Advent Transformations

Five Service Plans for Advent and Christmas

Advent draws our attention to Christ. When our attention is focused on him, our attitudes are transformed from our human reactions to his life-giving way.

The characters in the Advent story experiencedthe transformation of their questioning and fearfulhuman attitudes by encountering God. Through theseAdvent services, we encountered God, confronted ourhuman attitudes, and experienced and celebrated the transformingpower of Christ’s love on Christmas Day.

The following services were planned by Pastor BillDe Vries, Rhonda Brink, Randy Buursma, and Carole DeJong of First Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids,Michigan. The dramas were written by Randall Buursma.

Week 1

Call to Worship

[Director enters from the back (wearing a lapel microphone) and begins giving instructions.]

Director: All right, people! We have a really big show coming up; it’s time to get ready once again. Let’s start with the lights in the windows. You people on the side, please plug in those lights. [Ask or wait for the lights to go on.] Can we shove the Christmas tree a bit more over to the side? [Designate a person to move the tree.] Let’s keep things balanced, if we can, on the worship platform. The poinsettias should be placed symmetrically around the pulpit. [The person who moves the tree can move the flowers.] People are used to seeing that every year, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint them.

That’s better. . . . Now let’s get the rest of us organized. People, you need to arrive at least three minutes before the service begins and then find the seats you normally sit in. Remember, not too many smiles on these first few Sundays. Save your happy faces for the big day. Let’s see if you can sit up straight and look interested, even though we’ve all been down this road many times before. Sharon, we’ll need you to pipe in some of the old favorites. Can you test out the first few bars of “Joy to World?” [Organist plays the first measure.] Thank you—feels just like old times. OK, that leaves you, Pastor Bill. When I call “Places,” simply go up to the pulpit and welcome everyone the way you always do. No need to get fancy, people don’t like surprises with these traditional sorts of things. All right everyone, quiet on the set. Places, everyone, for Advent 2007. We go in three, two, and . . . [Director points to pastor, who has moved to the pulpit and takes a deep breath as if he is going to welcome people. Then the energy goes out of his body and he shakes his head.]

Pastor: Wait a minute, I can’t go through with this. Something’s not right here.

Director: What’s wrong? You’ve been down this road so often. This is just like every other time. The stage is set, the people know their roles, the music is ready. All you have to do is say all the things you’ve said before. Am I missing something here?

Pastor: Now that you mention it, we may not be approaching this Advent season with quite the right attitude.

Director: Trust me—when you know how the story ends, there is no need to belabor the point. Let’s give the folks what they want and call it good.

Pastor: Would you mind if we try something a bit different? What if this year we give people what they need instead of what they want? What if we approach this Advent by looking at the attitudes we bring to this time of the church year and explore how these attitudes are transformed?

Director: I don’t know. . . . If you depart from the usual text, you do run the risk of extending the service. And you know how people feel about that.

Pastor: I’m willing to take that risk. And I’m guessing that these people are willing to risk the possibility of staying a few extra minutes to see how this might all work out. So ifyou don’t mind, can I start our welcome again?

Director: I’m not afraid to try something different. Let’s see where this goes. Places, everyone. Advent 2007, take two. [Director sits down and the service proceeds.]

Welcome and Announcements

God’s Greeting

Song: “O Come, All You Faithful” CH 249, PH 41, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182

Children’s Message: Explanation of Advent

Scripture: Luke 1:26-37

[Assign different people to the various voices in the text: narrator, angel Gabriel, and Mary.]

Solo: Mary’s Song

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Sermon: Mary: From Questioning to Trust

Questioning: She wondered what kind of greeting this might be (v. 29) and asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34).

Trust: “I am the Lord’s servant” (v. 38).

Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardon: The Institution of the Lord’s Supper


Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. Song of Thanksgiving: “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding” stanzas 1-4 PsH 332

The Lord’s Supper

Congregational Prayer


Reading: “Those Who Go to the Manger” by Deitrich Bonhoeffer (see Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons, Zondervan 2005)

God’s Blessing

Doxology: “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding” stanza 5 PsH 332


Week 2

Call to Worship

God’s Greeting

Song: “Out of Need and Out of Custom” stanzas 1,3 PsH 259

Children’s Message

[Video clips of scenes from Christmas classics that involve scenes

of belief, pastor makes ties to Bible story.

Scripture: Luke 1:5-25

[Create a “narrative pantomime” by having two people read this passage as narrator and angel. Ask others to pantomime the lines as the readers speak them.]

