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Planning Ahead for Advent

Helpful suggestions and ideas for planning ahead for worship during Advent.

Instead of providing a fully developed liturgy for this week, we have chosen to provide a possible sermon, some ideas on how to integrate it within the liturgy, and a variety of music and song suggestions. We hope that you will find these ideas helpful as you develop your service. This service of worship is designed to talk about worship and to do worship, fully integrating the two together.

Sermon Notes

Scripture Passage: Revelation 1:9-20

Sermon Title: "The Real World of Worship"

1. The title of this sermon comes from a rather flippant comment that folks can easily make on their way out of church. "Thanks for the message, pastor. Now it's back to the 'real world.'" I wince when I hear a comment like that. Do you? So it might be wise to tell such a story and then ask the question of which is the "real" world. God's word leads us to believe that the real world is the world of worship around the throne, for that world influences this one rather than the other way around.

2. The consideration of our Scripture passages really needs to be combined with a consideration of Revelation 4 and 5. First present the setting of John's exile on Patmos. Then note that John is caught up into a worship relationship with God during that time. (See 1:10ff.)

3. It is helpful in this situation to point out that worship takes place in two worlds: the world "above" and the world "below." In the world above it's a pure and unhindered environment; in the world below it's often in an unfriendly environment.

4. Taking your starting point in Revelation 1 and then adding the scene in Revelation 4, we can see that the center of worship is quite different than most of us think of it today. We've been caught in the erroneous thinking that human beings (we) are the center of worship. In the real world of worship described in Revelation 1 and 4, God on the throne is the center of worship. And in chapter 5 the Lamb (Christ) is the center of it all.

5. The information from chapters 4 and 5 tells us that there are three participants in worship-the triune God (see 1:10; 4:2-3; 5:6), the angels (see 5:8, 11; 7:11), and the church (see 4:4; 5:8).

6. After presenting all this information, you are in a position to draw some conclusions about the importance of worship: who's at the center, who participates, and the spirit in which it is done.

Liturgy Suggestions

For this sermon and service, we suggest that you structure the liturgy somewhat different than usual. Because the sermon is about worship, it ought to be fully integrated into the entire service of worship. So we suggest that after each section (point) of the sermon a song of response be included. It can go something like this, depending on how you structure your sermon and what your points are:

A. Where is the "real" world?
Response in song
B. Who is at the center of worship?
Response in song
C. Who participates in worship?
Response in song
D. How should we worship?
Response in song

Music/Song Suggestions

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 (children's 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)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Here are some suggestions for music and congregational song that would be appropriate for this service of worship. All service music is listed by hymn tune where applicable.

ARNSBERG/WUNDERBARER KONIG("God Himself Is with Us") PsH 244, RN 8, TH 166, 382, TWC 799

  • Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-752 [1989] (E-M).
  • Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M).
  • Leupold, A.W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M).
  • Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 6. Peters 6406 [1966] (E-M).

CORONATION ("All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name") PH 142, PsH 471, 630, RL 593, RN 45, TH 296, TWC 95, UMH 154

  • Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M).
  • Fields, Tim. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name. Augsburg 11-11006 [1999] (E-M).
  • Hancock, Gerre. Variations on Coronation. Paraclete PPM00037 [2000] (E-M).
  • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 2. SMP KK235 [1982] (E-M).
  • Whitford, Homer. Five Choral Paraphrases, set 2. H.W. Grey GB 355 [1949] (E-M).
  • Wold, Wayne L. Partita on Coronation. Selah 160-645 [2001] (E-M).


  • Hayes, Mark. Lord Be Glorified, vol. 3. Word 301 0084 315 [1995] (M).


  • Sherman, Arnold. Crown Him Lord of All. Agape 1891 [1997] (3-5 octaves, level 3).

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

  • Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000].

GROSSER GOTT ("Holy God, We Praise Your Name") PH 460, PsH 504, RL 619, TH 103, TWC 3, UMH 79

  • Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-754 [1991] (E-M).
  • Held, Wilbur. Hymn Preludes for the Pentecost Season. Concordia 97-5517 [1979] (E-M).
  • Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 5. Morningstar MSM-10-760 [1998] (E-M).
  • Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (D).
  • Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 8. Concordia 97-5342 [1979] (D).
  • Peeters, Flor. 30 Chorale Preludes, set 3. Peters 6025 [1950] (M).


  • Wiltse, Carl. Holy God, We Praise Your Name. Stained Glass SGM-136 (4 octaves/3-4 octaves handchimes; level 4).


  • Ferguson, John. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name. GIA G-3167 [1988] (M).

LAUDA ANIMA ("Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven") PH 478, PsH 475, RL 144, RN 53, TH 66, 76, TWC 26, 194, 766, UMH 66, 100

  • Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 5. Morningstar MSM-10-755 [1993] (E-M).
  • Haan, Raymond H. Festival Hymn Preludes. SMP KK329 [1985] (E-M).
  • Hobby, Robert A. Partita on Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven. Concordia 97-6082 [1991] (E-M).
  • Hustad, Don. Three Organ Hymns for Weddings or General Use. Hope 341 [1970] (E-M).
  • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 6. SMP KK339 [1986] (E-M).
  • Manz, Paul. Two Pieces for Festive Occasions. Morningstar MSM-10-840 [1990] (E-M).


  • Dobrinski, Cynthia. Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven. Agape 1974 [1998] (3-5 octaves; level 3).

Alternative Harmonization for Organ/ Concertato :

  • Ferguson, John. Praise, My Soul the King of Heaven. GIA G-3073.

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000].

