Getting Ready for Sunday (11/27/11)
There is something special about the people of God coming together for worship (Hebrews 10:24-25). Thus, we hope Sundays at New City are a highlight of your week. In an effort to help you get more out of it, we're posting a short preview of this Sunday's gathering.
This is a week of beginnings and endings. It's our last week walking through the book of Joel (click here for previous sermons and study guides). This week we take a look at Joel 3:1-21 - "The Valley of Decision." To prepare for worship, read this passage and note the mixture of judgment and grace Joel describes on the "day of the Lord."
This week also marks the beginning of Advent. The celebration of the season of Advent (which begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas day) dates back to the fourth century. It is a time that focuses our attention on Christ’s first coming as well as his second coming when he will return to redeem all of creation, and rule with all power and authority. Since we know not the day or the hour of Christ’s return, we are filled with both a sense of joyful expectation and humble reverence, with our spiritual focus being on living lives of prayer and preparation.
One way we mark the time of this season is with the Advent wreath. The evergreens help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus Christ. The wreath consists of five candles. One candle is lit the first Sunday of Advent, two are lit the second Sunday, and so on with the final candle lit on Christmas Eve. The light progressively reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness to bring newness, life, and hope (Isa 42:6).
A reformation Advent prayer summarizes this season. “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on 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 living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
We also get to hear from Pete and Emily Johnson - missionaries with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). They are using camping ministry in Mexico to reach youth for Christ and to plant a church and community center in the city of La Paz. You can learn more about the ministry in Mexico and Pete and Emily at www.pejohnson.wordpress.com, or join them for lunch at El Jinete immediately after church: 3972 Redbank Road.
One of the best things about Advent is the opportunity to sing Christmas Carols in worship. We'll work a few in this week, with lots more to come in the month of December. Songs we'll sing this week include:
- Come Thou Long Expected Jesus - (listen below - this version sounds a lot like Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah"). One of the nearly 4,000 hymns Charles Wesley wrote in his lifetime.
- God Is With Us - (listen below). A new carol from the folks at Sojourn in Lousiville. The chorus will stick in your head - in a good way.
- I Will Sing - (listen). A shift from singing about Christ's birth to reflecting on his work on the Cross. This is a new song for us that we have been doing this fall at New City.
- Before There Was Time - (listen to a sample). "I cry holy only begotten Son of God, Ancient of Days."
- All Must Be Well - (listen below). Our anthem through the Joel series.
- O Come All Ye Faithful - (listen below). Postures us with the shepherds in Luke 2:15 for the whole Christmas season. "Let's go and see this thing that has happened."