Preparing through Worship | Advent Week 3 | 2018
Welcome to the Constant Source Weekly Advent series! This post is the third in the series. If you didn’t read week one or two, we recommend that you start here. If you just missed week two, click here to catch up.
Read: Zephaniah 3:14-20
(Every Constant Source Weekly is inspired by four pieces of Scripture from all different parts of the Bible. One of those texts becomes the main foundation for the lesson and is interwoven throughout. Start by reading the text linked above.)
(Every Scripture reading is paired with a commentary section that explains the core themes of the passage, discusses the way the reading informs our faith, and helps interconnect all parts of the Bible. Read that next below.)
Worship is a powerful thing. When we spend time expressing our love and gratitude for something or someone, we grow closer to that thing. Worship leads to intimacy and dependence. The prophetic writings of Zephaniah beg the question, what do you worship? As we have been preparing ourselves and our families for Christmas, we’ve been instituting preparation practices. In our first week together, we spent time remembering that God has been pursuing us for a long time and it is because of that relentless pursuit that Jesus came to redeem humanity into the righteousness for which we were created. Last week, John the Baptist challenged us to prepare our hearts. We spent time taking an inventory of the things in our lives that were keeping us from God’s goodness and committed to seeking repentance during this Advent season. Today, we are going to dive into Zephaniah and discuss worship. Our texts today point to the joy that comes from the relationship we have with God, encourage us to praise God through our actions, remind us of Jesus’s faithfulness, and challenge us to consider the things in our lives that may be stealing some of our worship from God.
To begin, let’s establish a shared definition for the word worship. Often, when we think of worship, we think of the few songs sung to God at the beginning of a church service. Singing praise to God is an act of worship, but it isn’t nearly a robust enough definition. Above, I used relational language to describe worship, which begins to set the right tone for the impact that worship has on us. If we combine these two ideas, we see that worship is both relational and participatory. Therefore, worship is the glorification and prioritization of something through action.
You may be feeling the tension already, but the word “something” in our definition is problematic and is the exact sentiment that Zephaniah is trying to get at. The book of Zephaniah is located in the Old Testament and has all of the key factors which make it prophetic literature. The book is short, only three chapters, and very concisely outlines the sins of Judah, the punishment they deserve, and the mercy that will be extended to those who repent and seek refuge in God. As is pointed out in chapters 1 and 2, the issue is that Israel is no longer worshiping God, but rather Baal, a pagan deity that was believed to grant fertility for both child-bearing and agricultural abundance. So in reference to Zephaniah’s message, the problem is that often something else receives the worship that belongs to God. It’s not that enjoying other things in this world is wrong, but does the posture of your heart reflect the truth that God is the source?
Zephaniah 3:14 opens the final section of the book with a simple set of commands: sing, shout, rejoice, and exult with all of your heart. In other words, worship. But notice the rest of our text today doesn’t describe how to worship, but rather chronicles the ways in which God is our source. Verse 15 names God as our redeemer. Verse 17 points out that God is for us and the source of our success. Verse 17 also points out that God is our source of renewal. Verse 18 names God as our protector. Verse 19 tells us that God is our source of healing and justice. All of these things can simply be grouped together as life. It is God and only God that is our source of life.
Often, worship focuses too much on the how and not enough on the who. We were made in God’s image and created to worship. As was stated at the top, that which we worship becomes that which we depend on and grow in intimacy with. As we prepare ourselves to receive Jesus Christ during this Advent season, we must both remember and realign our hearts, so that we are ready to respond to the true source with worship.
(The reflection section provides prompts to help you think through what God is teaching you and how it applies to the world around you. Take 3-5 minutes to ponder and respond to each question below. We recommend keeping a journal to write in, so that you can revisit it later.)
How would you have defined worship before our study today? How has that definition grown?
What things in your life distract you from fully worshiping God? What things, other than God, do you credit as a source of joy in your life?
How does shifting the focus of worship from how to who change the way you actively respond to God?
(This section notes the other three scripture verses that come from the Lectionary and influenced the direction of the theme. Each reading helps you dive deeper into the Bible and provides a quick note on how that text applies to the theme. Finally, there is a reflection question for each verse as well.)
Philippians 4:4-7 - In this Scripture passage, Paul encourages the church at Philippi to respond in worship to that which God is doing in and among them. Paul names multiple ways for them to respond. First in rejoicing, then in gentleness towards others, and finally in prayer and thankfulness. While we steered clear of prescribing what our worship response might look like earlier, Paul gives a few good examples for us to consider. When we receive from the source, our worship looks like passing on God’s goodness to others.
How is a gentleness a worshipful response to God? Are there places in your life where you can implement gentleness better in your life?.
Luke 7:18-30 - In this Scripture passage, Luke describes a scene where John the Baptist sends a couple of his followers to check up on Jesus. Jesus replies by testifying to the work that He has been doing. After John’s followers take leave to return to John with their confirmation, Jesus confirms the importance of John the Baptist in preparing the way for him. For us, this text echoes some of the truths about God included in Zephaniah and also reminds us that preparation is a process and doesn’t happen overnight. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, he also challenged us to prepare our hearts, so that we can recognize the ways in which Jesus Christ truly is the source of life.
