A few years ago I visited my friend Shawn, who is what you would call an audiophile. Shawn devotes an immense amount of time, energy, and money to thinking about and listening to music. He’s one of these people who would rather buy music than groceries. His apartment was simple, but decorated wall to wall with record albums.
I asked Shawn, “Why do you still collect records?” He looked at me, as audiophiles do, as if he were disappointed in me. He simply shook his head and said, “Because they sound better!”
As Christians, sharing the gospel message should be something we do as naturally as breathing, both in word and in action. This litany encourages us to share Christ daily with all those we meet.
Leader: Eternal God, you give us a guide for our lives in your Word.
All: Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
Women: with all your soul,
Men: with all your mind,
The psalms touch every emotion. They are genuine cries to God, longing for hope, and shouts of praise that lead us into a closer relationship with our Lord. This service uses the psalms through the eyes of Advent. In Advent we wait, we remember what God did for his people in the past, and we rejoice in our salvation. We also look ahead, knowing that our Lord, the King of glory, is coming, full of truth and grace.
Worship leaders and planners are well aware of the pervasive use of projection media for songs, prayers, litanies, art, and advertisements in worship services. Googling “worship backgrounds” returns about six million options. While examples of digital worship visuals are plentiful, there are miscues everywhere, including slides that are cliché, distracting, or poorly designed.
Q After twelve years of planning worship, Advent is starting to feel a bit tired to me—we seem to fall back on the same texts and songs. How can we freshen up our approach?
It’s the season of light. Christmas lights surround us and captivate the children among us and the child within. In worship the light is much more subdued as each week we simply add one more candle flame to the Advent wreath. While the growing light might not be noticeable, the true Light that has come down to earth touches each one of us, and we in turn are called to share the light of Christ with others.
Prayer stations are a wonderful way to engage all the senses in meditation, reflection, and prayer. And while they are often used as a separate experience for youth groups or special events, I’ve started to wonder about using them in the context of Sunday morning worship.
One of the surprises of Christmas is who was “in the know”: a group of shepherds, an old man and an old woman, a group of foreigners. The good news of Christ’s birth went forth into unlikely places and was spread among people of all backgrounds. For centuries, missions meant taking the gospel message and going or sending people to another place in the world to share it. Today, the world is no longer far away, and one of the ways we experience the global church is through our worship music.
Finding a fresh way to share, experience, and delight in the Advent season and in the celebration of Christmas can prove challenging year after year. The story is well known to church members, and creating services that encourage them to enter the story with fresh, excited, and expectant eyes and hearts can be difficult.
For many of us, Advent marks the beginning of the church year. But is it the proper place to start? The season from Advent to Epiphany is only one chapter in the metanarrative that began with the creation of the world. Scripture makes it clear that the mission of God is to redeem the world, to bring the nations to himself.
In the Old Testament, God chose to work primarily through the Hebrew people to bring others into the covenant community. In Genesis 12 God says to Abraham:
Q: Sometimes I worry that the kids I teach don’t see how the Bible fits together. How can I help them get “the big picture”?
Several recent books have lamented that while many people know some Bible stories, they really don’t have a sense of “The Big Overarching Story” of God’s mission in the world. Some people wonder whether worship reinforces this problem by jumping around from one part of the Bible to another.
One of the challenges when planning a hymnal is deciding where a particular song belongs, knowing that though the index in the back of the hymnal may suggest multiple places for a particular song, the location of the song has greater influence on when it will be sung. The challenge in this Noteworthy is to think outside the hymnal placement, as each one of these songs can be used both during the time from Advent to Epiphany as well as at other times of the year.
Christmas can be a beautiful time to incorporate movement into your worship gatherings. Christmas Eve candlelight services provide an especially wonderful atmosphere for introducing a simple dance done either in a group or solo. Christmas programs are also a perfect time for children to lead movement and get comfortable worshiping through motion. And what better occasion than Christmas Day, the birth of our King, to get the whole congregation involved in a processional with simple side steps and clapping?
This Christmas Eve service tells the story of God’s salvation plan from the Garden of Eden to Jesus’ resurrection. It shows how all of Scripture is one big story of God calling his people back to him. The service is appropriate for people of all ages and all stages of the faith journey, and can be used in a wide variety of settings.
In the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) yearns for something better. But, beginning with his father’s untimely death, circumstances beyond George’s control thwart each of his plans to escape the runty town of his birth. George doles out his life helping small people live their small-town dreams. All the while, he believes he is missing something. He longs for something more, something exotic and adventurous, and audiences all over the world have identified with his longings for more than sixty years.
Advent is a time of waiting, but it can also be a very meaningful time of confession. These four litanies for confession and assurance are designed for consecutive use during the four Sundays in Advent.
First Sunday in Advent
Song: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (st. 1-2, sung by choir) LUYH, CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154
First Sunday in Advent
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
Reading and hearing the biblical narratives leading up to the birth of Christ seems countercultural these days. Commercial establishments begin celebrating an “instant” Christmas the day after Halloween. But when there’s no room for Advent celebration, there’s no “prepare the way of the Lord,” no waiting and working for Christ’s kingdom.
Somewhere inside the busyness of the “real world” there’s “rest,” but it can be hard to find. Although we look for it in various places, it is often elusive or fleeting, at best. Today, I want to introduce you to a man who was forced to learn the hard way to find rest. Zechariah was a priest. You can find the word “rest” inside the word “priest,” but Zechariah had a hard time finding it. His story helps me, and I hope it helps you too. This is the story of Zechariah.
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