Help for Finding Hope This Advent
“Because of COVID-19, a lot of people are feeling fatigued. As we look forward to Christmas, we see the birth of a baby who represents new life for all of us,” said Katie Ritsema-Roelofs, a Worship Ministries worship catalyzer and a commissioned pastor at Washington, D.C., CRC. “We want to inspire hope as we approach the birth of Christ.”
This is the thinking behind several Advent resources and initiatives being offered by CRCNA ministries this year.
For example, on every Monday during Advent, Worship Ministries will offer a time of prayer, reflection, and song on Facebook Live (@crcworshipministries).
Written specifically for this Advent season by Jeremy Simpson, a Worship Ministries worship catalyzer, and Sean Saunders, a Worship Ministries endorsed worship coach who serves as worship director at River City Church in Cambridge, Ont., the song “Emmanuel” will premiere at the first Monday devotional presentation on Monday, Nov. 29. It will then be made available to all churches for use during Advent.
“It's a gorgeous song based on Isaiah 9 — and one we hope will be used widely in the CRCNA this year and for many years to come,” Roelofs said.
Isaiah 9 prophesies about the coming of Christ, saying, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).
The song’s aim, said Roelofs, is to offer a lift during a time in which people’s lives have been greatly disrupted by COVID-19.
Though there is a great deal of brokenness in the world, worship — especially during Advent — can be one of the things that unites us, added Simpson.
“Advent is a time of true waiting — a time to be still in the midst of the mess [of this world],” he said. “But Advent is also a time in which the new light will appear.”
Given all of the restrictions and other types of fallout from COVID-19, people may not be in a mood to open their hearts and minds to “the joy that is sent into the world,” Simpson explained.
Hopefully, however, the song he has cowritten and the weekly devotions can bring some solace to people in a particularly somber time.
Roelofs and Simpson will help to lead the first Monday devotional time. Other prayer and reflection times will be led by various staff from CRC ministries and congregations across North America.
As part of this initiative, a custom piece of art painted by Kalamazoo artist Anna Barnhart will also be highlighted.
Describing her work on this piece, a portrayal of the bundled Christ in a manger, Barnhart said, “A motif I have often seen . . . is the dawn of Christ literally cracking through the darkness of the ‘night’ of sin. This theme fits especially for Christmas, and . . . I also created the ‘crack’ in the image . . . with gold metallic foil, a material I use to symbolize faith and the presence of God.
“Creating this element . . . can symbolize how God also goes before us, and how his plans for us reach farther into the past and future than what we can see.”
In addition to the Monday devotions led by Worship Ministries, the Center for Excellence in Preaching (CEP) at Calvin Theological Seminary will be offering a variety of Advent Resources to pastors.
“As we enter the Advent season for a second time in a pandemic, we feel weary,” writes Scott Hoezee, CEP director, in an introduction to the resources.
But, despite the weariness, “We are called to proclaim hope at a time when hope itself seems to have fallen victim to some spiritual supply-chain shortage. At the Center for Excellence in Preaching here at Calvin Theological Seminary, it is our prayer that we can all find the courage to proclaim hope. We even dare to hope that our special Advent/Christmas resources as well as our regular weekly sermon commentaries posted during Advent will make hope leap alive once more for all of us.”
Additional Worship Ideas for Advent
Special Events: Advent
Family Faith Formation Resources for Advent
Advent and Christmas Songs by Keith Getty
Letting God Teach through Advent and Christmas Songs
The Network Christmas Playlist (2019)
New Songs for Christmas
Handel's Messiah and Navajo Shepherds
Faith Practices for Advent
Intergenerational Ideas for Advent
Advent Ideas for Families
Praying in Color for Advent
Holy Impatience: Free Advent Devotional
Immanuel, Incarnate: Free Advent Devotional
An Intergenerational Bible Reading Plan for Advent
For more worship resources, see Reformed Worship.