Multi-Media Resources for Advent

Looking for media to complement your Advent worship services? Here are some resources for videos, pageant scripts, storytelling, and sanctuary decor!

VIDEO

PAGEANTS

STORYTELLING

DECOR

  • Create a star by drilling holes in a piece of plywood. Hand out glow sticks to congregants, and invite them to come forward to light the star.
  • Feature a Jesse tree: plant a dead branch in the middle of the sanctuary and decorate with ornaments representing the old testament stories leading up to Christ’s birth.
  • Make candle-light services safer for kids by offering battery-operate candles for little ones to hold.

ACTIVITY STATIONS

  • Try targeting experiential learners (millennials and toddlers alike!) with an interactive Advent experience. Create contemplative prayer stations that are sensory driven–textures (straw or hay from the manger, lamb’s wool, pine needles), tastes, smells (frankincense, myrrh, pine, cinnamon), and sounds that connect to the holiday season and the Christmas story.

Christ the King: Lessons and Carols Liturgy

Thanks to LeAnn Hodges for sending us this liturgy for Christ the King Sunday that takes a Lessons and Carols approach to teaching the liturgical calendar!

WE GATHER AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD

FOR YOUR REFLECTION The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. ~ Joan Chittister

WELCOME

OPENING VOLUNTARY CALL TO WORSHIP

L:         Who are you?
C:         I am a child of God.
L:         Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”
C:         Let us, God’s children, answer God’s call.
L:         Let us worship God, our Creator and Savior.

OPENING PRAYER
L:         Let us pray:
C:         God of majesty, you love us more than we can imagine. In Jesus Christ you reconciled the whole world to you and claim us as your own, so that we may live as Christ’s body on earth. We give you thanks for the lives we have been given. We pray in your holy name, great Trinity of Love. Amen.

* OPENING HYMN “We Gather Together” #336

WE LISTEN TO GOD’S WORD

Advent

Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ: preparation to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, to receive faithfully the risen Christ who comes to us in Word and Spirit, and to await with hope Christ’s coming in final victory. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.”

Dates of the Season: Advent is the four weeks, including the four Sundays, before Christmas Day.

Colors for the Season: The color is purple, which symbolizes both penitence and royalty.

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” #88 (Stanza 1) O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that morns in lonely exile here until the son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Christmas Season

Christmas Season is the time of celebration, thanksgiving, and praise for God present with us in Jesus Christ. Christmas Day was first celebrated on December 25 in Rome sometime between 336 and 354 C.E. A pagan winter solstice festival, the birthday of the unconquered sun, was already celebrated on December 25. Christians adopted that date to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. Christians have often adapted and transformed the customs of the world around them.

Dates of the Season: Christmas Season begins with Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and continues through the Day of Epiphany, January 6.

Colors of the Season: White and gold

Scripture: Luke 2:1-7

Hymn: “Joy to the World” #134 (Stanza 1) Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Epiphany

The word Epiphany is from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means “manifestation.” On the Day of Epiphany, January 6, we celebrate Jesus being revealed to the world and the visit of the wise men, the first gentiles to whom he was made known. Scripture doesn’t say how many wise men came to Bethlehem. At various times tradition has set the number from two to twelve. However, because three gifts are mentioned, we usually think of three wise men or Magi.

Celebration of Epiphany: When January 6 falls on a weekday, churches that do not have services on the 6th may celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday before or after.

Colors for Epiphany: White and gold

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

Hymn: “What Star is This, with Beams So Bright” #152 (Stanzas 1 & 2)

Lent

Lent is a season of preparation for the celebration of Easter. The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon lencten, which means “spring,” the time of the lengthening of days. At first Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism on Easter Eve. Eventually, Lent became a time of reflection and self-examination for all Christians.

Days of Lent: Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Saturday before Easter. Lent lasts forty days, not counting Sundays. Sundays aren’t counted because Sunday always celebrates Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

The Color for Lent: Purple, a royal color that also signifies penitence and preparation.

Scripture: Mark 8:34-37

Hymn: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” #223 (Stanza 1) When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count by loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Good Friday

In Old English usage good meant “of God.” Good Friday is God’s Friday: Jesus’ death shows God’s salvation.

The Date of Good Friday: Good Friday is the Friday before Easter.

Colors for Good Friday: The worship space is either void of decoration and color, or black is used.

RECONCILIATION
L: With sincere and repentant hearts, let us name our sins against God and one another. Join me as we pray in silence.