NICAEA ("Holy, Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty") PH 138, PsH 249, RL 611, RN 204, TH 100, TWC 2, UMH 64, 65

  • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Nicaea . Morningstar MSM-10-709 [1996] (E-M).
  • HonorĂ©, Jeffrey. Classic Embellishments. Augsburg 11-11005 [1999] (E-M).
  • Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M).
  • Post, Piet. Fantasie over het lied "Heilig, Heilig, Heilig." Ars Nova nr 493 [1961] (E-M).


  • David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M).


  • Wagner, Douglas E. Festival Piece on "Nicaea." Jenson 466-06019 [1983] (3 octaves; E-M).

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

  • Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968].

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Organ, Anne Krentz, & John Helgen. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000].

ST. DENIO ("Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise") PH 263, PsH 144, 460, RL 7, RN 46, TH 38, 95, 349, TWC 62, 383, UMH 103

  • Carlson, J. Bert. Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (E-M).
  • Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-753 [1990] (E-M).
  • Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999] (E-M).
  • Haan, Raymond H. Welsh Hymn Tune Preludes. SMP KK426 [1989] (E-M).
  • Held, Wilbur. Those Wonderful Welsh, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-842 [1992] (E-M).


  • Wagner, Douglas E. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise. Agape 1238 [1986] (E-M, 3 octaves).

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

  • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 5. Ludwig O-14 [1992].
  • Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968].

Additional Choral Resources:

  • HonorĂ©, Jeffrey. "How Can I Keep From Singing?" Choristers Guild CGA-567 [1991] (E-M).
  • Harris, Ed. "The Never Ending Song of Praise." Hinshaw HMC-913 [1987] (E-M).
  • Handel, G.F. "Worthy Is the Lamb." Schirmer 5426 (D).
  • Smith, Byron. "Worthy To Be Praised." Lawson-Gould 52654 [1993] (M-D).

* * * * *

Looking Ahead to Advent

Your worship planning for Advent should be underway, so perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of Advent and some of the issues involved in worship planning for the season.

It's highly important that we remember that Advent is more than just pre-Christmas. It is a season that has significance all its own. The incarnation of God's Son is such a large event that it takes a larger season to grasp its full significance. Incarnation is such an extraordinarily rich story; hearing it must be a journey that will draw us closer to the birth of the Messiah each week.

Advent is both narrative and thematic. That is, it deals with specific events of God's "coming" in Christ's birth, and with theological themes associated with God's reach to sinful humans for the sake of redemption. Advent will, therefore, is associated with a wide range of emotions-anticipation, wonderment, penitence, waiting, and joy. But the foundation of all is hope, eagerness and anticipation that are fueled with hope.

So in our planning for Advent we will find that we cannot escape the tension in this season. Christ has come, but God has not yet brought the final end of all things. Our Redeemer is here, but not all is yet redeemed. God's has given a great gift, but we wait for an even greater gift. Our reflections and Scriptures will need to be selected in a way that will retain this tension.

An Advent Series

In these planning resources, we will begin the Advent season on November 28. A series of messages and services will be provided under the general theme "The Gifts of Christmas." They will follow this pattern:

November 28 - "The Gift of Anticipation" (The Gifts of Christmas - #1), Isaiah 25:6-26:4. As Isaiah holds up a future day of rich blessing before Israel, and calls them to anticipation, so God holds before his people the spirit of reaching for the future when his full blessings will be known.

December 5 - "The Gift of Patience" (The Gifts of Christmas - #2), Romans 8:25. Patience has two sides-waiting and persevering. God's gives both of these to us as we eagerly wait.

December 12 - "The Gift of Hope" (The Gifts of Christmas - #3), 1 Peter 1:3. Hope is both something we do and something we have. God gives us firm hope by his previous actions and by his faithful promises.

December 19 - "The Gift of Revelation" (The Gifts of Christmas - #4), Hebrews 1:1-4. God is the divine communicator who came to reveal himself. In the midst of conflicting voices today, we turn our ears to the revealing voice of God through the ages.

December 24 or 25 - "The Gift of Joy" (The Gifts of Christmas - #5), Isaiah 12:1-6, Luke 2:8-20, Isaiah 40:9-11. Joy is known throughout the Old Testament but we recognize it more fully in the coming of Christ. We are called to celebrate and proclaim the joy.

Lectionary Readings for Advent

Since this is Year A, the following are the suggested Lectionary readings for the season of Advent and the Sundays immediately following:

First Sunday Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

Second Sunday Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

Third Sunday Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:47-55
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

Fourth Sunday Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas Eve Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

Christmas Day Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12)
John 1:1-14

First Sunday after
Christmas Day Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

Second Sunday after
Christmas Day Jeremiah 31:7-14
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:1-9 or 10-18

Epiphany (January 6
or Sunday before) Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Decisions to Be Made for Advent Worship

You likely will have your own long list of decisions that will have to be made in preparation for Advent worship. Here we suggest a few that will start your thinking.

1. When will the sacrament of the Lord's Supper be included during the Advent Season-the first Sunday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, some other time?

2. Will we worship on Christmas Eve? Christmas Day? Will one of these services be a candlelight service?

3. Which of the services of worship associated with Christmas will be the most likely entry point for visitors? How can we make this service very accessible and understandable to them? How will we publicize this to our community?

4. What visuals should we be preparing for the Advent season? How can we make our worship space visually consistent with the spirit of Advent?

5. How will we plan to incorporate children into the Advent season of worship? What roles of leadership will they fill? How can we prepare them to handle such roles well? Will we have children's messages for them? Who will lead such messages?

6. What music ministries will need to be planned? How can we aid the director(s) with adequate information early enough for careful planning and rehearsals?

7. Will we include the Advent wreath in our worship? What script will we use? Who will participate? Who will prepare the participants? (If you are looking for script and ideas for the Advent candles, you can find both in The Worship Sourcebook, recently published by Faith Alive Christian Resources, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and Baker Book House, pp. 432ff.)