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Worship Service: When God Breaks In: He Accomplishes Great Things - Luke 1

A service plan for Advent focused on Mary's angel encounters, part of an Advent series of anticipation focused on what happens when God breaks in to our lives.

When God Breaks In

This series explores how Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting for God's act of "breaking into" world history for his redemptive work.

Theme of the Service

The Advent Season draws to a close on this Sunday. Anticipation comes to an end and we are ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.

For this reason we turn today to a New Testament passage in which the Holy Spirit meets Mary and explains what is about to happen. Both the angel and Mary share the conviction and confidence that God is about to accomplish "great things."

Our faith that God accomplishes great things by his power and his grace is, therefore, the theme of this service.


Prelude: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice," J. S. Bach [organ or piano]

The Call to Worship

Preparing for Christ's Coming:
Anthem: "How Far Is It to Bethlehem," Ferguson
The First Reading: Micah 5:1-5
Lighting Four Candles
*The Second Reading: Luke 2:1-7
*Song: "Magnify the Lord" RN 131, SFL 13

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Worshipers greet one another with the peace of Christ.

*Song: "O Little Town of Bethlehem" PH 44, RL 194, TH 201, TWC 155


Anthem: "I Wonder as I Wander," Niles

The Call to Confession: 1 John 1:5-10

Our Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of God's Pardon: Luke 1:76-79

Song of Gratitude and Praise:
"Song of Zechariah/Blessed Be the God of Israel" SNC 104
or "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" PsH 345, PH 31, RL 196, TH 203, TWC 171

God's Will for Grateful Living: Psalm 37:5-10


The Offertory Prayer

The Offertory: "Tell Out, My Soul," Powell

The Pastoral Prayer


The Children's Moment

*Song: "Tell Out, My Soul" PsH 478, RL 182, RN 130, TH 26, TWC 350
or "Song of Mary/My Soul Proclaims with Wonder" SNC 102

The Reading of Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: When God Breaks In He Accomplishes Great Things (#4)

The Prayer


*Song: "That Boy-Child of Mary" PH 55, PsH 352, SFL 130

or "This Is Your God/ Meekness and Majesty" RN 158, SNC 109

*The Benediction and Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice" PH 28, PsH 355, RL 218, TH 207, TWC 157

Postlude: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice," Cherwien

*you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

  1. Because the Advent season is coming to a close and we're ready to celebrate Christmas, this sermon turns from God's Old Testament "break-ins" to the New Testament story of Mary.
  2. In developing this story of Mary there are several elements that ought to be woven together. She was obviously at the very center of the Christmas events. Mary was young-just a teenager-and her natural reaction would have been surprise and fear. Mary seems to have sensed immediately that she was being catapulted into a very prominent role of service in the plan of God. The reality of a virgin birth is at the heart of the story of Mary. Mary's faith enabled her to become submissive and available for the plans of God.
  3. Our encouragement from the story of Mary should focus on her faith that made her available, though she surely could not understand these events any better than we can. But Mary's faith, though important, is secondary to what we must see as the sovereign and gracious act of God by which God broke into history and the life of Mary and provided a miraculous virgin birth to assure us that this Mediator would be able to "save his people from their sins." We may applaud Mary for her faith, but we must worship God for his acts of redemption!

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)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

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

  1. The prelude music can be found in the following sources: "Three Preludes on 'In Dulci Jubilo'" by J. S. Bach, published by Peters 356 [1953] (E-D), is a collection of three chorale preludes usually found separately in other volumes of Bach's works. These pieces could be played alone or as a suite. The piano selection is an adaptation of the final prelude in the above collection. Reginald Gerig arranged this chorale in his standard collection "Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales," published by Hope 251 [1959] (M).
  2. "How Far Is It to Bethlehem" is an anthem for three-part ladies voices by John Ferguson. It is published by Augsburg 11-10756 [1997] (E-M).
  3. The SSA anthem "I Wonder as I Wander" by John Jacob Niles is published by G. Schirmer HL50482419 [1955] (E).
  4. The offertory music based on the tune "Woodlands" can be found in Robert J. Powell's collection "Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart," published by Augsburg 11-10478 [1994] (E-M).
  5. The postlude, an arrangement of "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice," can be found in "Seasonal Interpretations, Advent/Christmas" published by Summa Productions SP-110 [1997] (E).

Liturgy Notes:

  1. In leading this worship service, it will be important to aid the worshipers in understanding that we are making a transition from Advent to Christmas. Many seem to believe that Advent and Christmas are basically the same thing. Worshipers need to understand the distinction between "waiting and anticipating" (which is Advent) and "celebrating his arrival" (which is Christmas). In the opening moments of the service, perhaps in the call to worship, that should become clear.
  2. The information previously posted for October 19 will aid you in preparing the readings associated with the Advent candles. Four candles are to be lit this week in preparation for the lighting of the Christ candle on Christmas or Christmas Eve.
  3. The pastoral prayer needs to have an extra level of sensitivity on this Sunday. While many are excited about the arrival of Christmas, others find their pain increasing because of tragedies during this past year, a new and fresh grief over the loss of a loved one, or some personal or family distress and brokenness that makes a holiday like Christmas particularly painful. If our worship is to be inclusive of all, the pain of such needy folks must be remembered in our prayers today.
  4. The Children's Moment is an ideal time to talk to the children about Mary. Such a personal story gets us away from moralisms and object lessons and gives us an opportunity to step into a biblical narrative with them. Explain her age, how she must have felt when the angel came, and what an example of faith she is for us when she said "OK" to God. You might want to wonder with them how her parents felt about all of this, and perhaps her brothers and sisters.
  5. The close of the liturgy should include the anticipation of returning in a few days for the celebration of all that Advent has been pointing to!


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