Lighting of the Advent Candle

We light this candle, remembering the amazing events that surround the Christmas story. May the power of God’s Holy Spirit chase away the shadows of unbelief within us and open our eyes to see the miracle of our salvation.

Sermon: Zechariah: From Incredulous to Submissive

Incredulous: How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (v. 18). Submissive: “And now you will be silent and not able to speak . . . because you did not believe my words” (v. 20).

Hymn of Confession: “Spirit of God” CH 390, PH 326, PsH 419, TH 338, WR 132

Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 33:13-15, 18-19, 21

Song: “Come and Stand Amazed, You People” PsH 338

Congregational Prayer



We feel supreme love

for One we’ve never seen.

We talk familiarly every day

to someone we cannot hear.

We expect to go to heaven

on the virtue of Another.

We empty ourselves

in order to be full.

We admit we are wrong

so we can be declared right.

We submit to silence

in order to hear the Word.

Lord, help us to see the invisible.

Lord, help us to hear the inaudible.

May we know that which passes understanding.

—“Being the Christian God Calls Us to Be” by A.W. Tozer, The Root of

Righteousness, Christian Publications, Inc., 1955, p. 156.

God’s Blessing

Doxology: “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding” stanza 5 PsH 332


Week 3

Call to Worship

God’s Greeting

Song: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SWM 81, SFL 123, TH 194, WR 154

Children’s Message: Drama (see below-sidebar beginning on p. 14 in print version)


[Three contestants are sitting on chairs at the front. Contestant 1, a younger boy, is sitting on his hands; Contestant 2, a motherly type, is loaded down with gifts; Contestant 3, a fortyish businessman, has a Palm Pilot out and is constantly checking it.]

Announcer: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to yet another edition of “I Can’t Wait for Christmas,” the popular game show where our contestants try to get Christmas to come just a bit sooner. We are pleased to have three contestants with us today, so let’s get right to it and have them introduce themselves. Contestant number 1, what is your name, please?

Contestant 1: My name is Johnny Begood.

Announcer: Welcome to the show, Johnny. By the way, why are you sitting on your hands?

Contestant 1: I’m nervous that I might do something wrong, so I’m sitting on my hands to prevent me from making any mistakes. You know the song, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.” I don’t want to make any mistakes that might jeopardize my chances of getting Christmas gifts.

Announcer: Speaking of gifts, let’s go to Contestant 2. What is your name?

Contestant 2: My name is Sally Foster. Thank you for having me on the show.

Announcer: Sally, why do you have all those gifts in your hands?

Contestant 2: I love to wrap gifts! I buy all my presents early, wrap them up, and keep them securely in my arms until Christmas. Isn’t this just the most wonderful time of year?

Announcer: It certainly is. Speaking of time, welcome to Contestant 3. Please introduce yourself and explain what you have in your hand.

Contestant 3: My name is I.M. Scheduled. I’m holding my Palm Pilot Zippity Do Da 3000, which, by the way, would make an outstanding gift for anyone who needs to get organized.

Announcer: Thanks to all our contestants. Let’s get started with our game. You will be presented with three scenarios that in some way may be able to help you bring about Christmas just a bit sooner. After you hear the scenario, all you have to do is explain how this scenario could help Christmas come. So without any further ado, let’s bring out Mark to describe our first scenario.

Mark: Hi. I’m involved with a hip-hop ministry here at the church. The idea is to use hip-hop music as a way to talk to people about the love of God. We’re always looking for church folks to come to our events and hang out with community people who come to the show. Sometimes we need drivers to bring people to the shows. We have a good time and try to present the gospel in a unique way to people who may need to hear it. You might be amazed at how becoming involved with this ministry makes it seem as if Christmas were already here.

Announcer: There you have our first scenario. Your job is to formulate a response to this situation that may bring Christmas to us sooner. So Johnny, what is your response?

Johnny: I’d love to go there and hang out. I could listen to the music and probably have a good time. The problem is, I might be tempted to do something wrong. How can I be sure that I wouldn’t do something that might be considered “bad?”

Announcer: Well, no one can be sure of that.

Johnny: You can, if you sit on your hands.

Announcer: Sally, what do you say?

Sally: Sounds like a wonderful time, but I have my hands full already. Adding one more thing would certainly overload me. Imagine trying to move to the beat with all of this! I’m sorry, the hip-hop event is out.

Announcer: I.M., how about you—can you help out?

I.M.: I’ve already checked my PDA. Quite frankly, Mark’s name or the phrase hip-hop just isn’t showing up. I can’t consider going to such an event with someone I’ve never done anything with before. Sorry.

