Advent, Worship and Outreach
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The Season of Advent is a wonderful, historically rich time of preparation, contemplation and celebration revolving around the coming of Christ in human flesh. As the fulfillment of prophecy, and the height of redemptive activity, God intervenes in the course of human events to restore what was lost due to Adam’s disobedience. For centuries, the Church followed the liturgical calendar and considered the themes of the Advent Season, but for many this practice was long ago forsaken. Advent is, in fact, the beginning of the Church year.
Let us consider Advent and how it might become special once again. Specifically, how can we utilize the Season of Advent and its themes to both regain some historical connection with the ancient church, and help our neighbors see the reality that Christ is the answer to life and renewal? How can we allow the richness of this season to once again take an important place among the commercialization of the holiday?
It seems to me that many Christian groups, by distancing themselves from historical traditions, have done a disservice to the Body of Christ. We could also make a case that some in more staid traditions have lost a connection with history and its traditions, giving in to more modern leanings. Certainly, we are warned by Paul to beware of the “traditions of men” (Colossians 2:8), however, if we are honest with ourselves we will notice that there are many traditions in which we participate that are healthy and God-honoring. By reviving the celebration of the Advent Season, we can redevelop a particularly meaningful tradition.
“Advent” simply means “coming.” The Season of Advent celebrates the coming of Christ into the world – God becoming man and dwelling among us. Throughout this season there are themes that can be followed week by week to help us reflect upon differing aspects of His incarnation. The season begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving, includes four Sunday services, and ends with a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service. The themes of Advent may be described as follows:
Advent week 1: Vigilant waiting for the birth of Christ – This week focuses on remembering the experience of waiting. The Israelites waited for centuries for the Messiah to appear, and the promise of His coming was first heard by Adam and Eve. In reality, the human race waited for the Messiah almost from the beginning.
Advent week 2: Personal preparation for the birth of Christ – The focus in this week is on personal evaluation. There is a reason that Christ came to dwell among us, and that reason is one that is found within each of us as sinners in need of a Savior. Here we consider our need for Him in a deeply personal way.
Advent week 3: The Joy of our waiting – The most celebrative of the Sundays of Advent, we celebrate with great expectation the day of the Lord’s coming. We celebrate His love for us and the wondrous work of salvation He comes to accomplish. Our celebration in community brings a special character to worship on this day.
Advent week 4: The incarnation of the Word in the womb of the virgin Mary – The mystery of the incarnation is that of God dwelling among men. He comes to us, and only in the beauty and grandeur of that action can we be drawn to Him. The incarnation is not a doctrine to be ignored in this important season.
Christmas Eve or Day: Celebrating His birth – Our waiting is over. He has come, and our waiting for this day has come! As faith communities and as families, we share with each other the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ.
There are many ways that each of these themes can be explored, and in doing so we can reclaim some awareness of why the life of Christ is so significant. This would be a worthwhile endeavor for those who knowHim, as well as those who need Him. For example, we might take each theme and simply as a question each week to explore the theme:
Week 1 – Why was the waiting for the Christ necessary? Why was it so important?
Week 2 – What are we preparing for? How do we prepare ourselves?
Week 3 – What is this “joy” that we can have in Christ?
Week 4 – Incarnation means what? And why does it matter?
Christmas – How does Christ fulfill our needs? (Sin and renewal)
Coming back to these themes each year allows us to build a common experience for all generations. Exploring the themes in different ways will help us find great depth in the Person of Christ and His work. Re-telling the story of the goodness of Creation, the tragedy of the Fall, and the Redemption in Christ will give opportunities for discussion for those who hear the story and consider its implications for their own lives.
There are many resources available online to help create these services. Some have altered themes, different themes, ideas for music (both traditional and contemporary), and other creative thoughts. Do some exploring, and re-discover for yourself the joy of the Season of Advent.
(Original Post on Nov. 28, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/20817-advent-worship-and-outreach)
Posted on November 24, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.