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Worship Service: When God Breaks In: He Reveals Himself - Exodus 3

A service plan for Advent focused on Moses' experience of God "breaking in" to him at the burning bush and preparing him for the next big steps God was about to take. The first in an Advent series, beginning the period 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

Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting for God's act of "breaking into" world history for his redemptive work. This service begins the period of anticipation. The general theme of the entire season is that God breaks in, often at times and in ways that are unexpected. This service examines Moses' experience of God "breaking in" to him at the burning bush and preparing him for the next big steps God was about to take.


Prelude: "All Glory Be to God on High," Haan [organ]

The Call to Worship and to Begin Advent

Preparing for Christ's Coming (see the suggested format in material provided for October 19-see note above)
The First Reading - Exodus 19:1-6
Lighting the First Candle
*The Gospel Reading - John 1:1-5, 14
*Song: "Magnify the Lord" RN 131, SFL 13

*God's Greeting

People of God, as you anticipate the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whom are you
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Worshipers greet one another with the peace of Christ.

*Song: "Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies" (st. 1-3) PsH 481, TH 398

Offertory Prayer

Offertory: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," Behnke [organ] or Hamilton [piano] or Dobrinski [handbells]


The Children's Moment

*Song: "O Come, O Come, Immanuel" (st. 1, 3, 6) PH 9, PsH 328, RL 184, SFL 123, TH 194, TWC 133

The Reading of Scripture: Exodus 3:1-15

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Prayer for Illumination

O Lord, the one who breaks into the history of the world, and also into our personal stories, come to us today through your word. Illumine our minds to see clearly what this event meant for Moses. And also illumine our minds that we may experience how you are revealing yourself to us in our day. For the sake of your son, Amen.

Sermon: When God Breaks In He Reveals Himself (#1)

The Pastoral Prayer


*Song: "I Am the Lord Your God" (st. 1-3) PsH 199

The Welcome to the Table

The Approach to the Table

Lift up your hearts
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks,
it is our joy and our peace,
at all times and in all places,
to give thanks to you, Holy Father,
Almighty, Everlasting God, through Christ our Lord.
For he is the Savior, whom in your mercy and faithfulness you promised to man after his fall, that his truth might come to instruct the ignorant, his righteousness to purify sinners, his strength to sustain the weak.
Since the time is at hand when the one you send shall come, since the day of our deliverance is begun to dawn, with full confidence in your promises we live in joy.
Therefore with the whole company of saints in heaven and on earth, we worship and glorify you, God most Holy, and we sing with joy:

Song: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" (st. 4) PH 138, PsH 249, RN 204, RL 611, TH 100, TWC 2

Let us pray. Father, as the coming of your Son sets your people free, help us to become new persons in your creation. In the mystery of faith, take this bread and wine, and make it for us a remembrance and assurance that you have come. And hear our prayer together:
Our Father, who is in heaven . . .

Congregation in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord has prepared his table for all who love him and trust in him for their salvation. All who are truly sorry for their sins, who sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and who desire to live in obedience to him, are now invited to come with gladness to the table of the Lord. Come, then, for all is now ready.
We praise you, Lord, for these gifts of bread and wine.
We offer you ourselves
as your people in your service.
Blessed is the person who comes in the name of the Lord.
We will receive the bread of heaven,
we will drink the cup of salvation.
The gifts of God for the people of God!

Our Participation in the Bread
(a time for meditation and reflection)
Music for Meditation: "Jesus Shall Reign," Burkhardt and/or "Joy to the World," Ferguson

Our Participation in the Wine
(a time for congregational song)
"Jesus Shall Reign" (st. 1-3) PH 423, PsH 412, RN 296, RL 233, TH 441, TWC 745
"Joy to the World!" (st. 1, 4) PH 40, PsH 337, RL 198, SFL 137, TH 195, TWC 146
"Jesus Shall Reign" (st. 4-5)

The Prayer of Thanksgiving


*The Benediction with congregational Amen!

*Song: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" (st. 1, 3) PH 142, PsH 471, RN 45, RL 593, TH 296, TWC 95

Postlude: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," Whitford

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

The opening of this sermon should introduce the theme of the entire series of sermons for the Advent Season-"When God Breaks In." The fundamental conviction we have is that God is not removed and aloof as some say, but deeply involved in the course of events in our world and does "break in"-in big ways and small ways, often when we least expect it, and in ways that we least expect.

