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God's Gentle Power - Isaiah 40

A service plan for Christmas Day planned around Isaiah 40:10-11. This service is part of "Prepare the Way," a series of Advent service plans.

Theme of the Service

Obviously, the theme of a Christmas Day worship service must be celebration of God's gift to us through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Worshipers must step back into the events of the original Christmas, sense the mighty actions of God and join with those in the biblical narrative to adore and worship. Because of our series of studies in Isaiah 40, the theme of this service will draw on both the narrative accounts of the original story and from the prophetic statements in Isaiah 40:10,11 which explain that he comes with power, yet leads his people gently.


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

The Welcome

*Opening Litany and God's Greeting:
Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh.
O come, behold his glory.
He has come among us, full of grace and truth.
O come, let us adore him.
His message was proclaimed by the angels.
O come, behold his glory.
His glory was seen by the shepherds.
O come, let us adore him.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, Jesus Christ his Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*The Worshipers Greet Each Other

*Opening Song: "O Come, All Ye Faithful" PH 41/42, PsH 340, RL 195, (RN 1), TH 208, TWC 173


The First Reading: Hebrews 11:1, 24-28, 13
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

*The Gospel Reading: Luke 2:1-7
The Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God!

The Lighting of All Candles

Song: "This Is Your God/Meekness and Majesty" RN158, SNC 109


The Reading of Luke 2:8-12
The Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God!

"Away in a Manger" PH 24/25, PsH 348, RL 213/214, SFL 129, TH 204/205, TWC 147/149, WOV 644
"Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" PH 37, PsH 353, RL 221, TH 216, TWC 169

The Reading of Luke 2:13-20
The Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God!

*Song: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" PH 31/32, PsH 345, RL 196, TH 203, TWC 171

Anthem: "Sing Gloria", Davis

"Angels We Have Heard on High" PH 23, PsH 347, RL 206, SFL 133, TH 214, TWC 152
"Angels from the Realms of Glory" PH 22, PsH 354, RL 229, TH 218, TWC 174
(During the singing an offering will be received.)

Anthem: "He Shall Feed His Flock", Beck


The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Isaiah 40:1-11
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: God's Gentle Power
(Preparing the Way - #5)
Text - Isaiah 40:10,11

The Pastoral Prayer


"Once in Royal David's City" PH 49, PsH 346, RL 201, TH 225, TWC 161, WOV 643
"Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come" PH 40, PsH 337, RL 198, SFL 137, TH 195, TWC 146

Anthem: "Christus Paradox", Fedak

*The Benediction:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the filling of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever. Amen.

*Song: "Hallelujah Chorus", Handel

Postlude: "Toccata", Wold
* - you are invited to stand.

Sermon Ideas:

Christmas has a sharp contrast built into it. While we welcome a baby in a manger, we also see him as the King of the world. While Mary saw him as a nursing baby, Herod was threatened enough to try to murder him. Such a contrast should form the treatment of the text for this sermon.

Begin with v.10 and its statement that he "comes with power". Examine the statement and what it would have communicated to the original hearers of this message. Think about all the other stories of God's actions throughout Hebrew history that portrayed his power. Draw in evidences of power during the ministry of Christ. And include also the portrayal of power that the second coming will involve.

Yet, when Isaiah moves into v.11 he changes the mood and portrays the tenderness with which a shepherd cares for his sheep. "Gently" is the way he will lead them. The image of shepherding always communicated caring and protection that came with gentleness and compassion. Many illustrations can be included from the ministry of Jesus that portray this gentle spirit toward the marginalized of society.

This message should attempt to combine those two-power and gentleness-and illustrate how they both are represented in the ministry of the Messiah to us.

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 Worshipping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

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

1. We believe that the congregation is the main choir of the worshiping community. Because of that, we always incorporate much congregational singing in worship services and we supplement what the congregation sings with other choral singing. Choirs normally sing 1-2 anthems in worship, but also they lead the congregation in song-supporting in parts and descants and in providing a capella accompaniments to congregational hymnody. They also play a vital role in teaching new hymnody to the congregation.