Announcer: OK, let’s get to scenario two presented by Lois. Lois, please describe your situation that may help Christmas come just a bit earlier.

Lois: Here at First Church we have a food pantry, and every month we are asking folks to bring in items to share with those in our neighborhood who need a little extra help. This month we’re asking folks to bring in cereal. Giving cereal may help folks sense the good news of Christmas.

Announcer: Thanks, Lois. Let’s go back to our contestants and see what they make of it. Johnny, what is your response?

Johnny: Look, it’s too risky for me. What if I go to the cupboard and find an unopened box of cereal? It’s got to be a brand we like; otherwise it wouldn’t be in our cupboard. Suppose I take the box out and realize that I’m hungry? You know I’m going to be tempted to open that box up and eat from it. I’m just not willing to risk that. I’ll do the right thing and stay on my hands.

Announcer: Sally, how do you feel about Lois’s request?

Sally: Lois is such a dear and so am I. We both love boxes. She needs boxes of cereal and I have boxes of gifts. Notice that my boxes are not the type of boxes that she needs. So you see, I can’t possibly be of any help to Lois, unless of course, I had already gift-wrapped boxes of cereal, which I didn’t. My family would shudder at the thought of receiving cereal for a gift. Now if I did have boxes of cereal wrapped up, rest assured I would give one.

Announcer: I.M., any chance you might be able to Lois out?

I.M.: Once again, I’m struggling to find where I fit into this plan. For example, I suppose I could bring in a box of cereal on Sunday. My planner says “church” during the 10:00- 11:30 slot. There’s no room to add, “Bring box of cereal.” If I had more room for line items, I suppose I could consider bringing a box of cereal, but I don’t, so I won’t.

Announcer: Well contestants, it looks like Christmas just may take its time in arriving. We do have one more scenario. Please welcome Joseph. Joseph, tell us about your scenario that may help Christmas come sooner.

Joseph: Suppose you were engaged to be married. Then you found out that the woman you loved was pregnant, only the child wasn’t yours. The wedding plans are all in place, the invitations have been sent, and you discover that your future wife is going to be a mother and you don’t know who the father is. Can you think of something to do that might bring Christmas along just a bit sooner?

Announcer: This seems to have a different tone than the first two scenarios. Let’s see how our contestants respond. Johnny?

Johnny: [stops sitting on hands] Watch out, Joseph. It’s clear that someone has not been good—and that someone is your future wife. So you have to do the right thing. You must take matters into your own hands and get out of this situation.

Announcer: How about you, Sally. What should Joseph do?

Sally: [drops gifts] Joseph, you need to break the engagement and move on. You have given enough to this relationship. No one here is going to blame you for leaving.

Announcer: Thank you, Sally. That leaves I.M. Scheduled. What do you say, sir?

I.M.: I already entered the data, and the output is clear. There’s an “ASAP” in big, bold, flashing letters. It says “Get out now.” Look, Joseph, you never planned for any of this. Your life will never be the same if you go through with this. Can you pour all your love out on a baby with such a beginning? The cost of this relationship will be eternal. Walk down your own path, Joseph. Remember, if you choose to stay in this relationship your life will never be the same.

Announcer: That’s the end of our show, folks. You’ll notice— especially you, I.M.—that our time is up. Unfortunately, it appears that our contestants’ responses will not help Christmas come any sooner. Thanks to all of you for participating in today’s show!

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

Lighting of Advent Candle

Song: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” CH 240, PH 309, PsH 342, TH 162, WR 181

Sermon: Joseph: Self-directed to Obedient

Self-directed: “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (v. 19). Obedient: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him . . .” (v. 24).

Youth Choir: “Keep Your Lights Trimmed and Burning” arr. J. Helgen

Confession and Assurance for Three Voices from Leviticus 26 and Matthew 1

[Note that the part of this reading set in columns uses simultaneous voices.]

Voice 1: Hear the words that God has spoken: “But suppose you will not listen to me. You will not carry out all of my commands. You will say no to my rules and turn away from my laws. And you will break my covenant by failing to carry out all of my commands. Then here is what I will do to you. All at once I will bring terror on you. I will turn against you. Then your enemies will win the battle over you. Those who hate you will rule over you. You will run away even when no one is chasing you.

Voice 2: Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah. Tamar was their mother. Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram.

Voice 3: After all that, suppose you still will not listen to me. Then I will punish you for your sins seven times. I will break down your stubborn pride. You will work with all of your strength, but it will not do you any good.

