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.

Send Your Word

If your congregation is unfamiliar with this Japanese hymn, using it as a response will take a bit of teaching in your congregation. This can be done by observing the rubrics and allowing a soloist and/or ensemble to sing the first stanza as a prayer. Another means of integration would be having an instrumentalist play the tune as the “ambient music/soundscape” before the service begins. Sowing the musical seeds that come back later in a service can prove fruitful when encountering the hymn itself. Though the mood of the tune is somber and resembles lines akin to wailing, do not sing it too slowly. Written in 2/2, it needs to pulse, with each phrase being manageable by an average congregation member’s breathing.

Rain Down

This energetic song of dream and vision encourages us to look ahead boldly as we dream God’s dream for the world. This song is best sung by a congregation in the key of B-flat. Even in this key, however, the song leader will have to choose alternate notes during the bridge because the highest notes are too high for a normal congregation. Accompaniment would work with a band, guitar (Capo 1 if needed and play in the key of A), or a confident pianist.

Prayers of the People

A wonderful addition to the modern worship music catalogue, this service music represents what is possible when combining modern music and liturgy. Short, cyclic choruses become responses as a part of congregational prayer. The A and B sections (“You hear us calling” and “Lord, have mercy”) are both equally usable as prayer responses. If you listen to the YouTube link in the worship order, you will notice a rolling accompaniment with many different instrumentalists. This kind of accompaniment gives a pulse to the prayers and is encouraged. However, keep in mind that whatever kind of accompaniment is possible with the musicians in your church is OK! Again, simpler accompaniments are oftentimes the best. For a keyboard, play simple chords on each beat. For a strummed instrument, something light, slightly syncopated, but steady is the best option.

In the Bleak Midwinter

Christina Rossetti’s classic poem, combined with Gustav Holst’s idiomatic tune make for one of the best in British hymns on the nativity. The last stanza is particularly fitting during the offering, and it also fits well with this week’s Great Thanksgiving (“Now we’re ready to offer our whole selves to God”). Allow this to either be a congregational song or an offering by an ensemble. If sung congregationally or by a soloist with ensemble, continue in the key of D from the Prayers of the People and sing in a lower key than is found in the hymnal. There are also a number of choral and instrumental settings of this hymn. If you choose this option, print the last stanza in the worship order as a connection with the offering. Read History of Hymns: In the Bleak Midwinter »

A Strange Way to Save the World

Suggested as a band/choral anthem, this song presents some of Joseph’s questions that might be inferred from this week’s Scripture reading. Since Joseph is the focus of the scriptural narrative this week, offering these questions might be a good way to reflect upon the story, and it might give children some ways to approach the story with wonder.

Come, Let Us Dream

The language of “dreaming” has become a way for hymn writers to address justice in modern hymns. John Middleton has incorporated familiar language from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a commentary on what God’s dream would be for our world, particularly as embodied within God’s reign. The O WALY WALY tune is one of the more singable folk tunes in our repertoire and can be accompanied by any combination of instruments. Read our "Come, Let Us Dream" hymn study »

I Have a Dream

Another poignant setting of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, the late British minister Pam Pettitt crafted a hymn of justice that calls us forth to work to make the dream reality. To read more in depth about this interesting hymn, refer to this History of Hymns: I Have A Dream article. The ideal accompaniment for the REPTON tune is either organ or piano.

What Feast of Love

This Communion hymn by Delores Dufner is well suited for this season, particularly because of the incorporation of the tune GREENSLEEVES. The text addresses the food, hope, and drink found at the table and beautifully addresses the Incarnation as “the bread,” “the sun,” and “sweetest wine,” all “come down from heaven.” The accompaniment can be as simple as organ or piano, but the folk nature of this English melody can come to life when accompanied by a guitar or other plucked string instrument, along with a wind instrument, such as a flute. Read History of Hymns: What Feast of Love »

Open the Eyes of My Heart

“Open the Eyes of My Heart” has become one of the older standards in modern worship music. This hymn recalls the “Holy, holy, holy” language of the Sanctus from Revelation and can become both a song of praise and reflection as people encounter Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The best key for accompaniment and singing is the key of E, which also works very easily on guitar. It may be played by guitar, a band, or piano. If the organist is creative in simple accompaniments, it is also possible to provide warmth and texture with the right registration as guitars or percussion instruments provide the pulse. Review our "Open the Eyes of My Heart" hymn study »

I Thank You, Jesus

This rousing hymn from Worship & Song has quickly become a favorite in many congregations and serves as an effective expression of thanksgiving. The repeated text, “You brought me from a mighty long way,” is a sung Ebenezer of sorts and echoes to numerous Scriptures of God’s deliverance, including 1 Samuel 7:12 and 2 Samuel 7:18. Be sure not to sing this hymn too fast. Allow the music to swing, which can easily be done in this 12/8 meter. Any number of instruments can accompany this selection, including organ, piano, drums, bass, and electric guitar.

Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine

Though this is a familiar carol to many, it is not the easiest to sing because of its somewhat through-composed form (little to no repetition throughout the hymn). However, the tune presents a lilting lullaby that has the sentimental quality of many European carols. No matter the instrumentation used to accompany it, keep the inherent sway of the rhythm prominent to highlight the rocking quality of the tune. If your church has a handbell choir, another option would be to play a setting of this tune, such as “The Holly and the Ivy” (which incorporates “Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine” in the work), published by Choristers Guild (CGB602). Read History of Hymns: "Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine" »

One Holy Night in Bethlehem

In The Faith We Sing Worship Planner Edition, we find this “charming addition” to worship with some wonderful suggestions. Use the characters as inspiration to add drama to the service, and have women sing the refrain after stanza 2. Men can then whistle the melody after stanza 3, as indicated in the text of the stanza. Yes, your congregation has an opportunity for liturgical whistling! After all, the tune is aptly named WHISTLER’S TUNE. Read History of Hymns: "One Holy Night in Bethlehem" »

If I Could Visit Bethlehem

Brian Wren has created one of the most endearing nativity hymns by giving us a way to relate with the humanity of the holy family. The opening phrase, “If I could visit Bethlehem what presents would I bring,” seems to be a modern expression of the same sentiment found in Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” (“Yet what I can I give him: give my heart”). Written in what could be characterized as a standard hymn setting, the tune, CAROL STREAM, resembles one of Hal Hopson’s other tunes, MERLE’S TUNE, and easily supports congregational singing when accompanied by organ or piano.

Like a Child

Originally written with no capital letters and no punctuation, this hymn is one of Dan Damon’s most well-known texts and tunes. As surprised as Joseph may have been from the dream and the fulfillment of it, we may also be surprised in whom we see Jesus, and who we have to become in order to welcome in the reign of God. Whatever the accompaniment, keep it simple to allow the childlike nature of the tune to support the text. Read History of Hymns: "Like a Child" »

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