Advent: Lighting the Fourth Candle

This is part 6 of a 7-part series on Advent by Toni and Brian Becker.
[Play Christmas worship music before gathering to set a special tone. You can even play the four songs you are going to sing during the service to familiarize everyone to the songs.]

Opening Prayer and Lighting of First and Second Candle
[light the first three candles] With settled hearts and minds we bow in worship. You, Oh God, are more than worthy of our highest praise. Thank You for the faithfulness You’ve shown Your people since the beginning of time. You are good and Your mercy endures forever! It reaches from the highest heavens to our lowly hearts, constantly. We need You more than ever, Lord. Our whole world has never been more hungry for salvation. And here You are!

Songs of Worship
Halleluia by Darlene Zschech
Welcome To Our World by Chris Rice

Bible Reading
Luke 2:1-5 read from The Message

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

Meditation
Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth near the sea of Galilee. The trip to Bethlehem was just under 100 miles. That was a long trip for anyone, let alone a husband-to-be with his very pregnant fiancé. The book of Luke doesn’t describe how they traveled. Traditionally we envision Mary perched on the back of a donkey, but that comes down to us from tradition, not the actual Bible story. No matter whether she was jostling about on a donkey or walking the road, 100 miles in your 9th month of pregnancy would be brutal.

Both the book of Matthew and Luke record Joseph’s genealogy back to King David, but here we have one more sign that Jesus was a descendant of David: his father Joseph was forced to travel to Bethlehem, his ancestral hometown. In those days, Bethlehem was best known as the “Birthplace of King David,” but that was about to change.

Bethlehem’s citizens have no idea they have a great event about to occur in their midst. They were all getting ready for the large, city-wide family reunion and busy taking in all the guest travelers who were also coming into town for the census. We shouldn’t envision this as hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts and hostels, most of these travelers stayed with family. Remember, this is their home town. In addition, some speculate that there were vacant homes of people who had to leave Bethlehem and go to their own ancestral hometown for the same census.

Our story reveals that all the available places were occupied by others. Joseph and Mary weren’t married yet and Mary was pregnant, which might also be a reason for Joseph’s family not being motivated to find room for them.

Staying in the stable seems strange to us today, but less than 100 years ago, it was common for people to “stay in the barn.” Plus, for the previous 10 days or so, Joseph and Mary were probably camping out along the road. The shelter of a stable and warmth of straw may have been much more inviting when you put this all into perspective.

In our modern day world, this next week will be filled with people traveling to visit family, others waiting for family to arrive, big meals, laughter and joy. This busy-ness and excitement is much like what it must have been like that first Christmas…just keep your heart tuned because the Creator of the Universe wants to break into your world just like He did that night in Bethlehem years ago.

Lighting of the Fourth Advent Candle
[light fourth Advent candle] In the busy-ness of this season, we light this candle to tune our hearts to the presence of the Living God.

Closing Song of Worship
Silent Night
Joy To The World

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If you would like to download the songs we’ve suggested for our advent services you can click the box below and download each of them for $0.99. The lyrics for the songs appear below:

Halleluia

He is here, the Savior has been born
The One we’ve waited for
Surrounded by our praises
He is here, the promise of a king
To You our lives we bring
Let Your glory be revealed
Joy to the world, peace to all who love Him
The Savior has been born and all of Heaven smiles
Glory to God, we bring an offering to Him
Join with all the angels, singing “Halleluia.”

Welcome To Our World

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don’t mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Joy To The World

Joy to the world! The Lord is come:
let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare him room
and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns:
let men their songs employ
while fields and floods rocks hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy.

He rules the earth with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love

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Written by

After graduating from Mizzou with Computer and Electrical Engineering degrees in 1985, Brian Becker spent a decade singing Christian Rock and being a labeled artist with Benson Music Group of Nashville. In 1995, he and several investors started the area's first Internet Service called PBMO.net and by 2000 the company was serviing Internet access in over 50 communities throughout Southeast Missouri as SEMO.net.