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The Gift of Anticipation - Isaiah 25

A service plan in an Advent series in preparation for Christmas focused on the anticipation of Christ's coming.

The Gifts of Christmas

Theme of the Service

The theme of this first sermon in the series is anticipation. God's people have always lived with a deep sense that God is and will be doing good things that will shape our future. Therefore believers look forward to what is coming. This anticipation marked believers in the Old Testament as they looked forward to the Messiah's arrival, and it marks believers today as we await the final consummation.

Today we begin the adventure of journeying through Advent.


Prelude: "Comfort, Comfort Now My People" [see <href="#music">music notes]

*The Call to Worship
Make ready a pathway for our God!
Let us cleanse our hearts and clean out our minds!
Center yourself in the love of God.
Let us know that we are his children.
Focus on the one who comes to love us.
Let us prepare a place in our hearts and our homes.
Set the table and light the candles.
For Christ is coming!

*Song of Hope: "Comfort, Comfort Now My People" (st. 1-3) PH 3, PsH 194, SFL 121, TH 197, TWC 132 [see <href="#music">music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


A Reading from Isaiah 11:1-9

*A Reading from Luke 4:14-21

*Song: "Gloria, Gloria" SNC 115, SFL 134

Lighting the Candle

Sung Prayer ("O Little Town of Bethlehem", st. 4 PH 43, 44, RL 193, 194, TH 201, 202, TWC 154, 155, UMH 230)
O holy Child of Bethlehem ! Descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in: be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.


The Call to Confession
As we prepare for Christ's coming
let us make our confessions to God.

Our Prayer of Confession
Lord God, our lives are filled with sin.
We forget our neighbor's needs
and do not love you above all else.
We need a Savior.
Help us to be ready for Jesus in our own hearts.
O come, O come, Savior of the world. Amen.

The Assurance of God's Pardon
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Your sins are pardoned.
The penalty is paid.
Thanks be to God.

God's Call to Grateful Living
Let us hear God's word as it calls us to new obedience.
What is the great and first commandment?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind.
What is the second commandment like it?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What does this mean?
Love is the fulfilling of the law.
To what does this call us?
To a life of faith working through love. (based on Matthew 22:37-40)

Anthem of Dedication: "Not for Tongues of Heaven's Angels," Hopp [see <href="#music">music notes]


The Offertory Prayer

The Offertory: "O Little Town of Bethlehem" [see <href="#music">music notes]

The Prayer of Intercession


The Children's Moment

*Song of Longing: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" (st. 1-4) PsH 329, RL 183, SFL 122

The Prayer for Illumination
Make us to know your ways, O Lord;
teach us your paths.
Lead us in your truth, and teach us,
for you are the God of our salvation;
for you we wait all day long.

The Reading of Scripture: Isaiah 25:6 - 26:6
The Word of the Lord!
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "The Gift of Anticipation" (The Gifts of Christmas - #1)

The Prayer of Application


Song of Approach to the Table: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" (st. 1-2) PH 5, PsH 341, RL 188, TH 193, TWC 167, UMH 626

God's Invitation and Promises

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Preparation of the Bread

The Preparation of the Cup

Our Participation in the Bread
(Please take time for personal reflection while the bread is distributed.) [see <href="#music">music notes]

Our Participation in the Cup
(While the juice is distributed, we will sing of our faith.)
"I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord" (st. 1-2) PsH 169, RN 111, TWC 30
"What Wondrous Love" (st. 1, 3) PH 85, PsH 379, RN 277, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212, UMH 292
"I Am the Lord Your God" (st. 1-3) PsH 199

Our Response of Praise and Prayer


*The Benediction with congregational Amen!

*Song of Praise and Thanks: "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (st. 1, 2, 4, 7) PH 466, PsH 501, RL 362/363, RN 32, SFL 19, TH 164, TWC 130 UMH 57

Postlude: "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," Cherwien [see <href="#music">music notes]

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

  1. Because this week is the beginning of a new season, it would be helpful to make reference to this new season in the introduction to the sermon. As appropriate to your church, note the changed appearance of the worship space, the colors, other visuals, and the lighting of the Advent candle. Explain the mood and spirit of Advent as that of longing for deliverance by those who are in darkness. It is always important that we make a distinction between Advent (which is preparation and anticipation) and Christmas (which is fulfillment and celebration). Referring to the comments we provided on November 14 concerning Advent may aid you.
  2. Spend some time clarifying the spirit of anticipation that is at the heart of Advent. Anticipation is when we believe that "the best is yet to be . . . and coming soon." Point out that people with such anticipation live differently because that anticipation becomes the spark of life. You can point to numerous Old Testament figures who lived with it-Moses, Joshua, David, the Prophets, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Mary.
  3. Show how the message of Isaiah is an excellent case in point for living with anticipation. Written at a dark time in the history of Israel, with the pain of captivity hanging over them, they looked forward to a new day when God would fulfill all his promises and bring new life. This anticipation of new light and life also is at the heart of the preparations for the birth of Christ. With this series entitled "Gifts of Christmas" we focus on the fact that the privilege of anticipating is a gift of God. When he shows himself as a God who acts faithfully to fulfill all his promises, then we have been the given the gift that makes it possible for us to anticipate good things in the future.
  4. Such anticipation is still a gift from God to us as we look forward to the future. Christ has come, but he will come again. The eschatological view causes the throb of our anticipation to continue. Our faith, celebrated at the table, reaches for the fulfillment of the future. People of faith live with anticipation that God is coming and will do his good work!

