Advent 2016 Worship Series Overview

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

Even as we begin to see God’s way of compassion and mercy, we also– like Joseph – come to acknowledge our reliance on God communicating with us and transforming us, not just in our waking, conscious lives, but in our sleeping, unconscious lives as well.

In The Series

We’re at week four, the conclusion of Advent proper. We move from See last week to Dream this week. There is only so much of what God intends that we can see by simply observing with our waking eyes, our cognitive consciousness. Much of what God calls us into in this season goes unseen until we begin to enter into God’s dream that transcends our waking, conscious understanding. So if last week we found ourselves on a plateau viewing the vista anew, this week we find ourselves in a way transcending the plateau, perhaps even hovering above it, as it were.

Next Saturday night, we move into Christmas Season. We will shift after today from anticipating what Christ will make things be at his second coming toward celebrating the implications of his first coming for now. You could decide to make Advent and Christmas two distinct series. However, because Christmas season this year is very short (only two Sundays, including Christmas Day), we have planned these two seasons as a coherent whole.

Thus we end Advent proper with the theme of Dream this week and pick up with Peace, flowing from that sense of dream as the theme for Christmas Eve.

In This Service

So how do we generate the sense of transcendence implied by dream this week? We start this in the Entrance. We’ve suggested using ambient music or even soundscapes to accompany the procession. We hear the words of the ancient O Antiphons first in a whisper, then in quiet singing. And we intersperse the reading of the gospel with quiet singing as well, seeking God to open our eyes to God’s dream as we do so. And in the midst of that, we light the fourth Advent candle in silence.

The purpose of the dream in this story isn’t for Joseph to abide in it, though. From the dream, Joseph takes action, dramatically different action than he had determined was most appropriate in his waking consideration. So the sermon today becomes an opportunity not only to enter into God’s dream more completely, but to begin to take action and pray differently because of it. Thus we call attention to what we seek in prayer more intentionally this week, and we pray with a song underscoring our prayers.

As you come to the end of today’s service, be sure to issue a special invitation to the services you will offer this Christmas season (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Epiphany). On Christmas Eve, as an early reminder here, be especially keen on inviting folks back not only for Christmas services, but for the Season after Epiphany series as well, and since that series is about evangelism, on providing good ways for your folks to extend that invitation to others they know who currently have no church home.

DOWNLOAD the full Advent 2016 Worship Series [PDF]

Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork, and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário em português, Lecionário comum revisado

Isaiah 7:10-16 Prophecy in a time of national crisis: “King Ahaz, your problems will be resolved by God by the time the child born to a young woman is able to make moral choices.”

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (UMH 801)

Romans 1:1-7 Paul introduces himself and his ministry to the house churches in Rome.

Matthew 1:18-25 Matthew's account of the circumstances leading to the birth of Jesus.

Calendar Notes


Yes, we can begin to see God’s way of deliverance, compassion, and mercy in this world once we have “turned.” But in order to see fully, we need a transformation not only of our opened eyes, our conscious life, but our unconscious lives as well. Joseph shows us one way God does this—through our dreams, and our attentiveness to how God may speak to us through them.

Additional Resources

2013 Resources for Advent 4, Year A

Hanging of the Greens BOW 258, “When Should You Hang the Greens,” Hanging of the Greens Service

Advent Wreath Resources: BOW 262, 2016 Advent Wreath Meditations (based on Isaiah readings)

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo

In This Series...

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