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.
We long for more. Especially at Christmastime, we long for more. I don’t mean the common longing for toys and family, carols and jolly feelings, eggnog and Santa. I mean a real, deep longing for something that actually fills us up and satisfies. We long for Christ to be with us.
As I reflect on this issue of Reformed Worship, the words “longing” and “journey” come to mind. Longing is what sends us out on our journey to discover what more there is to life. Ever since the fall, people have been longing for things to be the way they were meant to be. We long for the restoration of relationships gone wrong. We long for a creation restored. We long for an end to war and violence and hunger and pain. And so we journey on in faith and hope.
Q. I don’t want to go into all the details, but our congregation has had a really tough year. Our worship planners are weary and worried about guiding the church through the “joyful” Christmas season. They don’t have a lot of joy and wish they could skip ahead to the New Year so we can start over. Do you have any ideas to encourage them?
Dear God, be with my cat. Be with my grandma. Be with my friend who broke his arm.
The prayers of young children, in spite of their “me-centeredness,” often reflect concerns with their immediate world. These basic intercessory prayers show that kids work to develop their own prayer life. They also prompt us to guide our children well in learning the full range of a rich prayer life with God.
The book of Isaiah has long been appreciated for its vivid imagery depicting broad messianic themes: the Anointed One, the Coming One who will bring about God’s redemptive purposes in history; the Messiah as King who “will judge the needy with righteousness and with justice will give decisions for the poor”; but also the Messiah as an obedient servant whose suffering unto death works God’s redemption. As a consequence, Isaiah has often been called “the fifth gospel.”
A seven-year-old friend of mine showed me his sketchbook after the service last Sunday. It was a drawing of one of the electric guitars used by the praise band of our church. He was quite proud of his work, but he was quick to point out that the strings weren’t quite right. They were a little heavy-looking, but it was a very well-drawn picture for a kid his age. Afraid Sam would quit drawing guitars because the first one he drew wasn’t perfect, I told him how in art school you get to draw and redraw the same thing over and over until it feels just right.
Every year Christians celebrate the two great festivals of Christmas and Easter that give meaning to our lives: Christ’s coming to earth in human form and in humility, and Christ’s return to his Father in a glorified human body. This year, Advent begins on November 27 with the Scripture passages in the Revised Common Lectionary for Year B.
This article is the second in a series introducing “Worshiping the Triune God,” a working document published following the inaugural meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in June 2010 (see Part 1 in RW 100).
After wrapping up last year’s Advent series at our church, Pastor Dale proposed the idea of using the book of Ruth for our next Advent series. Although my thoughts kept rolling around the question How will he get Advent and Christmas out of the book of Ruth? I didn’t say anything. By July, when it was time to select bulletin covers for Advent, the question was still there.
I needed to know how to correlate the Advent candle wreath lighting with the sermon theme. What evolved became one of my favorite Christmas series.
Ringing of Bells
- 1 of 24