Out of Darkness—Joy and Hope

An Advent Service with Bell Choir

This service outline includes a number of choral or bell choir pieces. You may decide to use the pieces as described here, replace them with ones from the repertoire of your church’s musical groups, or respond with a congregational song as suggested. We worked hard to ensure that each portion of the service flowed right into the next. Our adult choir sang some of the songs from the balcony, some from the front of the church, and one (“Night of Silence”) from the aisles of the church so that the choir was surrounding the congregation. Musical groups moved in and out of place during the singing of the hymns. Our narrators were positioned in the balcony of the church; we typically use one female, one male, and a young child to read the Scripture and the poetry.


Solo: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (st. 1) LUYH, CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

Call to Worship (Psalm 96):

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Song: “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (st. 4)

Poetry Reading: “Such Promise”

What birth breaks forth

After lying deep in the frozen ground?

Under the blanket of fresh white snow, a seed

Forgotten by some, unknown to many.

Warmth melts the snow

Enables the seed to grow

Springing to life, a tree

Out of darkness─joy and hope.

It happens again and again and again

But never was there a tree

That brought such promise

As the Son of God, the Son of Man.

—© Jeffrey Haagenson. Used by permission. Permission is granted to Reformed Worship subscribers to use this poem in worship settings.

Anthem: “Murmurs in a Stable” (Craig Courtney) or

Song: “Toda la tierra/All Earth Is Waiting” LUYH, SNC 93

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and lived among us. We have seen his glory, glory as of the Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

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

Reading: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (st. 1) LUYH, CH 240, PH 309, PsH 342, TH 162, WR 181

Bell Choir: “’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” (arr. Cathy Moklebust)

Song: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” LUYH, CH 249, PH 41/42, PsH 340, SWM 102, TH 208, WR 182

Poetry Reading: “O Simplicitas” by Madeleine L’Engle (published in The Ordering of Love, Shaw Books, 2005)

Children’s Choir:

“Come to Earth, O Tiny King” (Ruth Elaine Schram)

“Arise, Shine, Jesus Has Come!” (Lynn Shaw Bailey and Becki Slagle Mayo)

“I Saw Three Ships” (Traditional English carol, arr. Craig Curry)

Song: “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” LUYH, CH 277, PH 31/32, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185

Reading: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (st. 2)

Bell Choir: “Dormi / Sleep, Sweet Babe While I Rock You” (arr. Tim Waugh) or

Song: “Mary Had a Baby” LUYH, SNC 107, SWM 98, WR 220

Reading: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (st. 3)

Song: “What Child Is This?” LUYH, CH 281, PH 53, TH 213, WR 184

Poetry Reading: “The Groundhog” by Luci Shaw (published in Accompanied by Angels, Eerdmans, 2006)

Anthem: “In the Stillness” (John Purifoy) or

Song: “Jesus, Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child” LUYH, SNC 108

(see “Noteworthy,” p. 40)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Anthem: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” (arr. Carolyn Jennings)

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

Poetry Reading: “On the Nativity of Our Lord”

O mystery, from whom fertile wonders rise!

O mortals, open here your hearts and eyes;

O purest seraphim, angelic squadrons bright,

Swoop down to earth in your ardent flight.

He whose praises night and day you hail,

Has left meanwhile his far celestial home;

His robe of light is hid beneath an infant’s veil,

A rooftop vile exchanged for his palatial dome.

The Ancient of Days in childhood is concealed,

The unseen, seen, and God in birth revealed,

The immortal is now mortal, Infinity is bound.

At last I see you in a lowly stable found;

And ravished I cry out, “Eternal One, born anew!

In your deep humility, how I worship you!”

—Laurent Drelincourt (1626-1681)

Anthem: “Night of Silence” (Daniel Kantor) or

Song: “Silent Night, Holy Night” LUYH, CH 253, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186

Reading: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (st. 4)

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

Closing (Psalm 98:1-6):

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things;

His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel;

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;

Make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—

Shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Postlude: “Glorious Christmas Refrains” (Tom Fettke)

Jeffrey Haagenson is minister of worship and music at Columbia Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, Washington, where he plans and leads the contemporary and traditional worship, directs the choir, and writes and arranges music for worship.

Reformed Worship 105 © September 2012, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.