Voice 2: Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz. Rahab was Boaz’s mother. Boaz was the father of Obed. Ruth was Obed’s mother. Obed was the father of Jesse. And Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon. Solomon’s mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Voice 1: After all of those things, suppose you still do not accept my warnings. And suppose you continue to be my enemy. Then I myself will be your enemy. I will make you suffer for your sins again and again. I will send war against you to punish you for breaking my covenant. Piano starts quietly playing “Kyrie Eleison” in the background. Voice 2: (Wait to start reading until Voice 1 says “I will make you suffer.”) Solomon was the father of Rehoboam Rehoboam was the father of Abijah. Abijah was the father of Asa.
Voice 3: After all of that, suppose you still do not listen to me. And suppose you continue to be my enemy. Then I will be angry with you. I will be your enemy. I myself will again punish you for your sins over and over.   Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram. Jehoram was the father of Uzziah. Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
Voice 1: And I will turn away from you. The pleasant smell of your offerings will not give me any delight. Some of you will be left in the lands of your enemies. I will fill your hearts with fear. You will fall down, even though no one is chasing you.   Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh. Manasseh was the father of Amon. Amon was the father of Josiah. And Josiah was the father of Jeconiah and his brothers. At that time, the Jewish people were forced to go away to Babylon.
Voice 3: But suppose you admit that you and your parents have sinned. You admit the evil and dishonest things you have done against me. And you admit you have become my enemy. What you did made me become your enemy. But suppose you stop being stubborn. You stop being proud. And you pay for your sin. Then I will remember my covenant with Jacob. I will remember my covenant with Isaac. I will remember my covenant with Abraham. Piano switches to “O Come, O come Emmanuel.” After this, the family line continued. Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud. Abiud was the father of Eliakim. Eliakim was the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok. Zadok was the father of Akim.
Voice 1: But even after all of that, I will not say no to you or turn away from you. I will not destroy you completely in the land of your enemies.   Akim was the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar. Eleazar was the father of Matthan. Matthan was the father of Jacob.
I will not break my covenant with you. I am the Lord your God. Because of you, I will remember the covenant I made with the people of Israel who lived before you. I brought them out of Egypt to be their God. The nations saw me do it. I am the Lord. Piano fades out. No speaking here
No speaking here   Jacob was the father of Joseph. Joseph was the husband of Mary.
Voice 3: And Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called Christ.   No speaking here
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son . . . ”   No speaking here
No speaking here   and you are to give him the name Jesus,
All three voices in unison: because he will save his people from their sins.   All three voices in unison: because he will save his people from their sins.

Hymn: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” PH 5, PsH 341, TH 193, WR 232

Congregational Prayer


God’s Blessing

Doxology: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” CH 259, PH 22, PsH 354, TH 218, WR 189

Week 4

Call to Worship

God’s Greeting

Song: “Silent Night” stanzas 1, 2 CH 253, PH 60, PsH 334, TH 210, WR 186

Reading: “Ordinary Night,” by Max Lucado (see One Incredible Moment, Thomas Nelson 2001)

Song: “Silent Night” stanzas 3, 4 CH 253, PH 60, PsH 334, TH 210, WR 186

Scripture: Luke 2:8-20

Children’s Message

Lighting of Advent Candle

Sermon: Shepherds: From Quiet to Outspoken

Quiet: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” (v. 8). Outspoken: “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (v. 17).

Call to Confession

Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardon: John 1:11-14

Song of Assurance: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” CH 250, PH 43, TH 201, WR 180

Congregational Prayer


God’s Blessing

Doxology: “Joy to the World” CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SWM 94, SFL 137, TH 195, WR 179


Christmas Day

Apostles’ Creed

[voice from the back]

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

and born of the virgin Mary.

Reading of Christmas Story: Luke 2:1-20

God’s Greeting

Songs: “O Come, All You Faithful” CH 249, PH 41, PsH 342, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182

“Angels We Have Heard On High” CH 278, PH 23, PsH 347, SWM 90, SFL 133, TH 214, WR 188

Children’s Message

Sermon: From Guilt to Wonder

Guilt: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your

head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

Wonder: “While they were there, the time came for the

baby to be born” (v. 6).

The Lord’s Supper

Apostles’ Creed

[voice from the back]

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

Song: “In the First Light” (Bob Kauflin)

Hymn: “Beautiful Savi

Rhonda Brink is choir director and has been chair of the worship and liturgy planning team of First Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her e-mail address is


Pastor of First Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, MI

Reformed Worship 85 © September 2007, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.