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 (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)

1. The music suggestions for the prelude, all of which are based on "Comfort, Comfort Now My People" (FREU DICH SEHR/GENEVAN 42) can be found in the following sources:


  • Kosche, Kenneth T. Four Organ Preludes for Advent. Morningstar MSM-10-020 [2004] (E-M).
  • Man, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (E).
  • Pachelbel, Johann. Selected Organ Works, vol. 4.Barenreiter 1016 (E-M; most of this partita does not include a pedal part and could be adapted to piano).


  • Dobrinski, Cynthia. Comfort, Comfort Ye My People. Agape 1861 [1996] (3-5 octaves with optional flute and hand drum, level 3/4).

2. An alternative harmonization for the opening hymn can be found in Michael Burkhardt's Festival Hymn Settings for the Christmas Season, set 1, Morningstar MSM-10-126 [1995].

3. The sung prayer can be sung to either ST. LOUIS or FOREST GREEN.

4. The SATB anthem "Not for Tongues of Heavens Angels" by Roy Hopp is based on 1 Corinthians 13 and is published by Selah 425-812 [1991] (E-M).

5. The offertory suggestions are based on the prayer sung earlier in the service. (Suggestions are given here for both FOREST GREEN and ST. LOUIS.


  • Hildebrand, Kevin. Triptych on "Forest Green." Morningstar MSM-20-165 [1999] (organ and C instrument, E-M).
  • Leavitt, John. A Christmas Suite. Augsburg 11-10857 [1998] (E-M).
  • Purvis, Richard. Seven Chorale Preludes. Fischer 0 3450 [1949] (E-M).


  • Semmann, Barbara. Reflections on Forest Green. National Music Publishers HB-266 [1987] (3 octaves, E-M).


  • Hobby, Robert A. Three Christmas Preludes. Morningstar MSM-10-145 [2000] (E-M).
  • Sedio, Mark. Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ. Augsburg 11-10718 [1996] (E-M).

6. An alternative harmonization for "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" (STUTTGART) can be found in David N. Johnson's Twelve Hymn Settings for Organ, Schmitt 7634 [1976].

7. During the passing of the bread you may wish to play some music suited for meditation. The following pieces are based on "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" (PICARDY).

  • Burkhardt, Michael. Four Hymn Improvisations for Holy Week. Morningstar MSM-10-318 [1995] (E-M).
  • Kosche, Kenneth T. Four Organ Preludes for Advent. Morningstar MSM-10-020 [2004] (E-M).
  • Travis, Albert L. Prelude on "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence." Morningstar MSM-10-821 [1991] (M).
  • Warner, Richard. Organ Music for the Communion Service. Concordia 97-1395 [1956] (E-M).


  • Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000] (E-M).


  • Tucker, Margaret R. Communion Meditations. Choristers Guild CGB331[ 2003] (3-5 octaves, level 2).

8. The organ postlude, "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (AZMON), is arranged by David Cherwien in Groundings, Augsburg 11-11119 [2001] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes:

  1. Be sure that the visual appearance of the worship space delivers a message to all worshipers as they enter so that it is obvious they have come to a new season. The beginning of Advent is the beginning of the new Christian year. The colors and other visuals should communicate that.
  2. Within the service we include one method and form for the lighting of the Advent candles. Many different forms for this action are available. You will find other alternatives in The Worship Sourcebook (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Faith Alive Christian Resources, Baker Books, 2004, pp. 432-440). It is important to include lay leaders from the congregation in lighting the candles. Each week should include Scripture readings (preferably both Old Testament and New Testament), prayer, lighting an additional candle each week, and perhaps a song that is the same each week. We have normally included the practice of asking worshipers to stand for the reading of the gospel during this season.
  3. During the Advent season we will be using the same elements for the Service of Renewal each week, as well as for the Prayer for Illumination. Using some elements repeatedly brings cohesiveness to a season of worship.
  4. The children's moment should provide an explanation of the beginning of Advent. Perhaps the children are familiar with the change of seasons from their church classes. Sometimes they are more aware of the changing church seasons than adults are. Let them notice the colors and visuals, and then wonder with them what it all means and what "anticipation" is .
  5. Various formularies for the Lord's Supper can be found in The Worship Sourcebook (pp. 305-349, 460-461).