On October 19, 14 CRC worship leaders put their heads together to help each other brainstorm Advent and Christmas worship services. Many have done this for years, so the collective experience and creativity in the room made for a great conversation. No recording is available, but here are some notes from our time together.
Christmas Eve/Day: With Christmas Eve on a Sunday, many churches have opted for 2 services on the 24th and no service on the 25th. If that is you and you're trying to figure out how to get "Christmas" in that night . . .
- Progressive Advent candle lighting: Begin the service dark and light the Advent candles throughout the service to visually demonstrate a growing of light. You could structure the service around the candles themselves. Light the candle of hope, read a Scripture passage on hope, sing a song, offer a prayer for hope. Light the candle of peace.. etc. This is almost like a modified lessons and carols service around the 4 candles. Grow in light and grow in excitement with the Christ candle being lit at the very end with Joy to the World. For those who still cherish closing with candles and Silent Night, consider carrying the Christ candle outside (bundle up!) and closing with candles and song outside
- New Year's "Christmas" service: While December 31 will need to have some kind of Old Year/New Year focus, make this a big Christmas Day kind of service if you're not having an actual Christmas Day worship service. Light the candles again as you say prayers for the new year. Sing all the carols. Pre-plan a Christmas Lessons and Carols service ahead of time to ensure your staff gets the week off of planning/sermon writing.
- Ask Sunday school teachers if their class would be willing to plan and lead a week of candle lighting. They as a class can talk about the significance of the word that week and come up with a meaningful way to light the candle that week. They write it, they lead it. Each week will be different, age-appropriate, and a meaningful way for all ages to participate.
- With the heaviness in our world right now, what would it look like to have each candle be a prayer or longing/lament this Advent? Pray for the hopeless. Pray for those who have no peace. Pray for those who do not know the love of Christ. Pray for joy for the world and all of creation. Consider different color candles this year. Then on Christmas, swap them out with a different color and pray over the ways God is at work in the world offering hope, peace, joy, etc.
- Consider testimony as part of your candle lighting. This requires knowing your congregation well and what their unique situations and contexts are. Imaging inviting a mental health worker to offer a short reflection on working each day with those who have no hope. Where does he/she long for Christ's hope. Invite a police officer or military member to reflect on how they long for God's peace and shalom in the brokenness they see each day. This not only gives people an opportunity to reflect on Advent for themselves in new ways, it also blesses those who can listen and learn.
- Invite your congregation (kids and adults alike) to create artwork based on your theme for the season. Use this as bulletin covers, slideshows before the service, digital graphics, etc.
- Check out this post with family ministry ideas from Thrive.
- Family/Congregational church devotionals around the new picture book "All Creation Waits" by Gayle Boss. There is an adult and a children's version of this book. Here's an idea how to use it from Karen DeBoer:
- Play the lovely, brief video trailer which features the author reading excerpts of the original book, follow that with a reading from the new children's version, follow with a wondering question (which doesn't need to be answered if you're doing this during worship---you might just invite everyone to ponder it) which might be something like "Each animal prepared to wait. I wonder how we prepare to wait for the celebration of Jesus? I wonder how we might prepare to wait this year?" or maybe something like "The author said, "the dark is not the end, it's a door." I wonder what feels dark to you right now? I wonder how Jesus being born might be like a door?" Etc.
- Have you ever tried a Christingle service? It's a Moravian tradition that includes a home project, congregational worship, and maybe a small fire hazard :-) If you've got lots of services this year and you're looking for something different and fun, check this out.
Series Ideas (This is just a list to spark ideas. If you are interested in seeing more information on one of them, email [email protected])
- Emmanuel, God with us (See pdf below courtesy of Elly Sarkany)
- Is He Worthy? An Advent series based on the questions/answers in Andrew Peterson's song "Is He Worthy"
- Prophet, Priest and King
- O Antiphons (see current issue of Reformed Worship for the full series)
So many songs, so little time
- Congregations want to sing all the Christmas carols. They've been hearing them in stores and on the radio for a month, so why not sing them in worship the first week of Advent? How do we hold on to that sense of "waiting" with our song choices while still balancing the wealth of good Christmas carols that everyone wants to sing? We shared some ideas for ways to work Christmas carols into services with some liturgical intentionality.
- Use "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as a sung prayer of confession. The 4th verse in particular has good confession language and longing.
- Use the second verse of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" creedaly! Tie it in with a reading of the Nicene Creed
- Use "O Come, All Ye Faithful" or "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" as part of your Great Prayer of Thanksgiving during your communion liturgy.
- Close communion with last two verses of "Good Christian Friends Rejoice"
New songs for the season (random list of suggestions)
- Mary's Song (Wendell Kimbrough)
- Make a Way (Porter's Gate)
- Prepare Him Room (Sovereign Grace)
- Come Light Our Hearts (Sandra McCracken)
Have other ideas to share? Have questions about what is already here? Email Katie Roelofs - [email protected]