This weekend, we continued our Advent series with a message entitled, "God With Us." He made comparisons between life with Christ and what life would be without Christ, and it was really powerful to see the two lists side-by-side. You can listen to the entire message here. We continued to try something different with our service order to change things up, and we moved the message up a few minutes earlier in the service to have two songs in response to the message, rather than our typical one song in that position. All of us on our worship planning team believes that these kinds of changes help us and our congregation to engage and to not be passive in worship. Here's our service plan from this weekend:
Time of Preparation/Prayer "Lord I Need You" (B) [Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels, Matt Maher, Daniel Carson] Welcome/Greeting Time "Joy To The World" (C) [Isaac Watts] "Joyful (The One Who Saves)" (C) [Brenton Brown, Jason Ingram, Henry van Dyke, Ludwig van Beethoven] "A Mighty Fortress" [Christy Nockels, Nathan Nockels] Message - "God With Us" [Joe Hishmeh] Offering/Announcements "Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)" (Bb) [Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash] "You Never Let Go" (Bb) [Matt Redman, Beth Redman] Dismissal
"Lord I Need You" - We sang this song in our preparation time. This is the second time we have sung this song, and I think it will become a staple for our church. I think it resonates with each of us. It communicates a timeless truth in a fresh way, and helps us express our dependence on the Lord for everything. I'm a big fan of this song.
"Joy To The World" - We sang this oldie but goodie to kick off our services. My arrangement of it is kind pop/punk-ish, so it is fun to play and sing together. The melody is unchanged, so everyone can sing along easily. This song just makes people smile. The content of it is solid, and really declares some of what Christ's first coming accomplished in this world. He changed everything with His coming.
"Joyful (The One Who Saves)" - We continued teaching this song to our congregation this week. I decided to drop this song a full step to the key of C this week, to make it a little easier for our congregation to sing, especially on Sunday morning at the early service. I think it was much easier for all of us to sing. Becky and I traded off verses on this one, and I think this is something we will continue to do, because I think it helps draw both the ladies and the men into what we are singing together. I really like this song, and I like how it fits into the Advent season.
"A Mighty Fortress" - Becky led us on this song, and it is one of my favorite declarations about the assurance and refuge we have in God. He is faithful, trustworthy, and true, and we can confidently place our lives in His hands. Our church sings this song well, even after only a few occurrences in our services. Part of the emphasis I was going for here was to point to the trustworthiness and love of God for us, and when He is called "God with us," we can walk with Him in faith, because He will never fail, and His purposes are not thwarted.
"Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)" - We began our response song with this song, which was new to me this week. I really like the message of the verses, which speak to the time of waiting and anticipation before the Messiah arrived. I also enjoy the chorus as a whole, which simply and beautifully sings of the first coming of Jesus: "Emmanuel, Emmanuel/ God incarnate, here to dwell/ Emmanuel, Emmanuel/ Praise His name, Emmanuel." There are a few parts of this song that are a little tricky for one reason or another, so I had to work pretty hard to try and get it right, but I'm glad we sang it together this weekend.
"You Never Let Go" - We closed out our services with this song, which remains one of my favorites. Part of the imagery Joe used in the message was the dominant scriptural image of the Good Shepherd. This song pulls ideas from one of the most prominent pictures of the Shepherd contained in Psalm 23, and I think it helped to tie everything together really well. I love this song's statements of trust and faith in God, regardless of our circumstances. Jesus is worthy of our trust and faith. He will never fail, and He will never let us go.
This was a unique and refreshing weekend of worshiping our Savior together. Our team did a great job as always. I love celebrating Advent with the Church. It's a beautiful thing.
I hope you had a great weekend of worship wherever you were.
In the Son,
p.s. don't forget to check out The Worship Community!