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The People with a Song - Psalm 147

A service plan showing the people of God as a singing people. Their song is a "new song" and reflects their faith in God and their remembrance of his mighty acts. Part of an Advent series focused on the tension between the message that "Christ has come" and "not all is yet accomplished."

The Songs of Advent

Theme of the Service

On the first Sunday of Advent, this sermon intends to introduce the entire series for the season. Its message is that the people of God are a singing people. Their song is a "new song" and reflects their faith in God and their remembrance of his mighty acts.


Prelude: "Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

Choral Announcement of Advent: "Waiting Carol," Kemp [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship

*Song: "Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes" PsH 335: 1-3, RL 251:1-3

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
People of God, where is your trust placed?
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.

*We Greet One Another

*Response: "Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes" PsH 335:4, RL 251:4


The Lighting of the Advent Candle [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

Song of Response: "In the Beginning Was the Word Eternal" PsH 218 (sung to tune VIOLA as in PsH 158)

Our Prayer of Confession [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]
Arise, shine: for your light has come.
O God, we live as if the light
had never defeated the darkness in the world or in us.
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
We confess that we ignore the Christ
you sent to be among us, to be in us.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.
We've kept the birth of your Son confined to the Christmas season
and do not yearn for his birth each moment in our waiting hearts.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Lord, you came to us in the fullness of time.
Forgive us for not opening our eyes to your coming.
It's time that we prepare for your coming.
Let the earth ring with song. Let the light break forth.
Let us all rejoice in the miracle of love.
Let Christ come into the fullness of our time. Amen. (The Worship Sourcebook, D.2.2.4, based on Isaiah 60:1-3)

Anthem: "When God's Time Had Ripened," A. Fedak [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Assurance of Pardon: Galatians 4:4-7

Song: "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come" PsH 198, RN 123 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

God's Guide for Grateful Living

The Children's Moment [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]


The Pastoral Prayer

The Offertory:
The Offering of Music: "Sing, Sing a New Song" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
We offfer our gifts for..


*Song of Preparation: "Sing, Sing a New Song" PsH 98
or: "Sing a New Song" SNC 1, RN 21

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Psalm 147
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon: The People with a Song
Songs of Advent 1
Text: Psalm 147:1-3, 12-14

The Prayer of Application


*Song: "Sing Praise to the Lord" PsH 149, TWC 346

The Invitation to the Table of the Lord [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Prayer of Consecration

Our Profession of Faith: Apostles' Creed or similar Creed

The Communion
Our Participation in the Bread
Our Participation in the Cup

The Prayer of Thanksgiving


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "When In Our Music God Is Glorified" PH 264, PsH 512, RL 508, RN 62, TWC 403, WOV 802 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

Postlude: "When In Our Music God Is Glorified" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

Advent, as a time of waiting, has often been a time of song. Psalm 147, as so many other Psalms do, makes it clear that God's people are a singing people. This world has much music, but the world's music is often in the performer/spectator pattern. There's something different about Christians because they sing together to God. This Psalm, which opens a praise section of the Psalms (145-150), paints the picture of the people of God responding to God's acts by breaking into song. There are 4 Old Testament words and 8 New Testament words for singing, and they all refer to an action on the part of God's people in response to what God says and does.

Psalm 147 is a Psalm that would fit in many different settings in the life of Israel. Some study of its content and context will tell you that Levitical Choirs probably used it in Temple worship, perhaps even at the dedication of the rebuilt walls in Nehemiah's day. As such it becomes a song that is appropriate whenever God's people find their hearts eager to celebrate God's good favors to them.

In general, the songs of God's people have certain characteristics:

  • God's people address their songs directly to God.
  • God's people sing their songs together as a group. They become harmonized and united.
  • God's people use music and instruments to help them carry the message of their hearts.
  • Their song is called a "new song" (see Psalms 96 and 98); that is, it is a song that comes out of a renewed life that has experienced grace.

This psalm will provide a smooth introduction to the remainder of your congregation's worship life during the Advent season. Point to the other songs that will be the basis for sermons (see the series plan above). Remind those gathered of the special worship events that are coming, such as Candlelight and Christmas Eve services. Help them clarify their identity as a singing people who join in the "chorus of the centuries."

