Advent 2016 Worship Series Overview

First Sunday of Advent, Year A

The series begins where Advent begins, with the call of Jesus to his disciples to stay on watch for the fulfillment of all things.

Music Notes

Watcher, Tell Us of the Night

Dividing this hymn into parts and using the tunes ABERYSTWYTH and MENDELSSOHN help bring the congregation into the story. Between the watcher and the narrator, the congregation participates in the narrative of Advent, when people anxiously await the coming of Christ. Because of the sense of anticipation that accompanies this hymn text, it could be sung in a variety of ways. It could be sung as a processional between the choir and a soloist or between a soloist and the congregation. The tempo/mood can vary between somber and foreboding (or at the very least, simple) or boldly confident. It is also possible to repeat the last two lines of each stanza to make the text parallel to the tune as it is printed in The United Methodist Hymnal.

Using the tune ABERYSTWYTH at the opening of the service allows the texts to be sung in a somber fashion. Concluding with MENDELSSOHN communicates our shared and joyous hope in the second coming of Christ. The good news is that either tune supports the text well, and you have a choice with how to set the tone of the service.

As presented here, “Watchman” is paired with a slight update of Charles Wesley’s original words for the text we know as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” The slight update is to replace Charles’s word “welkin” with its more modern equivalent “heaven.” Using Charles’s words provides just enough of a change to help draw attention to the text rather than get lost in the familiar tune (MENDELSSOHN) to which we have grown accustomed to singing it. Find a similar text here »

Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning

This African American spiritual can be found at the provided link to the Discipleship Ministries website and is an easy song to teach and sing. The song is quite simple, repetitive, and reasonably easy to sing a cappella. Other accompaniment can be used, however, whether it be piano, organ, guitar, or even a simple obligato on a flute. There are lots of creative possibilities in the use of this haunting song, and quite enough even to make the accompaniment different every week during the lighting of the Advent wreath. View and download the musical score for Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning »

O-so-so (Come Now, O Prince of Peace)

During the 2016 General Conference, a moving presentation of the status of the Korean peninsula shed light on the poignancy of this selection. Expressing the longing of North and South Korea to be reconciled and reunited as one people, this song beckons Christ to come and make reconciliation possible. This logically, then, becomes an expression of Advent longing. A simple and haunting melody makes this easy to teach and sing. Keep the accompaniment simple and allow this short text to shape the character of worship. Read History of Hymns: "O-so-so" »

Come, Lord Jesus, Come

Rounding out the possibilities for the lighting of the Advent Wreath, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come” is a four-word cyclic song that uses the tune BEERSHEBA, composed by Dean McIntyre for the song “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” (found in Worship & Song). Rising in a series of melodic sequences that remain in the ear long after singing them, this option presents the congregation with a simple way to sing in their hearts, even outside of worship, throughout the Advent season. The mourning character of the melody would be effectively played by a violin, whether before, during, or after the singing of the text.

Thank You, Lord

This gospel chorus must be sung passionately at a slow pace. If able, allow a choir to sing in 4-part harmony to accompany the congregation, and be sure to put space between “thank” and “you,” as written by William Farley Smith, in measure 7. If you have a soloist who is confident about improvising over the congregation, encourage her/him to sing a very short introduction every time before the congregation begins singing. Don’t be afraid to use piano, organ, bass, and drums all at the same time to make the singing of this brief chorus authentic and full. This song is very accessible, however, to congregations of all sizes and abilities and should be considered for this act of thanksgiving. View and download the musical score for Thank You, Lord »

Tino Tenda Jesu

Originally found in the book Global Praise 1 (published by the General Board of Global Ministries), this short, cyclic song of thanksgiving can also be found in The Faith We Sing and can either be sung in the traditional Shona (Zimbabwe) or English. The Shona, which roughly translates to “Thank you, Jesus,” is easy enough for any congregation. Pronunciation of the text is as follows: Tee-noh ten-dah Jeh-soo. The song can be sung with a very simple accompaniment with piano, organ, guitar, djembe, or a variety of other instruments. It can also be sung a cappella by a choir, somewhat improvised within the given chord structure.

Tandi Tanga Jesus

This selection, which translates to “I am thanking Jesus,” is recommended from the choral anthem setting by Bradley Ellingboe, published by Augsburg Fortress. Three languages are available in this setting: Namibian, Swahili, and English. Though written for choir, a congregation could easily learn this brief chorus as well. It can be accompanied by drums and piano or organ.


Another expression of thanksgiving, this short song translates to “Thanking You” and can be found in the publication, For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church, which is published by the Global Praise program of the General Board of Global Ministries. Possible languages used in this song include Juba, Arabic, Swahili, Bari, Luganda, and English. Musical leadership from a strong vocalist is a must with this song, and a choir helps dramatically. If a choir is not available, the melody and harmony can be played on piano, but the rhythm is key. Though quite teachable and accessible for a congregation, repetition is helpful because of the syncopation. Even if it takes a few weeks to teach the congregation, it will be worth it because this song will stick with you and give you a way to say thanks to God through your week!