If you‘ve been following along through the Advent series, how have some of the things we’ve talked about in the first two weeks prepared you to respond in worship this week?
Psalm 126 - In this Scripture passage, the Psalmist is responding to the ways that God has been Israel’s source of restoration and provision. The interesting thing about this passage is that the first half is written in past tense and functions as a testimony to God’s goodness. The second half, however, functions as a request and a declaration of the things that God will do and the response of joy that will follow. It’s important to remember that in many ways the Psalms were Israel’s songs of praise. So it shows a way for us to respond in worship, which is through the testimony of the things that God has done and faithful declarations that God will continue to be the source for what we need.
What testimony can you share about God’s goodness with your family this week? It can be something small that happened recently or a while back, but try to come up with a short story of God’s faithfulness to share.
Each week of Advent, we encourage you to set aside time for your family to come together and create space to intentionally focus on preparing your hearts for the coming of Jesus Christ. We recommend Sunday evenings, as it is the traditional time that the Advent story has been shared in families for hundreds of years, but any time when you can gather together will work great. To help you navigate this time, each week you will find a reading from the traditional Advent story, discussion prompts, questions, a thematic song, a craft, and a prayer. We pray that your time will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that God would prepare your hearts this Advent season for the coming of the Messiah.
Wise Men | Advent Story | Matthew 2:1-12
(This section is to help you see the connection between what you studied above and the Advent story we are going to share below.)
In the book of Matthew, the wise men are the first people to come and worship the newborn Jesus. Not only can we learn from their example, but their response to Jesus and the gifts that they brought reveal that they knew how important this baby was. As we talk about the power of worship and the importance on focusing on the who instead of the how with our families this week, the wise men’s example is perfect because their encounter led to joy and their time in worship changed their priorities, as they realized that Jesus was the true king.
Begin by recapping Advent and ask your kids what they remember from the previous two weeks.
Read, or have one of your older children read, Matthew 2:1-12.
Ask your family: What is going on in this story? Who is King Herod?
Ask: Why do you think Herod wants the wise men to go find Baby Jesus?
Share what you learned about worship this week with your kids. Emphasize the ways that Jesus is our true source of joy and explain that worship is responding to that truth or as we noted above glorifying through action.
Ask: How did the wise men worship Jesus?
For Older Kids: Talk about verse 12. Ask: How do you think encountering Jesus in worship led to them listening to the warning they were given in the dream?
Craft | DIY Nativity Scene | Wise Men
Over the course of these four weeks, we have been using our craft time to create a DIY nativity scene with our family. By creating a tangible and tactile implementation of the Christmas story, our young ones will be better able to process through the story and then can retell the story through the use of their nativity as a prop. You will also have a great keepsake decoration to help you revisit memories for years to come.
NOTE: If you have multiple kids who are going to participate in the creation of the nativity scene, you can either divvy up the steps and who gets to paint each doll or you can create an extra set to gift to a relative. Just be sure that you purchase enough peg dolls.
If you purchased supplies last week, you should have everything you need.
Wooden Peg Dolls (3 “Mom” Dolls will be used for this craft, but we will use many of these dolls throughout.)
Step 1: Outline
For the wise men, we are going to use the same technique we used week one for Mary with a little bit of a twist. We’ll use arms to give their robes a bit more of a pop. Start the arms by drawing two “V”s from the center of the robe, about belly button height. Then draw an upside down “V” to create the sleeve ends. Finish by erasing the bottom section of the lower “V”.
Step 2: Paint
This step is pretty simple and can be done by anyone. Using as few as five colors, you can fill in the outline you sketched in step 1. The one thing that is different is the way that we are going to outline the sleeves. I just added a little white to my color to lighten it and then painted the sleeve outline to make them stand out. For young kids, you can number the colors and put a number in each section so they know what color to paint. If needed, you can also outline each section and allow them to fill in the rest.
Step 3: Add Faces
For the faces, simply grab your black marker and draw a little smiley face.
Bonus Step: Finishing Spray
For durability, spray with clear protective finish to keep paint from chipping during play.
Each week take some time to sing together. Each song is on theme, and the lyrics can be another awesome conversation starter with your older kids. If you’re unfamiliar with the song or if you’d like some an accompaniment, we recommend that you search for a video online and play it while you sing. The lyrics are included below for reference, either while you sing or while you talk about their meaning.
Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O holy night! the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope - the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
(Pray this prayer in conclusion of your time together.)
“Lord God, we thank you for the time that we have shared together this evening. We pray that as we continue to sit and wait to encounter your son, Jesus, that we would respond to the work that you are doing in each of us with worship. Lord, we are so thankful that you are always faithful and that you love us so much that you sent your Jesus to be our source of life. We love you God and we pray these things in Jesus’s name. Amen.”
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Happy Advent and God Bless.
*Transparency Disclosure: Each of the Amazon links above are associate links, which means that Constant Source collects a small percentage of each item purchased via the above links. These links are examples of the supplies that can be used and alternative supplies will work just as well.