SILENCE FOR INDIVIDUAL PRAYER AND MEDITATION L: Amen.   ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
L:         This is the good news: God remembers!  Not our sins, not our foolish lives, not our rebellion. God remembers us –  and redeems us!
C:         God prepares the way for us – the way to grace, to hope, to new life.  Joyfully, we offer our thanks to God. Amen.

SINGING WITH THANKSGIVING “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” #223 (Stanza 4) Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

The Easter Season

The Easter Season, also known as the Great Fifty Days, begins at sunset on Easter Eve and continues through the Day of Pentecost. At this season we celebrate with joy Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit on the first Easter (John 20:22-23) and on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Date of Easter: Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or next after March 21, the spring equinox. Easter can be any time from March 22 through April 25. The date may differ in Orthodox Churches.

Colors of the Easter Season: White and gold  

Scripture: Luke 24:1-9

Hymn: “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” #232 (Stanza 1 & 2)

Pentecost

Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter, comes from the Greek word for fiftieth, pentekoste. Greek-speaking Jews called the Jewish Feast of Weeks the Day of Pentecost. Acts tells how the anxious and fearful disciples, who had gathered on the Day of Pentecost, were filled with the Holy Spirit and thereafter preached boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Date of Pentecost: The fiftieth day after Easter.

Colors for Pentecost: Red or red on white. Red, the color of fire, represents the Holy Spirit.

Scripture: Acts 2:1-4, 41-43

Hymn: “On Pentecost They Gathered” #289 (Stanza 1) On Pentecost they gathered quit early in the day, a band of Christ’s disciples, to worship, sing, and pray. A mighty wind came blowing, filled all the swirling air, and tongues of fire aglowing inspired each person there.

Season of Pentecost

The Season of Pentecost, called Ordinary Time, is a period of growth. Churches emphasize Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God. They engage issues of daily life and concerns of the community, nation, and world. The Season comes after we have remembered Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday and celebrated his resurrection on Easter and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Easter and Pentecost.

Dates of the Season: From the day after Pentecost through the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent.

Colors for the Season: The basic color is green symbolizing growth in Christ. White is used on Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, and Christ the King Sunday.

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

Hymn: “Now Thank We All Our God” #643

Christ the King

This last Sunday of the Christian Year celebrates the coming reign of Jesus Christ.

Date of the Season: The Sunday before the Season of Advent begins, and the last Sunday of the Season of Pentecost.

Colors for the Season: Gold and white  

Scripture: Psalm 100

Hymn: “Raise a Song of Gladness” #155 Raise a song of gladness, peoples of the earth. Christ has come, bringing peace, joy to every heart. Alleluia, alleluia, joy to every heart! Alleluia, alleluia, joy to every heart!

WE RESPOND TO GOD’S WORD

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

OFFERING The Call to Give
L:         Let us offer ourselves and our gifts to God, with gratitude and praise.

* SINGING WITH THANKSGIVING

Response        “Rejoice”

* PRAYER OF DEDICATION
L:         Let us pray:
C:         Holy God, use us, and these gifts, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and honor your presence in all people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

NEWS OF THE COMMUNITY

* HYMN TO SEND US FORTH “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” #82

* CHARGE AND BLESSING

CLOSING VOLUNTARY Please be seated for silent reflection.


For a great reflection on the liturgical year (and another source of inspiration) check out Jerome W. Berryman’s The Complete Guide to Godly Play Vol. 2!

"No Practice" Christmas Pageant

Thanks to LeAnn Hodges for sharing this Pageant with us at the Online Church Leaders’ Roundtable!

Overview: The following is written to serve as a come-one, come-all, “no practice” Christmas pageant. The participants move and respond to lines prompted by the Narrator. The script is adapted from Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of the gospel narrative in his book The Message.

Cast:

  • narrator
  • Mary, Joseph and Jesus 
  • Herod 
  • camel 
  • camel herder 
  • shepherds – congregation
  • angels – congregation
  • wise people 
  • star

Props:

  • star
  • halo each for angels (50)
  • head scarf for sheepherders (50)
  • crown for Herod
  • camel costume (for two)
  • chair for Mary
  • manger for baby
  • 3 crowns, 3 capes, 3 gifts for wise men
  • Reserved seats for worship leaders & cast

The Pageant

The Narrator speaks from __________________. Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the camel, the star, Herod, and the wise ones are in the narthex, ready to enter from the back.

