ADVENT IS NO TEASER
Worshiping communities that observe the Christian Year calendar recognize Advent as the starting point, or beginning of the repeating celebrations. Because it is a time that leads to the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, it is tempting for us to simply see these weeks as a teaser for Christmas. Though completely understandable in our over-marketed consumer culture, such an approach to the season of waiting misses important spiritual and theological aspects of Advent. There is a joyous tension inherent in a holistic worship filled with opportunities for remembrance, present-awareness, and future-casting that stretches well beyond the time of a special service on Christmas Eve and the morning of opening presents on December 25. Let us think about how we in worship leadership can help worshipers to confront the importance of each of these three time tenses.
Let me predicate these thoughts with a disclaimer that I know many worship ministry leaders have a seasonal schedule dictated to them by pastors, other church leaders, or by the attendance and time away patterns of the people they serve. I get enough church bulletins and review enough websites to know there will be churches conducting full-out Christmas programs every weekend through December. Perhaps another article will address the challenges of scheduling in special seasons.
Advent is a season filled with re-telling the story of the First Coming, and remembering all that led up to the Nativity as well as the events surrounding the birth. With songs, scripture, sermon and symbol, worshipers can be helped to consider the tension in the wait that must have been part of the lives of those living hundreds of years before the time of the birth, but who looked in faith for a coming Messiah. Consider rich doses of psalms from ancient worship, and prophecies that promised what we know to have come to be. Sing songs that shed light on those connections, and pray prayers filled with reflection on prayers answered and promises fulfilled. Remembrance is likely the most self-evident time tense for Advent worship.
Emmanuel – God is with us. Advent proclaims the truth of incarnation and can call attention to its immediacy in our lives as we recognize the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the forming of Christian community, and the present righteousness available to us as we face the battle in this dark world with evil spiritual forces. Readings, songs, and symbols of light are rich with the message of His Presence. Moving through the weeks of Advent we are reminded of our urgent immediate need of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. It is an opportune time for Him to soften our hearts, break through our resistance and pride, and either transform or revive us to allow His light to shine in our living. Through the power of His presence in the now, oh that we could live out our sung words:
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
O HOlY NIGHT
Can we lead our people to pray these words afresh?
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today
-O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
Parousia – an ancient Greek word that means arrival. Used twenty-four times in the New Testament, the word refers to the Second Coming of Christ in seventeen of those instances. The Advent season calls us to watch and wait (see Matthew 24). Consider bringing attention to the spirit of anticipation in familiar Christmas and Advent hymns, and helping worshipers consider our own waiting for His return. In our world that is filled with uncertainty and headlines that can give anxious thoughts, we nevertheless sing,
O come, O Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
And drive away the shades of night
And pierce the clouds and bring us light
-O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL
As we tell the story of Jesus, at whatever pace, we proclaim His Lordship and look with certain hope to sing,
For lo, the days are hast’ning on,
By prophets seen of old
When with the ever circling years
Shall come the time foretold;
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The prince of peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing
-IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR
May your Advent season be filled with blessing and hope!Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship