our streets and malls and the sound of Christmas jingles is inescapable.
The book of Isaiah, which has often been called “the fifth gospel,” preaches the Advent and Christmas gospel in ways that resist both hopelessness and sentimentality. Its texts are full of both unbending realism about the terror of sin and injustice, and resolute hope in the coming of the Messiah and the peaceable kingdom that this Messiah would usher in. This service of lessons and carols journeys through the book of Isaiah sequentially, with readings and music drawn from ten different chapters.
In late 2011 we decided to write a Christmas song for our congregation and to have the children of the congregation help us. We invited them to bring lyrics or ideas to include in the song as they came forward for their time with the pastors. They did so for a four-week period.
We (Veena Kulkarni and John Groen) then sat down and began crafting the lyrics. We had no tune in mind, but the lyrics came together with little resistance. They seemed to have a certain logic to them. After a couple of meetings they were in place.
- Two Readers
- Six Choral Readers (three “First Choral Readers” and three “Second Choral Readers”)
- Four Umbrella People
- Sick woman
- red—the blood of Christ (salvation)
- green—green pastures (protection)
This litany was originally written for a Bible study group’s Christmas worship celebration. It could easily be adapted for a larger worship gathering or a small family worship time. Make sure to have someone read the section titles to signal the liturgical moves in this litany. The original intent was for a different person to read each paragraph. However, if you use this in a church setting, it may be best to split the readings between three or four individuals. —JB
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak.” (Psalm 50:7)
“To hear God speaking, to listen to his voice, does not necessarily involve the auditory senses, but is like a field of vibrations that surround one’s life and one’s horizon with an engaging reality that overwhelms what is in sight before one.” (from Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar [Ignatius Press, 1986])
The Church Year as Evangelistic Resource; Active and Passive Advent Piety; and Weaving Together Christmastide and New Year's Day
So often, church year seasons drive our worship planning process. But terms like “Advent” and “Epiphany” don’t communicate well. They end up being barriers to our audience—especially our audience of the unchurched. What can we do about that?