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First Sunday of a New Year

This worship service plan for the first Sunday of the year is built around six favorite promises of God, and our trust in Him. The new year is a time to center ourselves in the faithful care of God and position ourselves firmly on his promises.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Because this is the first Sunday of a new year, worship must "name" both the anticipation and the anxiety that we all have. This is a new journey into new territory. The unknowns ahead are challenging and adventurous, but our need of assurance and security is very great. The first worship of a new year is a time to center ourselves in the faithful care of God and position ourselves firmly on his promises. This service is built around six favorite promises of God, and our trust in Him.


Prelude: "Partita on 'St. Anne' ", Manz
(See "music notes" at the end of this service for information on where this music and other music in this service may be found.)

*Responsive Call to Worship and God's Greeting

Congregation, what is your source of comfort and encouragement?
Our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
With joy receive these words of greeting from God: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. (Galatians 1:3,4)
Praise, O children of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.
We love you, Lord, for you hear our voices; you hear our cry for mercy.
How can we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us?
We will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. We will fulfill our vows to the Lord, in the presence of all his people. (Psalm 116:13,14)

*Responsive Reaffirmation of Faith: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past", PH 210, PsH 170, RL 1, TH 30, TWC 78

The Reading of Psalm 90:1,2
Sing PsH 170:1,2
The Reading of Psalm 90:3-6
Sing PsH 170:3,4
The Reading of Psalm 90:13-17
Sing PsH 170:5,6

*The Worshipers Greet Each Other


The Call to Confession

Our Spoken Prayer of Confession:

Merciful God and Father in heaven, you are faithful and just; you are willing to forgive our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness. Before you and our sisters and brothers, we confess that we have spoken many empty words and have at times broken even our most sacred vows. Our sins are an affront to you; they are a disgrace before the watching world, and they have caused us unspeakable pain. Through our Lord Jesus may we begin this new year with the joy of knowing we belong to you, with the freedom of being purified by your blood, and with the healing which your grace alone can bring. In the name of our blessed Savior we pray..

Our Sung Prayer of Confession: "Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us", Willan PsH 258, PH 572, RL 564, RN 85, SFL 43, TWC 821

The Assurance of God's Pardon

Song of Dedication: "Each New Day", Sleeth


Pardon from Sin -

Scripture Reading: 1 John 2:1,2
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


Response: "When Peace like a River" vv. 1-3 PsH 489, TH 691, TWC 519

Eternal Life -

Scripture Reading: John 6:45-51
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God! 87



How does "the resurrection of the body" comfort you?
Not only my soul
will be taken immediately after this life
to Christ its head,
but even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ,
will be reunited with my soul
and made like Christ's glorious body.

How does the article concerning "life everlasting" comfort you?
Even as I already now experience in my heart
the beginning of eternal joy,
so after this life I will have
perfect blessedness such as
no eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no man has ever imagined:
a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.

From Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 22 (Psalter Hymnal
p.885), ©1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI,
1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.

Prayer that is Heard -

Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:7-12
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


The Pastoral Prayer

Help in Temptations -

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


Response: A Reading of Psalm 34:1-10
or "Psalm 34/Taste and See" (psalm refrain) (PH 187), SNC 255
and/or Anthem: "Taste and See", O'Brien

Protection in All Things -

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:37-39
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


The Intercessory Prayer

Contentment -

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:10-13
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!



My only comfort in life and in death
is that I am not my own, but belong -
body and soul, in life and in death -
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

From Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 1, Q/A 1 (Psalter
Hymnal p.861), ©1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI,
1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.


