Last December, as I worshiped with my family at one of our district churches, the congregation was engaging in an Advent worship experience surrounding the 200th anniversary of Silent Night. When the opening screen came up for one of the hymns that day, our son, Henry, turned to me and said, “I guess next Advent, we’ll be talking about Joy to the World, since it will turn 300.” Sure enough, the words written by Isaac Watts to this beloved hymn/carol are dated 1719, and the seed was planted in my head and heart.
One of the things that I have missed most in this season of ministry as a district superintendent has been planning and leading worship. I love everything about worship, working with teams to plan and enter into experiences where God is glorified and hearts are transformed when the messiness of humanity collides with a perfect, gracious God. Earlier this year, two good friends gave me wise advice as I walk through this season to which I know God has called me. They each said something like, “Think about what gives you passion and joy about pastoring a local congregation, and find ways to do those types of things where you are now.”
That’s why I find myself writing this afternoon. Seeking to hear God’s voice in my son noting that detail on the screen last December, and in the wisdom shared by friends who want me to thrive where God has planted me for this season, and hoping to bless the pastors and congregations of the Lewisburg District (and anyone else who might stumble upon this), I’ve been working on an Advent worship series celebrating the 300th anniversary of the lyrics that became Joy to the World. Any congregation who wishes to use any or all of the series are free to do so, without charge. I simply ask that you acknowledge authorship when appropriate. And if you find the resources helpful and/or useful, let me know. If you feel really moved, you could offer a gift to a local mission where you are who works with children, and offer it in honor of Henry, who planted the seed in the first place.
Repeat the Sounding Joy seeks to help congregations rediscover, experience and share the joy that come in the midst of both the celebration of Christ’s birth, and the awaiting of his return. Each week will center on a passage from Luke’s gospel, leading up to and including the birth of Jesus, but will also incorporate the passages from Isaiah representing the Old Testament lectionary readings for Advent Year A. Each week during Advent’s theme also ties into one of the four verses (in order of the UM hymnal) for #246, “Joy to the World.” For each worship service, I hope to share the following elements:
- Call to Worship
- Collective Prayer
- Offertory Invitation and Prayer
- Sermon/Sermon Starters
- Possible Next Steps for Individuals to carry the theme of worship into the week
- Prayer of Great Thanksgiving (for December 1/1st Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve/Day)
- Visual Ideas for Altar/Sanctuary
- Projection Backgrounds and Title Screens
- Traditional and Contemporary Music Suggestions
- Advent Wreath Candle Lighting Liturgy
- Weekly Family Devotional Activity
While I hope to have most of the pieces complete and ready to share by the end of August, or middle of September at the latest, I also recognize that worship teams, choir directors, musicians and preachers may already be starting to look ahead. So, for now, I want to share the weekly themes to help you start thinking. Also, this is definitely a work in progress, so don’t hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your own thoughts or insights as we move through the next few months. It would be most incredible if this became a community of disciples seeking to worship even as we prepare to lead others in worship!
So, here goes! Bookmark this page, or subscribe to the updates, and join me in this journey.
Sunday, December 1 – 1st Week of Advent
“Prepare Him Room” – A Celebration of Hope
Luke 1:26-38, Isaiah 2:1-5
Sunday, December 8 – 2nd Week of Advent
“Our Songs Employ” – A Celebration of Love
Luke 1:39-45, Isaiah 11:1-10
Sunday, December 15 – 3rd Week of Advent
“His Blessings Flow” – A Celebration of Joy
Luke 1:(57-66)67-79, Isaiah 35:1-10
Sunday, December 22 – 4th Week of Advent
“He Rules the World” – A Celebration of Peace
Luke 1:(57-66)67-79, Isaiah 7:10-16
Tuesday, December 24 – Christmas Eve
“Repeat the Sounding Joy” – A Celebration of Christ
Luke 2:1-14(15-20), Isaiah 9:2-7