Narrator’s Introduction

Following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem we hear about visits from shepherds, angels and the wise. This morning we will re-tell the story involving everyone. Shepherds will be all of you with cloth headbands, and angels are all of you who have halos. In the pageant you will be directed to say short lines by saying: the angels said, or the shepherds said, then you are simply invited to respond by repeating your lines.

Gabriel’s Announcement, Luke 1:29-38

Narrator: In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph and the virgin’s name, Mary. (Mary enters and comes in and stands ______________________.) Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty. Beautiful inside and out!” And the angels said, “God be with you.”
Angels: God be with you.
Narrator: She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. “Mary, you have nothing to fear,” the angels said to her. “God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call him Jesus.” As angels often do, the angels said, “Do not be afraid.”
Angels: Do not be afraid.
Narrator: After a short discussion with the angel, Mary knew it would be OK, saying “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me, just as you say.” Then the angel left her. (Mary departs, returning to the narthex.)

Carol 16 (stanzas 1 &3)   The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came The angel Gabriel from heaven came, His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame; “All hail,” said he, “O lowly maiden Mary,” Most highly favored lady, Gloria! Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head, “To me be as it pleases God,” she said, “My soul shall laud and magnify God’s holy name.” Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

The Birth of Jesus, Luke 2:1-7

Narrator: About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancé, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

Away in a Manger #115 (After song, Mary, Joseph and Jesus enter, going to the chair located ___________________.)

The Shepherds and the Angels, Luke 2:8-18

Narrator: There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angels said, “Don’t be afraid.”
Angels: Don’t be afraid.
Narrator: Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger. At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praise. The angels said, “Glory to God!”
Angels: Glory to God!
Narrator: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us. The sheepherders said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem.”
Shepherds: Let’s go to Bethlehem!
Narrator: The shepherds left and they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. The sheepherders said, “Angels told us of the Christ child.”
Sheepherders: Angels told us of the Christ child.
Narrator: All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

“The First Nowell” #147 (Stanzas 1-4) (During the singing of stanzas 3 & 4, Herod walks up the center aisle, and stands in the middle of the aisle, half way down to the front. Star is carried in after him, and the camel and then the wise men down the center aisle to face Herod.)

The Gifts of the Wise – Matthew 2:1-11

Narrator: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory–this was during Herod’s kingship–a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. The wise asked, “Where can we find the newborn king of the Jews?”
The Wise: “Where can we find the newborn king of the Jews?”
Narrator: They had observed a star in the eastern sky (narrator points to the star held by ___________) that signaled his birth. When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified–and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” They told him “Bethlehem.” Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. (Herod moves into the midst of the wise men and pretends to talk with them.) Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.” Instructed by the king, they set off. (The wise and star move down the aisle to the front of the congregation.)  

Anthem “We Three Kings of Orient Are”     Arr. Mark Hayes

Narrator: Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: they were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house… (The star and the wise go to the holy family. The star stands behind Mary and the wise kneel then present his or her gift to Jesus; Mary and Joseph thank each of them.) …and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Narrator: As the wise of old gave their gifts to the Christ Child, we too have gifts to bring, the gifts of our lives, in service to the one who willingly comes to dwell among us.

O Little Town of Bethlehem (While we sing, congregation brings thanksgiving offering of food/money forward)

Narrator: The shepherds and wise ones returned to their homes and the angels returned to heaven, glorifying God and rejoicing in the mercy of God! Christ is born!

“Joy to the World” #134 – Standing

Christmas Trivia Quiz

Need an Advent activity for your youth? Challenge your group to this quiz based on the biblical account of the Christmas story. (From Youth Specialties, modified by Mark Davis)

1. What did the Innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?
a) We have no room for you here.
b) You may stay in my stable.
c) Why don’t you try the Holiday Inn?
d) A and B.
e) None of the above.

2. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
a) An angel.
b) Caesar.
c) A voice in a dream.
d) Elizabeth.
e) None of the above.

3. What did the angels sing to the Shepherds?
a) Handel’s “Messiah.”
b) “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will to all.”
c) “We wish you a merry Christmas.”
d) Nothing.

4. What are “Magi?”
a) Wise men (persons).
b) Astronomers.
c) Astrologers.
d) Oriental Kings (Queens).
e) None of the above.

5. How many Magi came to see Jesus?
a) One.
b) Two.
c) Three.
d) Two hundred and sixty four.
e) Who knows?

6. What is “myrrh?”
a) A perfume.
b) A burial ointment.
c) Money.
d) None of the above.

7. What kinds of animals were in the stable?
a) Monkeys, goats, and narwhals.
b) Cows, sheep, and donkeys.
c) Reindeer, rabbits, and elves.
d) None of the above.