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)

The suggestions for prelude and alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn can be found in:

CHESTERFIELD/RICHMOND ["Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes]

Bouman, Paul. Partita on "Chesterfield " CPH 97-020 [2003] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Hymns of Joy. Morningstar MSM-10-013 [2000] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 5. AMSI SP-102 [1985] (M)
Manz, Paul. Six Advent Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-002 [1990] (E-M)
Rowley, Alec. Choral Preludes based on Famous Hymn Tunes, vol. 2. Ashdown [1952] (E-M)
Willan, Healy. Ten Hymn Preludes, set 1. Peters 6011 [1956] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Thiman, Eric. Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Oxford ISBN 0
19 323210 3 [1937]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

The anthem "A Waiting Carol" by Helen Kemp is published by Choristers Guild CGA 555. It is scored for unison voices, keyboard, hand drum and optional recorder or flute. (E)

The anthem "When God's Time Had Ripened" by Alfred Fedak is published by Selah 405-214 [1992] and scored for SATB voices and keyboard. (E-M)

The hymn "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come" is also arranged as a concertato by Davis Folkerts. Originally published by CRC Publications 241-198-00 [1990], this anthem scored for SATB voice, piano and flute with optional guitar is now distributed by Selah. (E-M)

The offertory music is based on the hymn of preparation:

GENEVAN 98/118/RENDEZ Á DIEU ["Sing, Sing a New Song"]

Biery, James. Rendez a Dieu. Augsburg 11-11007 [1999] (M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 6. Morningstar MSM-10-763 [2002] (E-M)
Dahl, David P. Hymn Interpretations. Augsburg 11-10972 [1999] (E-M)
Farlee, Robert Buckley. Many and Great. Augsburg 11-11033 [2000] (E-M)
Hamersma, John. Composers Workshop, series 1. Calvin College (M)
McKay, George Frederick. Suite on Sixteenth Hymn Tunes. H. W. Grey [1950] (E-M)

The postlude, based on the closing hymn can be found in the following resources:

ENGELBERG ["When In Our Music God Is Glorified"]

Callahan, Charles. Voluntary on Engelberg . Morningstar MSM-10-702 [1990] (M)
Cherwien, David. Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] ( D)
Cherwien, David. Gotta Toccata. Augsburg 11-11008 [1999] ( D)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-757 [1994] (M)
Powell, Robert J. Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart. Augsburg 11-10478 [1994] (E-M)
Wallace, Sue Mitchell. Hymn Prisms. Hope 270 [1985] (E-M)
Wood, Dale. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 3. Augsburg 11-9320 [1974] (E)

Organ, Anne Krentz. Piano Reflections for the Church Year. Augsburg Fortress 11-11209
[2001] (M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. "The lighting of Advent candles dramatically depicts the growing expectation we have for the coming of Christ, the light of the world. This action most often functions as a call to worship, but it can also function as a response to the assurance of pardon or to the sermon. The traditional Advent wreath has four purple candles (lighted on the four Sundays of Advent) grouped around a white Christ candle (lighted on Christmas Day). The main symbolism portrayed by the wreath is the growing intensity of light as the candle lighting includes an additional candle each worship day and as anticipation builds for the celebration of Christ's second coming. Some congregations attribute particular meaning to individual candles, associating them with peace, joy, love, and light; with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi; or with other related aspects of Christ's coming. These associations may be helpful for a congregation at a particular time, but they are not in any way necessary to a worshipful celebration. Similarly, a tradition calling for the third candle to be pink is not especially important. It is based on a medieval tradition in which the second to last Sunday of Advent (and Lent) accented Christian joy in the middle of a penitential season."(The Worship Sourcebook, p.432)

We recommend using the readings for the Advent Candles, as provided in The Worship Sourcebook, pp. 436-438. This pattern of readings includes two readers or groups of readers each week to focus on the symbols of darkness and light. We encourage you to select readers that will reflect the intergenerational nature of your congregation.

2. You may want to consider including this prayer of confession for each of the four weeks of Advent. Often it is good to repeat a standard prayer during a special season. Some worshipers find that its impact increases each week as they focus on it. This prayer also follows the theme of the Advent Candles with an emphasis on darkness and light and allows for participation of those gathered.

3. The Children's Moment is placed immediately after the section of the service with the Advent Candles and the introduction of the Advent season. Ask them to look at the different visuals and colors in the worship space that remind them of Advent. Explain the purpose of the season and suggest that they join you in eagerly waiting for the birth of the Messiah.

4. As the congregation comes to the Table of the Lord to celebrate Holy Communion, the customary practices of your congregation and denomination will likely shape the form of the liturgy at this part of the worship service. If you desire, you will find many resources for the Lord's Supper in The Worship Sourcebook, p. 305 and following.