| Editorial |
You wouldn't know it by visiting the local mall or any other temple of commerce, but for most of the world's Christians, we are currently in the middle of the Advent season. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year. It's a time of expectation and longing that embodies the tensive space between the eschatological "already" and "not yet" - the "already" of the Divine Kingdom inaugurated at Christ's birth and the "not yet" of redemption's consummation at His return.
But I fear that for many of us December's only tension lies in the fact that we have "already" started shopping and have "not yet" finished. I'm not casting stones as one who "is without sin" (John 8:7). My polemic is one part criticism and two parts confession. I too am often guilty of a premature and consumeristic "Christmas" spirit. Sure, I lament the conspicuous consumption of Black Friday. And I join the groaning, eye-rolling chorus of voices crying "too soon!" as Christmas music invades our soundscape with Thanksgiving pie still on the table. But I inevitably get swept up in a diffuse December nostalgia and cheer that is grounded at best in family rituals, at worst in a pagan, pseudo-religious celebration of the economic cycle, and is in either case only nominally associated with the birth of Christ.
My appeal is not merely that we "remember the reason for the season," which can translate far too easily into "business as usual with a dash of swaddling clothes" or, worse yet, "business as usually with the divine sanction of Jesus' name." I suggest (albeit rather belatedly!) that we rethink the season altogether. It is an unfortunate irony that most Adventists do not celebrate Advent. The tradition could provide us with Biblical and liturgical resources for a much-needed counter-cultural resistance, offering concrete ways to affirm through worship that only Christ's blood can purchase what we truly need and only His return can satisfy our deepest longings.
I realize that many Adventist churches may not be eager to design their worship calendars around the traditional Christian year and the Revised Common Lectionary. But if there is one season in which Adventists could easily join with other Christians in stemming the tide of consumerism it is the one that so plainly embodies our ethos. As we prepare for this final Advent Sabbath before Christmas, let us ask how we might through symbol, song, and Word sound a note of counterpoint to all the cheerful Christmas festivities. May we acknowledge that the good news announced with Christ's birth still awaits full realization. And in this tensive space between Advents, may we commit ourselves to God's Kingdom work in a way that is rooted in gratitude for the past but that reaches toward a promised future when that which " we see in a mirror, dimly...we will see face to face" (1 Cor 13:12).
What ways do you suggest embodying the message of Advent on this final Sabbath before Christmas? How have you already celebrated Advent over the past three weeks?
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 In The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture, Dell deChant argues convincingly that the so-called "secular" aspects of Christmas celebration are actually an appropriation of longstanding cosmological, religious sensibilities that closely associate religion with economic cycles (for most of history, cycles of planting and harvest).
| Ecos de Adoración |
| |Reverencia y Gozo en los SalmosPor Andrés Flores
El libro de los Salmos es una colección de cantos y poemas que han sido entonados por creyentes en la comunidad judío y cristiana por más de dos milenios. Los Salmos se han convertido en un texto universal de adoración en la tradición cristiana. Jesús incorporó frecuentemente Salmos en su ministerio y oratorias y justo antes de morir, nuestro Señor recitó parcialmente un Salmo en su clamor al Padre: "Dios mío, Dios mío, ¿por qué me has desamparado?" (Mateo 27:46). Al dar su último respiro, Jesús invocó a Dios con otro Salmo: "Padre, en tus manos encomiendo mi espíritu" (Lucas 23:46). Los Salmos expresan la esperanza, fe y adoración del pueblo de Dios hacia su Creador. Un tema constante en ellos es la fusión de la reverencia y el gozo como respuesta del creyente en alabanza a Dios. El Salmo 2:11 exhorta al creyente a responder al Mesías prometido "con temor,Y alegraos con temblor." El concepto de adorar a Dios alegremente "con temor" podría sonar contradictorio al lector casual. Nuestra tendencia es separar el gozo de la reverencia y muy frecuentemente enfatizamos el gozo a costa de la reverencia o viceversa. Es claro que en los Salmos el gozo y la reverencia son respuestas que van tomadas de la mano. El salmo 95 comienza con una invitación a cantar "con júbilo al Señor" (Salmo 95:1), gradualmente, esta invitación se convierte en un llamado de reverencia: "Postrémonos reverentes, doblemos la rodilla ante el Señor nuestro Hacedor" (Salmo 95:6). En los Salmos, el gozo que se origina como una respuesta de adoración conducirá al creyente a alabar a Dios con genuina reverencia. El patrón de reverencia y gozo sirve como un modelo para el líder de Iglesia contemporáneo en el cual ambas respuestas se promueven de forma integral en las reuniones públicas de adoración y en la vida devocional del creyente.
| Worship and Culture |
Editor's note: What follows are the introductory paragraphs of an insightful article by Roberta R. King, which can be downloaded in its entirety here. This article is provided with permission from Fuller Theological Seminary's Theology, News & Notes, which originally published the article in their in Spring of 2006.
---The global tapestry of Christian music in the twenty-first century is weaving the strands of our lives together in stunning new ways. In the music of worship, the narratives of our lives are gathered up together as one before the throne of God. Centuries ago, the Psalmist declared, "All nations will come and worship before you, O God" (Ps. 86:9). Increased travel, large numbers of immigrants, and the changing sociological make-up of the evangelical church in North America make the Psalmist's long-anticipated reality one that is literally emerging within our churches as never before.
Whether we approve with its processes or not, we live in an era of increasing globalization. While multinational corporations are moving beyond the borders of continental North America in search of economic power, large numbers of immigrants and refugees are migrating into the Western Hemisphere. Shifting boundaries and exposure to peoples from the nations are interacting with one another in dynamic and fluid ways. Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques, once located on the other side of the world, have found dwelling places in the West. New configurations of culture are
weaving their way into the warp and woof of North American society.