8. How did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
a) A limousine (with all the ‘fixins’).
b) They walked.
c) She rode a donkey, he walked.
d) Helicopter (“Marine One” to be exact)
e) Who knows?

9. What is a “Heavenly Host”?
a) A person who serves drinks in heaven.
b) An angel choir.
c) An army in the heavens.
d) An angel committee, similar to the “Congregational Care Committee.”

10. What was the sign that was given to the Shepherds?
a) A “Yield” sign.
b) A star.
c) A baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.
d) An angel choir.

11. What does the Gospel according to Mark tell us about the Christmas story?
a) Gabriel’s visit to Mary and the coming of the shepherds.
b) Gabriel’s visit to Joseph and the coming of the Magi.
c) The Griswolds’ visit to Wally World and the coming of Christmas.

12. True or False: Mary and Joseph were married when Jesus was born.
T
F

13. This quiz is:
a) Fun.
b) Stupid.
c) Nauseating.
d) All of the above.

14. Discussion Question: What is the central meaning of Christmas?

Create Testimony – Casey FitzGerald on Biblical Storytelling

This was a testimony from the 2014 National Gathering in Minneapolis, MN.

Shawna Bowman is the artist.

Welcoming Children in Worship

As we heard from pastor Kara Root in Minneapolis, at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church children participate fully in worship. This includes teaching the congregation at the “children’s message” time, writing and leading the offering prayer each week, serving as our usher team once a month, leading our monthly food shelf collection, leading opening liturgy for Advent, sharing in serving communion, and as other ways as we can find to have them lead us and share their gifts from month to month.  Here is why… (the below is taken from our pew insert).

WHY WE WELCOME LITTLE CHILDREN TO WORSHIP… At the time of baptism, parents, godparents and the whole congregation promise to bring children to worship.  Not to do so would be like sitting down to the family evening meal but excluding the kids.  Sure their manners might be far from elegant, but we welcome them because they are part of the family.  Being with family is how we learn to be family.  Worship is no different. Young people giggle, they poke, they ask questions and they swing their legs because they are young children.  Children learn about worship and how to participate by experience, by how they are welcomed into the community, by what they see big people doing.

WHAT IS WORSHIP? Worship is how we respond to God.  When we gather in worship we all come together to encounter Christ, and we watch together for God’s presence in Scripture, our own lives, and the world around us.  When we worship God, we are reminded that we belong to God’s love, and we are empowered by the Spirit to participate with God in loving and healing the world.

HOW DO YOUNG CHILDREN LEARN TO WORSHIP?

  • By being taught they have a place in the community of the church.
  • By seeing, hearing, feeling, even smelling, the sanctuary as a place of welcome and worship.
  • By being around other children in the worship space.
  • By watching how their significant adults sing, and make prayers and offerings.
  • By sharing prayers, communion, and worship leadership alongside adults.
  • By being given ways to watch for God’s presence in their own lives, and encouraged to share where they notice God and how they participate in God’s love.

ADULTS LEARN TO WORSHIP by “becoming like a child” (Mt. 18:3). Children notice, absorb and feel deeply. They respond freely.  Children perceive God.  Children learn to worship from adults and adults learn to worship from children. Bringing a child to church can be frustrating. Their behavior can make it hard for parents and others to worship.  Then again, many facets of parenting can be challenging. It’s the rewards that make it all worthwhile.  While we do not want our children to be disruptive or hamper the worship of others, all of us together need to be reminded that children are not the church of the future.  They are the church of the present and are to be treasured as such.  Children and adults alike are able to watch for God, and participate in God’s love and healing.

SUGGESTIONS FOR ADULTS WITH CHILDREN

  • When possible, arrive in time to find a good place to sit. Let them sit next to the aisle, near a work station or in the front pews.  Even let them stand on the pew next to you so that they can see.
  • Tell them before they come in what will happen in worship.  Show them the parts of the service where they have an active role, and the parts where we all listen or watch others quietly.
  • Take advantage of the worship supplies and materials available at the door when you arrive, and bring them to your seat.  Return bags and supplies to their place when you leave.
  • Worship with your child, guiding her or him through the service so they can feel what it is like to worship together.
  • Worship at home through saying Table Grace together, or Bedtime Prayers, or even, “God bless you.”  Ask your kids questions about how they noticed God’s love in their day, and how they shared in it.
  • Remember that sometimes children just plain need to run around and play.  That’s why we provide a bright and safe Nursery space for your young child at any time during worship.  Gather them back with you for Communion so they can experience God’s blessing.

