Advent Liturgy

The purpose of this liturgy is to direct the people of God as they are served by their Covenant God who condescends to our weakness in the Incarnation, and who visits us with perfect justice in the Final Judgment. These two advents frame the experience of New Covenant believers: we look back to Christ’s first coming and look forward to His Second. We live by faith based on the First coming, by hope looking forward to the Second, and the fruit of love in the mean time. We receive grace from the Cross, which leads to good works of gratitude for the Bema Seat. We worship the risen Christ, listening to Him through ordained servants because He is ascended, but praying “Marana tha!” because He has promised to come again.

See Lehigh Valley PCA’s Advent Liturgy for another take on how to conduct Covenant Renewal during the advent season.

Divine Service of Worship

Preparation for Worship
Welcome & Announcements
Scripture Reading and Lighting of the Advent Candle[1]
Passing of the Peace

Call to Worship[2]
Call to Worship
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Praise

First Advent
Scripture Reading[3]
Christological Creed[4]
Congregational Prayer[5]

Charter of Faith
Choral Exhortation
Children’s Sermon
Giving in Tithes & Offering
Gloria Patri
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Singing of a Psalm
Pastoral Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

Ministry of the Word
Scripture Reading
Prayer of Illumination
Prayer of Application

Exhortation & Excommunication
Words of Institution
Holy Eucharist

Second Advent
Scripture Reading[6]
Congregational Prayer[7]

Song of Response

[1] The lighting of the Advent candle is not a circumstance of Scripture reading or any other aspect of worship, and is certainly not an element, and therefore does not belong to the service of worship proper. Our tradition is to have different families come forward, with the head of the household reading select Scripture passages highlighting the advent of Christ, while his wife or child lights the appropriate candle.
[2] Our Call, Charter, Word, Communion, and Commission sections of the liturgy follow our common Covenant Renewal liturgy, and so won’t be explained in detail. Some of the order is changed due to the nature of flow in the historia salutis.
[3] These Scripture readings, spoken by a Ruling Elder, will focus on one of the facets of Christ’s first coming. For example, the First Sunday in Advent includes Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 27:1-6, and Luke 10:17-24 to focus on Christ’s destruction of the Evil One.
[4] Jesus asked Peter to confess His identity in Matthew 16:15-16, and just as Christ gave a good confession, so His disciples are to confess His name before men (I Timothy 6:12-13). These corporate confessions of faith will feature the historic Christian and Reformed creeds, confessions and catechisms. Our Advent Sundays will employ the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, the Definition of Chalcedon, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism.
[5] We pray for Christ’s coming to forgive our sins, transform us, and use us for His glory. A sample prayer is as follows:

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast off the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which Your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when He shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen. 

[6] This Scripture reading focuses us on Christ’s Second coming. For example, II Thessalonians 1:7-12 directs us to Christ’s coming in judgment but also salvation.
[7] A concluding, congregational prayer for us to direct our pleas and petitions to our coming King.

Celebrating Advent

Dear Zion,

You’ve probably noticed that we have begun a special season at church called “Advent.” This word comes from the Latin, adventus, which means “coming,” but both of these words help us understand the biblical word parousia, a word we see in I Thessalonians 3:13, “the coming of our Lord Jesus.” Advent is an opportunity to remember that Christ came into the world “for us and for our salvation.” How can we as Christians benefit from the season of Advent? What can we do to remember “the reason for the Season?” How should we “keep Christ in Christmas?” Let me offer some suggestions.

First, we should meditate on Christ’s first coming. Jesus didn’t come into this world unbidden and for no reason. Rather, Jesus was “sent by the Father” (John 5:36-37). Even being born as a babe in the Bethlehem manger was an act of obedience by the Son to God the Father. Jesus’ obedience is imputed to us by faith (I Corinthians 1:30), so that we may also be obedient to our heavenly Father. But why did the Father send Jesus? Jesus was sent to destroy Satan (I John 3:8), to save us from our sins (I Timothy 1:15), to bring life and light into the darkness (John 1:4-5, 9), for the glory of God (John 7:18), and to serve us and give His life as a ransom for His people (Mark 10:45). Meditating on Jesus’ first Advent should drive us to be Christ-lovers who desire to lay down our lives to serve our neighbors so that we could obey and glorify God!

Secondly, we should look in hope for Christ’s second coming. Though we normally think of Advent with regard to Christmas and Jesus’ birth, the word parousia usually refers to Jesus’ second coming (I Thessalonians 2:19; James 5:8)! Like Abraham, Moses, David, and the saints of the Old Testament, we are waiting for the appearance of the Messiah, even Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:10-14). However, unlike those Old Testament saints who died before Christ came the first time, we “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” because we already know Christ by faith in Holy Scripture (I Peter 1:8). Because we too are waiting for Jesus’ Advent for the second time, we are to live with patience, faith, meekness and righteousness, shining like stars in a dark world. As we celebrate this Advent season, we should remind our neighbors that Jesus has come as a Suffering Servant, and He will come as our Judge and King. This should make us confident in our faith and humble before others.

Many people will give you other laundry lists to “keep Christ in Christmas.” They’ll tell you to never sign your Christmas cards with “Xmas” or “Happy Holidays,” to boycott certain stores, to put a certain Nativity scene in your yard, to only promote certain non-profit ministries, etc., etc., ad infinitum ad nauseum. But what if I sign all my Christmas cards just so, avoid the “wrong” stores in favor of the “right” ministries, and decorate my house with just the right number of Christmas-light-angels, but don’t have Christ’s love in my heart? Have I really “remembered the reason for the Season?”

This Christmas and Advent season, may we be a people who seek the Lord through prayer, looking to Him to create within us the joy of Jesus’ first coming and the hope of Christ’s second coming. Let’s “keep Christ in Christmas” by avoiding commercialism and consumerism, but also by trusting in God’s grace to work powerfully within us to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Trusting with you in the Christ of the First and Second Advents,

Pastor Brian

Headline: The Marks of the Church


The Marks of the Church. Notes on the Notae to Distinguish the Bride of Christ.

Tertullian: “Those are the true churches that adhere to what they have received from the apostles.”

I was recently preparing for a Consistory meeting and we were going to talk about the third mark of the Church, and as I was preparing I started noticing diversity amongst some of our Reformed fathers. Wanting to understand a bit better the exegetical basis for some of the different decisions, I began to catalog various confessional documents and theologians on the matter. I thought others might find it useful to see these findings placed side by side, and so you will find them below in chronological order. No doubt, others ought to be added to this list, and if there is anyone of particular importance that ought to be cataloged, either for their uniqueness or influence, leave a note in the comments and I’ll try to track them down and add them to the list.
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Happy Reformation Day

Reformation Day 2010

Yesterday was Reformation Day, the celebration of when, in 1517, an obscure and unimportant German monk named Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenburg church. We celebrated God’s grace in His Church by holding a special worship service. The liturgy we used is posted below, following a quote concerning the Reformation rediscovery of grace:
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