Advent Sanctus

This new chorus within the Great Thanksgiving was created for this Advent season and, as you will find in week 2, is written to complement the use of the hymn, “Even So, Come,” by Chris Tomlin. Written by Jackson Henry, the chorus, “Heaven and earth are full of your glory,” repeats throughout this setting of the Sanctus, which features a lilting, yet longing melody. The voice is the primary musical leadership with this tune and can be accompanied by piano, guitar, organ, or band. Some rhythmic element, however, may be required to help with the tune itself. For instance, even if a piano is playing simple chords, the strum pattern of a guitar or a light djembe might make the hymn easier to sing. Using this in Eucharistic services throughout Advent will create a cohesiveness that will endure through the season.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

One of the most well-known hymns in Methodism, this text by Charles Wesley is often sung in churches on the first Sunday of Advent. Though Wesley often wrote many more stanzas to hymns than are included in our collections, this hymn was originally printed as two stanzas only. The brevity of the hymn creates both a longing for more and a sense of anticipation, signaling the beginning of the season of Advent. Though often sung with the bold tune, HYFRYDOL as found in The United Methodist Hymnal, the tune JEFFERSON may be even more fitting for this season, which is characterized by the present paradox of hope and despair. Read History of Hymns: "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" »

Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying

When considering this hymn, many people immediately think of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chorale Prelude on “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme,” BWV 645 (, which does serve as a wonderful way to introduce this hymn. The singing of this hymn requires a skilled choir and/or accompanist and would more than likely require its teaching somehow outside of worship if unfamiliar to the congregation. The investment is worth it, however, because of the vivid biblical imagery found throughout the work. A choir could sing this one stanza at a time at various points throughout the service (Prelude/Call to Worship/Processional/Anthem following the Scripture reading), concluding with the last stanza as an act of thanksgiving. This would allow the congregation to hear the melody and join in as a way to offer thanks to God. View and download a melody/chords-only setting of this hymn »

Come, O Redeemer, Come

One of the most haunting tunes in all United Methodist collections, “Come, O Redeemer, Come” can be used in any setting — traditional, modern, or other — with a variety of instrumentations, from a solo guitar, piano, or organ to full band. The plaintive nature of the melody serves the character of Advent well. The final refrain can even be sung in canon, with certain voices staggered one measure after the refrain begins.

View the Present through the Promise

Thomas Troeger has created a sense of prolepsis — bringing the future into the present — with this beautiful Advent hymn. One of the best features of the AR HYD Y NOS tune is that it creates a tercet of rhyming lines in the second half of each stanza, and Troeger rises to the occasion, ultimately choosing the timely word “waiting” at the end of the third tercet. This hymn can be sung congregationally, but another wonderful way to add a prophetic voice as a part of this hymn is to have your youngest children’s choir sing “Christ will come again” every time it occurs. Even if this is not possible, have the congregation turn inward, divide the room in half, and sing alternating phrases to one another (One side: “View the present through the promise”; Other side: “Christ will come again”). Hymn study: Read our View the Present through the Promise hymn study »

Until Jesus Comes

Dean McIntyre mastered the art of simple song when he wrote “Until Jesus Comes.” This rousing, easily singable chorus can be sung by congregations in varying worship styles at various times throughout the Advent season. Use of a heavy, gospel accompaniment is preferred, but it would also be possible to alter the style to a more folk-like quality using piano or guitar. If the song is unfamiliar to the congregation, it will take only a soloist or choir singing it one time for the congregation to join in. Read our Until Jesus Comes hymn study »

Wait Right Here

Found in The Africana Hymnal, this selection is an example of a “ring shout,” an African-American form from the prayer band tradition found in the low country of South Carolina and the Maryland eastern shore. Easily congregational, this unison song has a rhythm pulsing throughout the song that keeps the rhythm manageable, especially with a song leader and a choir to help it move along. However, a choir is not necessary for this song! The congregation is more than capable of singing this short, stirring song of waiting. Read History of Hymns "Wait Right Here" »

Already Here

Also contained in The Africana Hymnal, this song has a repetitive melody that would be great as a call to prayer during the Advent season. It is possible to sing the melody only with congregation or support with a vocal trio or choir on the Alleluias. The song has a short, cyclic form that makes it a wonderful selection for liturgical use. The preferred accompaniment is solo piano in most churches, but it could easily include an organ, band, or other instruments.

In This Series...

First Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Second Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Christmas Eve — Planning Notes Christmas Day — Planning Notes Epiphany Sunday — Planning Notes


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In This Series...

First Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Second Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent — Planning Notes Christmas Eve — Planning Notes Christmas Day — Planning Notes Epiphany Sunday — Planning Notes