Take a Break — and Worship!
Worship Ministries has come up with a special service package that can help churches worship while giving their pastors and worship leaders a break this holiday season, said Katie Roelofs, resource and communications coordinator for Worship Ministries.
Because of this year’s calendar, many church leaders are planning for three days in a row of unique Christmas services. Christmas Eve candle-lighting services – or other types of services – will occur on Friday, Dec. 24. The next day, Dec. 25, congregations across the CRC will hold Christmas services. Then on Dec. 26, churches will hold regular Sunday worship services. Topping it off, said Roelofs, New Year’s celebrations and services fall on the next weekend.
And all of this comes after several weeks of worship coordinators’ leading Advent services and Christmas programs.
“Christmas is historically a very challenging time for worship leaders, and this year – after the activities of Advent – we need to offer worship three days in a row,” said Roelofs, who also works as a pastor and worship leader at the Washington, D.C., Christian Reformed Church.
“People often don’t realize the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to plan and execute worship services during the Christmas season.”
With the goal of giving worship leaders across the CRC a break between Christmas and Epiphany, which is on Thursday, Jan. 6, Worship Ministries is offering a sermon and service package featuring ready-made liturgy, song suggestions, and a sermon available on YouTube designed for worship on Sunday, Jan. 2. To access the service, worship leaders are invited to fill out this Google Form.
“We are excited to make this available to churches across the CRC,” said Roelofs.
In collaboration with Worship Ministries, the worship service for Jan. 2 was created by Covenant CRC, a congregation in Sioux Center, Iowa.
“This is a full resource for the Sunday after Christmas,” said Rebecca DeVries, worship leader at Covenant. “We have Christmas songs, prayers, a sermon, and some reflections on what is coming in the new year.”
The YouTube sermon delivered by Joel Kok, Covenant’s pastor, is titled “The Mystery Made Known” and is based on Ephesians 1:1-14.
“I think this is a good [passage] to use at the beginning of the year as we look ahead to the joy and hardships that might come,” said Kok.
Ephesians 1:4-8 says that God “chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. . . . In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that God lavished on us.”
“Friends,” says Kok at the start of the sermon, “we are using the reading from the lectionary today, and with it we are joining Christians all over the world.”
Kok uses the text from Ephesians to draw a contrast between the security of living with faith in Christ and the uncertainty of living in this world, which is so fractured and polarized today.
Affirming that we can rely on our faith in Jesus, Kok says, “God brings all things together and offers us hope.”
At the same time, he notes, our world seems such a mess, and this has an effect on our faith.
“We are getting opposite messages – either we are all united in Christ, or all things seem to be falling apart. We struggle with these contrasting messages. What message will you believe in the new year?”
As Christians, he says later in the sermon, “we are not in despair but we are trusting in God.”
DeVries, the worship coordinator, said they hope the service is particularly useful for churches without a pastor or for churches that struggle to find enough people to lead their worship services and keep ministries going.
“It is accessible, no matter your size or musical ability. It will also be helpful and unifying to have a number of churches using the same songs, prayers, and Scripture passages” on the same Sunday, she said.
For instance, the service begins with a welcome from the leader: “Good morning and welcome to worship. Whether you are here or in person or joining us online, we pray that each of us will find joy and find Jesus in worship.”
One of the first song suggestions includes three options: “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “You are Holy,” or “Across the Lands.”
At the beginning of the service there is also a greeting, a song of praise – “Creation Sings the Father’s Song” – a call to confession, a prayer of confession, and an assurance of pardon.
And near the end of the service there is a prayer of sending – a word of hope – from Jeremiah 31:7-14, which begins: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’”
Roelofs added, “Worship is an important element for all CRC churches – it is one thing that can bring us together. We hope and trust that this special Jan. 2 package can be a resource this season that not only unites them with other believers but also gives their staff and volunteers a week off to rest and refresh to start the year. ”