Our worship services are planned carefully and thoughtfully. I (Pastor David) take a couple of hours each Monday morning to plan the next Sunday’s worship service. Each week I have a theme or an idea in mind, and my hope is that the theme or idea is conveyed and experienced by everyone in the worship service. But I am realizing that may not always be the case.
So each week I hope to give you a little description of the structure of our upcoming worship service, in order that you might have an idea of what to expect and how to prepare yourself spiritually for our weekly encounter with the ever-living God.
Worship is an important event: it is the time when we, as a body of believers, have opportunity to be in God’s presence together. Matthew 18:20 reminds us that Jesus is present with us whenever we gather together in his name.
With that in mind, the theme for this Sunday is “the joy of the Lord.” It’s the third Sunday of Advent, and we will light the third Advent candle – the pink one – which represents joy.
Here is the order of service and what each portion represents:
- Welcome/Announcements – We take care of the “business” of the church.
- Opening Prayer – We invite God’s presence into our midst.
- “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” – We sing a song of expectation, of yearning for God to be with us. The chorus says, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
- Isaiah 12:1-6 – This responsive reading (which we’ll mix into the previous song) is a song of praise to God for his salvation. We “shout aloud and sing for joy!”
- Lighting of the Advent Candle – We shine the light of Christ so others may experience his joy.
- “Joy to the World” – Is there any better Christmas carol to express our joy at the birth of Jesus?
- “There is Joy in the Lord” – This Church of God hymn continues the theme of joy by reminding us that God’s presence is the location of eternal joy.
- Offering – Out of thanksgiving and joy, we give our tithes and offerings to the Lord.
- “We Fall Down” – We prepare for encountering God in prayer by singing about “the greatness of [his] mercy and love.” Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us, deserves our full submission and reverence.
- Prayer – We quiet our hearts before the Lord and offer up our requests to him.
- Special – A musical selection gives us time and space to reflect on the joy of the Lord and on the Christmas season.
- Micah 5:2-5a – This Old Testament prophecy foretells the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea. This Savior will lead his people and will bring them peace – all the more reason for us to rejoice in him!
- Matthew 2:1-12 – The sermon text is this gospel story of the Magi (“Wise Men”) who followed a star, encountered Jesus, and presented him with valuable gifts.
- Sermon: “Following the Light” – The Magi followed the light and found themselves in Jesus’s presence. Perhaps we can do the same!
- “The Power of Your Love” – This closing song gives us time and space to reflect on the message. It expresses our desire to be in God’s presence and to be transformed by our encounter with the living Jesus.
- Benediction – We, like the ancient Magi, go our various ways. As we go in joy, we hold on to this one truth: we have been in the presence of God.