This particular sermon focuses on the way in which God broke into Moses' life. There are five dimensions of this event in Moses' life that serve as a model for our expectations. When God breaks in . . .

  1. We get to know God. It is an event of self-revelation on God's part. God comes close to tell us who he is: "I am . . ." (vv. 6,14).
  2. We get to know what God is like. Moses learned that God is not removed, but immanent, eternal, holy, and powerful.
  3. We get to know God's plans. In verses 7-10 God takes Moses into his confidence and shares what he has in mind to do.
  4. We become different people. Moses, now eighty years old, becomes a new person, and a whole new chapter in his life opens up.
  5. We do things we never thought we would. Follow the dialogue between Moses and God in 3:10-13 and 4:1-13 and watch how God requires and encourages Moses to take on a task of leadership he does not want!

Advent is a season, therefore, in which the excitement and anticipation builds as we prepare for God's big entrance. In succeeding sermons other personal stories will illustrate the same thing, leading us to expect the same in our lives.

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 on "All Glory Be to God on High" is found in "Festival Hymn Preludes" arranged by Raymond Haan and published by SMP KK329 [1985] (E-M). This piece is a set of variations on "Allein Gott," the text of which centers on Christ, his coming for us, and his sharing in God's glory.
  2. The organ offertory music by John Behnke is titled "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and is published by CPH 97-6909 [2001] (E-M). This is also arranged in partita form, each section of which can stand by itself. The piano arrangement by Gregory Hamilton can be found in "As the Grains of Wheat" published by Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7577-0 [2003] (M). The handbell arrangement for 3-5 octaves by Cynthia Dobrinski is published by Agape 1399 [1989] (M).
  3. If you incorporate music into the time of reflection and meditation during the participation in the bread, you may wish to consider either or both of the organ pieces. Both convey the spirit of celebration, but both also do it in a gentle way. "Jesus Shall Reign" [Duke Street], arranged by Michael Burkhardt, can be found in "Six General Hymn Improvisations," set 1, published by Morningstar MSM-10-846 [1992] (M). "Joy to the World," arranged by John Ferguson, can be found in "A Christmas Triptych," set 3, published by Morningstar MSM-10-141 [2000] (M).
  4. We have always found it very meaningful to the congregation when they have opportunity to express together their faith and their hope at the Table. That can be accomplished through song or through spoken word in either Scripture or Profession.
  5. The postlude on "Coronation" can be found in "Five Choral Paraphrases," set 2, by Homer Whitford, published by H. W. Grey GB355 [1949] (E).

Liturgy Notes

  1. Because the Advent season is beginning, it is wise to find ways to proclaim that by the visuals that are placed in the worship space. The Advent wreath and candles may be present. Banner(s), colors, and other visuals can aid in creating an Advent spirit that is immediately apparent.
  2. The Advent wreath lightings can aid the spirit of anticipation. Let lay persons take the lead in this, including entire families or groups within the church. Be sure to include those easily forgotten, such as children and singles. Let the participants visually communicate a message of acceptance of all ages, status, gender, etc.
  3. We have usually chosen to include the time-honored practice in the Christian church of standing for the reading of the Holy Gospel during the season of Advent. If that's new to your congregation you might consider explaining first that this is an ancient Christian practice that many churches across many denominations include in their worship today.
  4. When worshipers greet each other, it is helpful to remind them from time to time that the purpose is not merely to say, "Good morning," but to pass the peace of Christ by saying, "The peace of Christ be with you."
  5. The Children's Moment is an ideal time to introduce the children to the change of church season. Many children might be more familiar with Advent and its colors than their parents are. Ask them to identify what they can see in church that tells them this is a special season. Then explain the importance of Advent to them.
  6. The liturgy for the Lord's Supper given here is designed for use in Advent. Since the practice of each congregation varies so widely, we encourage you to do justice to your local practices and traditions, while yet honoring the historic tradition of approach to the Table of the Lord. Exercise creativity in balancing the historic and the local so that neither is lost.
  7. What is done during the communion will be determined by your local practice. When the elements are distributed to communicants in the pews, we often have a time of singing and of reflective readings with musical accompaniment. The length of these periods will be determined by the size of your congregation.