SUGGESTIONS FOR ADULTS WITHOUT CHILDREN

  • Be helpful to parents of small children by not making them feel awkward or unwanted.
  • Acknowledge children by smiling, or nodding in their direction, to show your appreciation of them.
  • In fact, make a child’s presence a part of your worship by inviting their family to sit next to you, praying for them, taking an interest in them.
  • Make a special point of sharing the Peace of Christ with them when everyone else is greeting.
  • Find a young child before or after the service, make eye contact, introduce yourself, tell them you are glad to see them and will be looking for them next week.  You might just be the reason that family returns.

(adapted with permission and gratitude from pew insert by Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN)  

Storytelling from the 2014 National Gathering

One of the highlights of the 2014 National Gathering was the biblical storytelling that took place in worship.

Jeremiah 29 was told in a variety of ways–

in 22 voices:

and by Jeff Krehbiel:

Then we learned to tell it:

There were additional stories told in worship, too:

Casey FitzGerald tells Matthew 10:

…and Luke 2

Jeff Krehbiel and Casey FitzGerald tell John 16

MaryAnn McKibben Dana tells part of Jeremiah at the start of her sermon

 

Thanks to Casey FitzGerald, Jeff Krehbiel, MaryAnn McKibben Dana for sharing their gifts this way. If you want to learn more about biblical storytelling, check out Casey’s blog Faith and Wonder.

Help Us Remember – A Prayer of Sending

Pastoral Prayer from the 2014 National Gathering Closing Worship

Gracious God, as we prepare to go out from this place:

Help us to remember. That is our prayer as our attention and our calendars start to turn back toward home. Help us to remember because in remembering, O God, we find your faithfulness to us, and so we find hope. And we are hungry for hope. Help us to remember the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love that kindled in this place, the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love that we found in each other and rediscovered in ourselves. Help us, O God, to remember the stories of the church that persists not because we have all the answers, but because you simply will not let us go. Your steadfast love endures forever. Help us to remember and trust that “the church lives by a thousand resurrections,” and resurrection does some of its best work in the dark. Help us to remember the calling you have placed upon us all: to shine light into the darkness, to offer an anchor in the storm, to bind up the broken and proclaim release to the captives, to seek the welfare of our cities. Help us to remember our people, our places, where the needs are great and the ache is strong: where chemo treatments continued in our absence, where hungers persisted, where families fell apart, where guns were used, where grief was renewed. As we head home, help us enter into those places but God almighty, you come, too, for surely they need you more than they need us. Help us all to remember that. Help us to remember your story, O God, your story of creating and longing, your story of building and planting and prompting, your story of prophets who raged and disciples who didn’t get it, your story of angels stuck on repeat saying, “Do not be afraid,” your story of a brutal cross and a broken son, your story of a stone rolled back and a brand new day… which is, of course, your story of reconciliation and redemption and grace and good, good news. It is the story that is saving our lives. So help us to remember, O God. Write it on our hearts because the church that is next is about the story that always has been and the love that always will be. Help us to remember today and every day that follows. Amen.

~ written by Jenny McDevitt, Pastor of Pastoral Care, Village Presbyterian Church Prairie Village, Kansas. (Jenny writes: “My theology professor Dawn DeVries assures me that “the church lives by a thousand resurrections” comes from John Calvin.)

First Sunday of Christmas Liturgy

Thanks to Doug Brown and Carla Pratt Keyes for this liturgy for the first Sunday of Christmas.

Creation Mosaics: Genesis 1, Created by the Congregation

By Teri Peterson

“The first day of the new lectionary, on kick-off Sunday, we’re supposed to read the creation story. All seven days.” Cue internal pastoral eye-rolling. Haven’t I preached all the available sermons on the seven days of creation? With a word…separates…makes order…science and religion… Enter Holy Spirit. “What if, instead of the same creation sermon we’ve all heard, we create something together? Like, if we enacted the creation by making a creation?” And so the idea was born: to create, as a congregation, a visual representation of the seven days of creation, and to display that artwork in our worship space for the whole program year. It took a bit of convincing to remind the worship committee that it didn’t have to be permanent or perfect artwork—what mattered was that we made it together and that it conveyed an ongoing message of God’s creative work in community.

