A Dramatic Reading Perfect for Week 1 of Advent

Add fresh perspective to your Christmas Season this year with a creative Advent Reading for your Contemporary Worship Service.

FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT, USE ISAIAH 64 WITH A CREATIVE PSALMIST RESPONSE

Advent is the season of waiting and anticipation leading up to Christmas. It is traditionally known for lighting of candles and special readings. While the four Sundays of Advent often have a weekly theme, it varies between churches. Learn more about the Meaning of Advent and How to Celebrate It by clicking here: 8 WORSHIP IDEAS TO CELEBRATE THE MEANING OF ADVENT.

For a perfect Advent Reading for your contemporary church, try this one. Using 3 different readers, sandwich this Psalmist Response in the middle of Isaiah 64 for a fresh twist on a well-read Advent Scripture.

Honor Church Tradition While Adding Personal Meaning

As a worship leader, I’m always challenged with honoring tradition, while adding creative elements that inspire worshipers to draw deeper in their relationship with Christ.

This reading is impactful with its Psalmist Response embedded in the middle of Isaiah 64.  It adds a heartfelt emphasis of waiting on God in the midst of our longing.

I’m including the entirety of the reading here for easy reference. (It’s ready to cut and paste and use today!) The scripture here is from the NIV translation.

HOW TO SET-UP YOUR DRAMATIC READING FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

Find 3 Readers

  • Reader 1 serves as the bookends. This reader begins with Isaiah 64:1-7. And then quietly looks down while 2 unseen readers engage in responses from the Psalms (mostly).
  • Readers 2 & 3 engage in a conversation of sorts. While reading straight scripture for the Psalmist Response section, one calls in anguish and another calmly reassures.
  • As the Psalmist Response section concludes, Reader 1 finishes with Isaiah 64:8-9.

Choose Your Readers Carefully

Before choosing readers, think of their voices and what each role expresses.

For example, Isaiah 64 is an emotional passage, full of imagery. I chose one of my favorite friends for this passage. She has an expressive voice, full of emotion. She is soft but bold. Her depth and love for Jesus always ooze out when she reads scripture.

For the Psalmist Response section, I chose a contrast. A young couple in their 20s took these two roles. I gave “READER 2” to the man in this partnership.

I wanted a strong male voice that could express anguish for READER 2. His voice reminds me of what I imagine David’s voice would have actually sounded like as he cried out to the Lord in the book of Psalms.

To his wife I gave “READER 3.” I wanted calm reassurance.

As you glance through this, try to hear the different vocal tones and cadences. Putting readers in the right roles makes a huge difference in the experience of those who hear.

It’s not only WHAT is said that makes an impact, but HOW it is said.

Position Your Readers Creatively

READER 1 is Seen

Position READER 1 at a pulpit or music stand in the front of your worship center. She remains there from start to end. But bows her head in reflective listening when the Psalmist Response begins. At the conclusion of the Psalmist Response, she resumes the reading of Isaiah 64.

READERS 2 & 3 are Unseen

This section has the “voice-from-heaven” kind of feeling.

Position READERS 2 & 3 out of sight. We used a cordless mic and hid our readers in the prayer room. You may have a cry room, a tech area, or behind-the-stage space that makes a great spot for hidden readers. 

Make sure your readers are strong bold. When readers are unseen, it is vital that they begin with confidence. Without seeing a reader, worshipers sometimes get a bit confused and miss the beginning phrases.

PRACTICE ADVENT READINGS FOR LESS STRESS AND BETTER RESULTS

Test All Sound Equipment

Test mics and practice ahead of time for any readings in a worship service. While we like to think everyone does due diligence and will be ready, life happens. We get busy. And our best intentions are overrun with other to-dos on our list. 

Have Readers Practice at Church with the Microphone

If you have a weeknight rehearsal, invite readers to come for a run-through. This is best practice. At the very least, remind them to practice on their own several times before Sunday. On Sunday morning, invite them for another run-through. Although many do not want the practice, it really does help work out the kinks and ensures better results.

Give Readers Printed Scripts PLUS an Emailed Copy

Provide readers with a full script, printed out as well as emailed. Don’t just give them the scripture reference to find on their own, as this can lead to errors and translations that may not communicate what you imagine. 

Keep Extra Copies of Readings in Your Worship Center

Always have extra printed copies ready at church and let them know they will be there. You don’t want your readers coming late because they ran home to grab the copy they forgot. 

Have a Plan B

Tell your readers if a mic fails, to continue to read and project loudly. Tell them not to tap on the mic. Never begin with, “Is this on?” Just go.

For readers who are hidden, let them know if the mic fails, to enter the worship center and stand along the side or back, and simply continue to read loudly. 

Giving readers a Plan B saves the panic in case of mishap.

ADVENT WEEK 1 READING: ISAIAH 64 WITH PSALMIST RESPONSE

(about 4 minutes total)

READER 1

READER 1: Read Isaiah 64:1-7 first. During the Psalmist Response section, quietly bow your head in reflective listening. At the conclusion of that section, resume reading the rest of the passage, verses 8 & 9.

Isaiah 64:1-9
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!

As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!

For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.

But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.

PSALMIST RESPONSE SECTION

READER 2 (your character is in anguish, stress, pain…crying out to God, pleading)

READER 3 (your character is calm, reassuring, secure)

Take your time reading. This should almost read as a conversation. READER 3 responding to READER 2’s cry. Put pauses between verses. Do NOT be quick. 

READER 2:

To You, O LORD, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 28:1

READER 3:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. Psalm 62:5

READER 2:

O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. Psalm 83:1

READER 3:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

READER 2:

Will You restrain Yourself at these things, O LORD? Will You keep silent and afflict us beyond measure? Isaiah 64:12

READER 3:

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20

READER 2:

Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord. Psalm 35:22-23

READER 3:

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

READER 2:

After all this, Lord, will you hold yourself back?   Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure? Isaiah 64:12

READER 3:

I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Isaiah 8:17

RETURN TO READER 1

Isaiah 64:8-9

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter;  we are all the work of your hand.

Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.

USE SCRIPTURE READINGS DURING ADVENT TO TEACH GOD’S REDEMPTIVE STORY

The story of Christmas began long before the birth of Christ. Connecting Old Testament prophecies and references help inspire worshipers to see the larger picture of redemption. The picture that began long before the creation of the world. 

Using a variety of Scripture during the season of Advent deepens your worshipers’ experience as well as their connection with God during this holiday that is full of distraction.

FOR MORE ABOUT ADVENT, CLICK HERE:

8 WORSHIP IDEAS TO CELEBRATE THE MEANING OF ADVENT

ADVENT READING: Prophecies Fulfilled – perfect for Advent Week 4 or Christmas Eve