Offertory: "If You But Trust in God to Guide You," Leupold

*Song of Faith: "Everywhere I Go" SFL 211

*Our Commitment to Holy Living:

Since God has given us his great promises, how shall we live in relationship to Him who walks with us?
We will have no other gods before Him; we will not make for ourselves any substitute gods; we will not abuse the name of the Lord but speak it only in reverence and love; we will honor the Lord's day through worship, witness and fellowship with his people.
How shall we live in relationship to others?
We will honor our parents and hold the family in high esteem; we will not abuse, hate or injure our friends or neighbors by word, gesture or deed; we will not commit adultery, but live holy disciplined lives; we will not steal; we will not lie; we will not grasp for what we do not have, nor reject others for having it.
How does Jesus summarize these commandments?
He says that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, and by God's grace, we will do it!


*Song of Parting: "Don'na Tokidemo /Anytime and Anywhere" SNC 188

Postlude: Fugue in E-Flat Major, J.S. Bach

* - you are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

The Scriptures are packed with hundreds of God's precious promises that give us strength and security. It is always difficult to make selections from such a wide range of promises, but we have selected six that we consider to be the "best ones" in Christian experience. There is nothing sacred in this selection of six; you may make your own selections. Or you may desire to solicit from your worshipers their suggestions of "best promises" to shape this service. A note or insert in the bulletin might ask them to submit their favorites in preparation for this service. It would prove to be insightful in studying the congregation, and surely would shape a very meaningful service of worship.

Because six promises were selected, the format of this worship service needs to be different. Six units will each involve Scripture, a meditation, and a response of some kind.

When these six are presented you may want to indicate to the worshipers that you consider these to be special gifts from God for the new year, and as such should be written down, posted somewhere, or memorized, and taken as special companions throughout the new year.

It will also be necessary to add the qualification that such promises belong only to the children of God. They are not to be taken indiscriminately by uncommitted people. Such a "fencing of the promises" can be a golden opportunity to point worshipers to the importance of making or reaffirming their commitment to Christ as a new year begins.

You will notice both a balance and a progression among the six that are selected here. The promises of eternal life and pardon from sin are the two that shape our standing in Christ. God's promises to hear our prayers and help us in temptation are the two that assist in our Christian disciplines. The final two, protection and contentment, are the two that give us security and stability as we journey.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (childrens' songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The music of the prelude was originally published by Concordia 97-5307 [1975] (E-D). St. Anne is the tune name for O God, Our Help in Ages Past. This partita has since been reissued by Morningstar Publications. You may wish to play the variations throughout the service as music for offertory and postlude as well as prelude. The difficulty varies with each movement of the partita.
  2. Consider playing quietly during the reading of Psalm 90. Doing so will establish a flow to this responsive affirmation.
  3. The sung prayer of confession should flow out of the spoken prayer without announcement.
  4. Each New Day by Natalie Sleeth is taken from the collection Sunday Songbook No. 2 and is published by Hinshaw HMB-177 [1991] (E). This unison anthem is very effective when sung by a child as a solo. It also works well for a children's choir.
  5. The anthem Taste and See by Francis Patrick O'Brien is published by GIA G-3775 (E). The text is based on Psalm 34. The refrain from this anthem is also found in Sing! A New Creation #255. Use the anthem setting with a choir or small ensemble - the hymnal setting as a response between the reading of verse groupings from Psalm 34.
  6. The offertory music on If You But Trust in God To Guide You is taken from An Organ Book by A.W. Leupold, Chantry Music Press [1960] (E).
  7. Bach's Fugue in E-flat Major is often called the "St. Anne" fugue because its subject is similar to the melody of O God, Our Help in Ages Past. This work can be found in many different editions of Bach Preludes and Fugues (D).

Liturgy Notes:

The awareness that this is the first worship of a new year should be injected into the service at the very beginning. The opening call should include reference to this fact. Such an awareness ought to shape the spirit of the entire service.

Lay readers can be involved in reading the Scripture passages and responses. Persons, preferably of different ages, should be selected ahead of time. They should be given their assigned passage a minimum of three days ahead of time and encouraged to familiarize themselves with it through multiple readings. It would be helpful to invite them to church during the week for a rehearsal of reading it in the sanctuary, particularly if a microphone is being used. It is important that they read well, and worship planners should be willing to coach them.


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