2. The organ prelude music is published by Concordia (97-5992 [1988]) (E-M).

3. A setting of the opening hymn O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles) for organ and brass can be found in Festival Hymns Set 1 Christmas by John Ferguson (GIA Publications G-3747 [1992]). The organ free accompaniments work well without brass too.

4. Free accompaniments for Away in a Manger (tune name: Away in a Manger) can be found in Festive Hymn Settings for the Christmas Season Set 1 by Michael Burkhardt (Morningstar MSM-10-126 [1995]). These include handbell parts, but could easily be played on piano or organ alone.

5. The anthem Sing Gloria is published by Warner/Jenson (487-40686 [1952]) and can be sung with SATB choir or combined children's and adult choir (E).

6. Introductions for Angels We Have Heard on High and Angels from the Realms of Glory can be found in 5 Christmas Hymn Improvisations by Michael Burkhardt (Morningstar MSM-10-111 [1991]). These add to the celebrative spirit of the worship service. On Christmas morning we often have the congregation sing during the offering-this is the day to sing many carols!

7. The choral anthem He Shall Feed His Flock by John Ness Beck (Beckenhorst BP 1260 [1986]) (E) served as a bridge from the carols to the Scripture reading.

8. An introduction and free accompaniment to Joy to the World can be found in Hymn Harmonizations for Organ Book 2 by John Ferguson (Ludwig O-07 1988).

9. Christus Paradox is an award-winning anthem by Alfred Fedak (GIA G-5463 [2000]) (M) based on the hymn entitled You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd found in Sing! A New Creation #182. This thoughtful text pairs very well with the themes that run through the sermon.

10. The Hallelujah Chorus can be sung by congregation, choir or a combination of both. While the choir moves to the front of the sanctuary, we give the members of the congregation the choice of coming to join the choir or singing from the pew. Congregational copies can be purchased through Fred Bock Music Company (B-G 0745 [1984]).The choral arrangement transposed to the key of C by Clair W. Johnson was published by Rubank, Inc in 1941. Using the accompaniment from the transposition makes the chorus more accessible for congregational singing. Over the years, it was apparent that this singing was a highlight for both children and adults in the congregation we served. It might be a little "scary" the first time you try, but it is worth doing and repeating yearly.

11. The postlude comes from Light on Your Feet by Wayne Wold (Augsburg 11-11040 [2000]) (E).

Liturgy Notes:

1. The gathering section which begins the worship service takes into consideration the fact that worship may include visitors in larger numbers. Some who normally do not come to worship will do so on Christmas morning. Others are relatives and family members who have returned home for the season. Therefore, we include special words of welcome and an opportunity to pass the peace to each other as an act of welcoming. The worship leader may wish to give some suggestions on this matter and explain that it's not only an opportunity to say "Good Morning" or "Merry Christmas", but to verbally express "the peace of Christ be with you!".

2. We have deliberately structured this worship service into several sections. After a gathering section, we followed with a section of readings and songs through which we reenter the Christmas story and relive its drama. We have often included children for the Scripture readings for such an event. After the Word has been proclaimed, the worship service concludes with another section of praise as our response to God's great act of sending his Son.

3. Advent Candles: Since Christmas morning is the completion/climax of the Advent Candlelightings, we usually include a family with small children to assist. We encourage the parents to give their children an active part in it at their own level of competence.

For the Christmas Day Candlelighting:

The First Reader: As Christmas Day arrives, we welcome the Christ who comes as the Savior of the world. We remind ourselves of other people of faith who welcomed him as the fulfillment of God's promises.

The First Reading: Hebrews 11:1, 24-28, 13
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

*The Gospel Reading: Luke 2:1-7
The Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God!

The Second Reader: And so today we light these candles to express our joy and celebration at the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah, God's Son, our Savior. (All four Advent candles, and the Christ candle, are lit.)

Song: "Here Is Your God/Meekness and Majesty" RN158, SNC 109