DSC_0391 copyBuilding on a project I had previously been a part of, we decided to create a mosaic mural. Our sanctuary’s balcony has 9 spots that were perfect for mosaic panels.

One person measured each space (because of course they aren’t uniform, nor are they perfectly square). We asked a couple of people to help draw. We bought foam core and cut/taped it to the right size for each space (they’re all 23” tall, and range from 40-7/8” to 42.75” long), and handed the panels out to artists. Each artist was assigned a day and asked to read the relevant verses and pray about the best way to visually represent that creation in a relatively simple design. The artists drew in pencil, then labeled each section with a color, so that ultimately it was like a “mosaic by number.”

A trip to the craft store for 12×12 scrapbook paper in every color we needed (mostly patterns and varieties of the same shade, so the final product would look textured without any actual three dimensional work on our part), a couple of hours at the paper cutter turning 150 sheets of paper into thousands of 1-inch squares, and we were ready to go. Each panel went onto a table laid across the pews, surrounded by labeled bowls of paper squares. Then the hardest work began: two of us spent hours filling in what I call “the fussy parts”—any segment of the design that couldn’t be easily done with 1” squares. We cut pointy pieces, wavy pieces, round pieces, and glued them into the design so that each panel had a start. This ultimately meant doing all of panel 1, because the design I had drawn was beautiful but entirely impractical. However, that did give a wonderful visual example for what we hoped they would all look like in the end.

DSC_0389 copySunday morning, ten minutes before worship, we sprayed each panel with a heavy dose of spray adhesive, which turned them into huge sticky notes by the middle of worship. During the children’s time, we talked about how the very first thing we learn about God is that God is creator, and the end of the story says that human beings are created in the image of God—so to say “I’m not creative” is to say “I’m not made in the image of God!” Since we know that every person is made in God’s image, that must mean that everyone has a bit of the creative spirit in them, and today we are letting that spirit flow. I gave the instructions to the kids: where it says yellow, stick on yellow squares. Where it says dark, stick on dark squares. etc.

They continued to work while the scripture was read, and then it was the time when normally I would preach for 12 minutes. Instead, I invited everyone in the sanctuary to join together as the body of Christ, also created in the image of a Creator God, in making a message together. I explained that when the panels were finished, they would make a mural we could see every week, reminding us to take God’s creative work with us into the world (they are at the back of the sanctuary). I talked about the importance of opening our minds, hearts, and bodies to encountering God in new ways, and that creating together was one important way we could become aware of the Holy Spirit in our midst. And then we made mosaics together for about 15 minutes.

At the end of 15 minutes, I mentioned a couple of interesting things about the interplay of the text and the experience—that the Hebrew words “tohu-va-bohu” implied an uncontrollable chaos, not unlike 75 people milling around a sanctuary, but that out of that chaos came something that God called good over and over and over. I mentioned that the poetry of the creation story repeats “and God said…and it was so” and that this is something we can remember whenever we look at these mosaics: that with a word, God created, and that we enacted that word and created something too.

After worship, I stayed for a couple of hours and mod-podged all the panels. On Monday afternoon, I sprayed them with a sealant. On Tuesday afternoon I flipped them over and super-glued some ribbons on the back of each panel, and laid all 12 volumes of the New Interpreter’s Bible on them to ensure they were as flat as possible. On Thursday afternoon I installed them, tying them to the grate in the balcony railing. And on Sunday morning, one week after they were created, the whole congregation was admiring and remembering and pledging to let the spirit of creativity flourish in our space and in our lives. The behind-the-scenes work was much more time consuming than I originally anticipated, but the experience of creating an ongoing message together is one I wouldn’t trade for all those hours spent cutting and gluing. The Spirit was speaking not only to the church, but through the church. Out of chaos, it was good. The seven panels:

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3188_ppTeri Peterson is a Presbyterian pastor in the suburbs of Chicago. She holds a degree in clarinet performance from DePaul University and an MDiv from Columbia Theological Seminary. She enjoys exploring new cities, being a bit of a music snob, writing, and coming up with creative ideas for worship. Teri co-authored Who’s Got Time: Spirituality for a Busy Generation (Chalice 2013), co-founded and contributes to Liturgy Link, as well as her own blog, CleverTitleHere, and is a contributing author to the Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2014 and 2015. Teri is a great lover of farmer’s markets, reading, Doctor Who, snuggling with kitties, and any TV show made by Joss Whedon.