[Continue reading this article by clicking here to download it or here to read it online]
| Worship Planning |
As Adventists, we have long been accustomed to eagerly seeking Christ's glorious second coming, the titular "advent" of our denomination's name. So what better way to anticipate this coming than the season of Advent, when we remember Christ's second and first advents? This is a time of memory and hope; it is also a time of surprise as we experience little contemporary advents of God in our life.
Even though the season of Advent - which is the four weeks before Christmas - is nearly over, there's still time this Sabbath to remember the advent of God in our lives - advents both big and little, past and future, hoped for and unexpected. Here are some suggestions for celebrating the last Sabbath of Advent.
· Read Matthew 1:18-25. As you read, either in your personal devotions or with your worshiping congregation, listen for how God comes to Joseph. How does Joseph react? He is prepared to quietly leave Mary because of her pregnancy. Are there any advents of God in our lives that we might miss because we are too concerned with being upstanding and righteous?
· Matthew 1:23, "...'they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means, 'God is with us.'" How is God with you? Invite someone to share a testimony about a time when God's presence was clear in his or her life.
· Bundle up in scarves and mittens for an Advent walk around your church's block looking for spaces where God's presence with us - Emmanuel - peaks through. Make sure to remember carols and cider in the Fellowship Hall afterwards!
· Sing through O Come, O Come Emmanuel... even the obscure verses (there are a lot of them!).
· Get reacquainted with some of the great Advent songs in our hymnal: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus; O, When Shall I See Jesus?; Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent; and Of the Father's Love Begotten.
· Try out a new Advent song: This is Our God, by Chris Tomlin; Here I Am To Worship, by Matt Redman; Here is Our King, David Crowder Band.
· How can your congregation be God's advent for each other? In other words, bear witness to the God With Us by bearing withness.
· Read one of the great Advent scriptures from the prophet Isaiah: 2:1-5, 7:10-16, 11:1-10, 35:1-10, among many others.
· What are you waiting for? In a discussion group, share the places in your lives where you long for God's presence.
This is the Advent of our Lord, the One who was, and is, and is to come. Let us wait with one another in celebration, longing, and hope.
| Worship and Prayer |
We first got involved with prayer rooms many years ago through God Encounters, and they have since become part of what we do on a regular basis. The first thing many people ask us when they first hear about a Prayer Room is, "What is it?"
Here's how Heather Margay, our Prayer Room designer, would answer that question:
"A prayer room is first and foremost a living room - a place where the Father waits for His children to come and climb into His LOVING Arms. It's a place where we can experience peace so that we can make peace later; a place where we can accept forgiveness so that we can live our lives as priests at work; a place where we receive our Father's acceptance so that we can love even those who laugh at us later in the day. Biblical worship involves all 5 senses, the whole person loving God with all that is within them. A prayer room tunes into an ancient biblical theme: that of the tabernacle - a mobile prayer room as God's people traveled the desert, a place for God to dwell."
How does a Prayer Room work?
It provides an opportunity for intercessory prayer. It allows for your creative expression to praise and kneel before our Father. A prayer room provides a sanctuary from the hubbub of everyday life, for a place to be still. It is a HOLY Space that is set apart for you to experience an authentic encounter with our GOD in a reflective and tangible way.
Part of the beauty of a prayer room is the flexibility of the one who is praying to spend 5 minutes or 45 minutes in prayer. For those who are beginning a prayer journey, the Prayer Room experience guides them through a series of very specific prayers on a specific theme. And for those who have made prayer a way of life, it gives a new way of expressing things that otherwise might have become mundane.
This coming year we will be creating a Prayer Room experience at Florida Hospital Altamonte for patients, employees and the community every month for an entire week.
If you have any questions about creating a Prayer Room feel free to contact us.
| Worship in Action |
Video Submission: Church of the Advent Hope
|Click to watch video now|
We are looking for video submissions that introduce our readers to various ways that churches are putting their worship into action by addressing needs in their communities. Please record your short video using a something as simple as an iPhone and send it to us for posting. Large files can be sent for free using www.sprend.com or similar web sites.
Click here, to watch a submission from Todd Stout at Church of the Advent Hope.
| Worship Resources from the NAD Church Resource Center |
Christmas Program Resources
Do you have all of your Christmas program lined up yet? Here's a really easy program that takes very little preparation. This Christmas reading gives the narrative of Christmas taken from Jerry Thomas's update of Desire of Ages entitled Messiah
. You can download the script for this progam here
: Thanks to Pacific Press for making this available at no charge.
Are you looking for screen graphics for your Christmas service? Let it Be
takes the message of the incarnation and wraps it in a contemporary package with a visual of an ultrasound image. The graphics include a video with or without narration; as well as three slides. These graphics are available at no charge via the Pastor's DVD volume one. They are also available for purchase from Lumicon
Another alternative for screen graphics for the Christmas story is a set of slides and a video of Joseph and Mary. This set is available at no charge via Pastor's DVD volume eight entitled Bible Graphics Studio
. There are thirteen customizable slides in this slide set. You can also download the video here
| To the Point |
"A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes ... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.
"I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses."
"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?"
"If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!"
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
| Publishing Information|
| ||Best Practices for Adventist Worship is a Vervent publication of the NAD Church Resource Center. Editor: Nicholas Zork (email). You may republish pieces from Best Practices in your own newsletter or blog, with attribution to the Best Practices for Adventist Worship newsletter and the author. Permission should also be secured from the author.|
We welcome your feedback and ideas.