Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.
Season & Preparations
Merry Chr- . . . well . . . not quite yet. In 2017, it is challenging to celebrate Advent 4 because the day occurs on December 24, Christmas Eve. Your congregation may be adjusting the Sunday-morning schedule to fit this calendar challenge, but assuming you will meet for a standard worship service that Sunday morning, here are a few things to consider.
Advent 4 is still properly the color of blue or violet, but you will switch to white for Christmas Eve services later in the day. If you are lighting the Advent wreath, you should light all four of the Advent candles, but not the center white candle (if you are using one). That remains an activity for the Christmas Eve service.
Some congregations like to decorate the sanctuary in increments throughout the Advent season. If you have a nativity scene as part of this progressive decorating, it would be appropriate to put Mary and Joseph into the scene for Advent 4, but wait for Jesus until Christmas Eve services later.
Readings & Theme
The anticipation becomes ever more noticeable. The celebration of Christ’s incarnation was weeks away, then days, now mere hours. People in the congregation may have their minds elsewhere, but gathered together, they will hear God’s Word and rest from their worldly preparations to prepare their hearts for the Savior.
At first glance, the Old Testament Reading from 2 Samuel 7 may seem a bit of a strange choice for Advent 4. David was hoping to build a place for God. God’s dwelling place, the ark of the covenant, had been residing in a tent. God’s Word to the prophet Nathan shows us God’s intention to give David what David would give God: a house. God gives David a kingdom and line that would be established forever. It is this promise of a kingdom that we see come to fulfillment in Jesus’ birth. Psalm 89 reiterates the promise made to David.
Both the Old Testament Reading and the Psalm connect to the Gospel from Luke 1, which records the episode of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. Gabriel’s words to Mary about the child she is about to bear include the reference to David’s kingdom. Likewise, Luke records that Mary’s betrothed, Joseph, is of the house of David.
The Epistle from Romans 16 does not connect as easily as the Psalm, Old Testament Reading, and Gospel themes. One might look to the “revelation of the mystery” Paul refers to, connecting that to the prophecy and fulfillment of the other texts.
Hymns & Music
The Hymn of the Day for Advent 4 is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (LSB 357). Stanzas 4 and 5 are the ones that connect best to the kingdom and line of David. Stanza 7 connects to the Epistle, as they both focus on the nations.
This is also the most appropriate time to sing “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” (LSB 356). If this hymn is unfamiliar to your congregation, consider splitting the hymn into parts. Three soloists could take the roles of narrator, Gabriel, and Mary, with the congregation perhaps singing stanza 4 together.
“Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come” (LSB 350), “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns” (LSB 348), and other Advent hymns that focus on Jesus’ kingship might be useful to round out your selections.
If you will celebrate the Lord’s Supper for this service, consider “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart” (LSB 641). Its connections to the themes of the day are subtle, but as both David and Jesus are connected to shepherd imagery, the first stanza’s reference to the shepherd calling His sheep is a nice connection.
Additional Resources for Worship & Study
For kids and families, the Arch Book Mary’s Christmas Story provides a nice tie-in to the Gospel for this week and the coming days of Christmas. This Arch Book is also available in Spanish and bilingual versions, making it a great book to distribute to families and visitors at your church throughout the Christmas season. Concordia Publishing House’s Sunday School also offers an Everyday Faith Family Page based on today’s reading from Luke 1.
Looking for additional information on planning for the Fourth Sunday in Advent? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!