This article is from Issue 2 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
ADVENT, the season of waiting and preparing for Christ’s coming, begins four Sundays before Christmas. In our community this has become a period of in-creasing good cheer, when we decorate our streets and houses, entertain one another, bake special cakes, and exchange special greetings. The pace quickens day by day, as we approach Christmas day, the fulfilment of our preparations and festivity.
Christians, wanting to prepare themselves in other ways, too, for the observance of Christmas, have reached back into the past to find the meaning of this season of Advent. Advent means coming It is a time not only for remembering the coming of Christ in Bethlehem, but also for seeking to recognize him when he comes to us now. For Jesus lives in our own times and in our own lives. Yet, too often he is a stranger to us, and we fail to recognize him; we are not prepared.
The custom of lighting Advent candles is an old one. On the first Sunday of Advent, the family gathered around the fireplace. On the mantelpiece were four candles, surrounded by boughs of evergreen. The first candle was lit as the family read from the Bible, and sang and prayed together. On the second Sunday, the first candle was lit again, and then the second, as once again the family worshipped together and so on each week, until the circle of light was completed on the fourth Sunday of Advent.
Here are five brief services for the lighting of Advent candles in the home. Members of the family can take turns lighting the candles and reading parts. Musical families can sing the hymns, but most will read them as poetry.
First Advent Candle
Scripture: Isaiah 60:1-2
Christ is the world’s light, he and none other;
Born in our darkness, he became our brother.
If we have seen him, we have seen the Father:
Glory to God on high.
Prayer: Almighty God, Father of us all; every one of us is important to you. You proved that when you sent your son, Jesus, to show us what you-are like. He came willingly into the world and involved himself in the affairs of men, taking upon himself the form of a servant, to prove that the way of love is the only way which makes sense. At this season of Advent, help us to realize that it is you, the Father of all, who comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lighting the first candle: As we light this first Advent candle, we hope for the fuller brightness that is to come. We want it to remind us to watch for what God will give us, and to see what he has already given.
A minute or two of silence – a time to think quietly as we watch the candle burning.
Prayer: O God, we want to thank you for your gift of Christ, not just with words, but also with deeds. Help us to be grateful every day. Help us to meet our friends with understanding, our work with willingness, our responsibilities with patience. You have given so much to us: help us to give even a little to those who need us and our gifts. especially at this season of giving. Amen.
Second Advent Candle (Re-light the first candle before continuing).
Scripture: Mark 1:1-8
Prayer: God of the prophets: in the wilderness of Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your son. Help us to hear the good news, to be truly sorry for our sins, and to be ready to welcome the Lord, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Lighting the second candle: We light this candle to remind us of how the way was prepared for Jesus’ coming. We hope that as Advent light increases, our own readiness may also increase.
Prayer: Christ Jesus, no one is a stranger to you. You prayed, but you also understood those who never prayed. You never hurt anyone, but you weren’t ashamed to be crucified with common thieves.
You make God known to us, and you make us known to God. You can make the darkness and the despair of our lives shine like day. You are the light of the world, the dawning of a new day. Live within us, we pray. Amen.
Hymn (or poem):
On a day when men were counted,
God became the Son of Man;
That his name in every census
Should be entered was his plan,
God, the Lord of all creation,
Humbly take a creature’s place;
He, whose form no man has witnessed,
Has today a human face.
(Sing a New Song, No. 9).
Third Advent Candle
(Re-light the first and second candles before continuing).
Scripture: Luke 1:26-32
Prayer: Almighty Father, each day brings us closer to the day of the Advent of your son, Jesus Christ. He is your gift to us, the fulfilment of your promises. Your Spirit helps us now to pray and to watch for his coming. Praise to you, Father, Son, and Spirit, for the promise of Advent, and the happiness of Christmas.
Lighting the third candle: We draw closer to Christmas. As we light this candle, may our hope be renewed that Christ will be born again in our lives this Christmas time.
Hymn (or poem):
Clear shining light,
Your face lights up our way;
Light of the world,
Dawn on our darkened day.
Hope of the world,
You come again to reign;
King of the earth,
Walk in our streets again.
(Sing a New Song, No. 10, verses 2,4).
Prayer: Eternal God: through long generations you prepared a way in our world for the coming of your Son, and by your Spirit you are still bringing the light of the gospel to darkened lives. Renew us, so that we may welcome Jesus Christ to rule our thoughts and claim our love, as Lord of lords and King of kings, to whom be glory always. Amen.
Fourth Advent Candle
(Re-light the first, second and third candles before continuing).
Opening: For to us a child is born, To us a son is given. Prayer: Give us, O God, such love and wonder, that with shepherds and wise men and pilgrims unknown, we may come to adore the holy child, the promised King; and with our gifts worship him, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hymn: Silent night
Scripture: Luke 2:4-16
Lighting the fourth candle: We bring our Advent wreath to full blaze of light, in the hope that we may see clearly all that is made known to us in the coming of Jesus.
A time for silent prayer and thought Poem (or song):
A cry in the night, and a child is born,
A child in a stable, there isn’t any room.
A cry in the night, and God has made
Our homelessness his home.
(Sing a New Song, No. 11)
Prayer: As you come in the stillness of night, great God, enter our lives this night. Overcome darkness with the light of Christ’s presence, so that we may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for him, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Lighting the Christ Candle
The Advent wreath may also have a fifth candle, known as the Christ candle for lighting on Christmas day (or some say Christmas eve). Light the first, second, third, and fourth candles before continuing.
Opening: Joy to the world! Christ has come!
Scripture: Luke 2:17-20
Prayer: O God, we thank you for the wonderful gift of Jesus. Help us, like Mary, to think deeply about what his coming means for us, and like the shepherds, to sing praises because he has come into our world. Amen.
Lighting the Christ candle: This is Christ’s birthday. As we celebrate it with him, and with all his people everywhere, we hope that we may share in bringing his light into the lives of those around us.
A minute or two of silence – enjoying the brightness of the five candles.
Hymn: O come all ye faithful
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, help us to spread light and joy and love in the world by the way we live, the things we do and say. Be with us always. Amen.
HOW TO MAKE ADVENT WREATHS
1. Have the following materials on hand, whether for supply, loan or sale:
* lengths of fine chicken wire (wire netting), cut into pieces approximately 600mm x 150 to 175mm
* pair of pliers
* suitable evergreen foliage
* a supply of candles
* one wreath made as a sample.
2. Have background music of Christmas carols, songs, etc.
3. Allow families or persons to begin as they arrive each to make one wreath.
4. To make the wreath, twist the wire to form a circular base. Insert the candles and finish the wire around their base. Then arrange pieces of evergreen or other suitable greenery to make a wreath. (If they wilt, they can be replaced). The central candle, if used, does not have to be attached to the rest of the wreath.
5. Have a meal together, if this is feasible.
6. If it is the first Sunday of Advent, have the lighting of the first candle in each wreath with accompanying worship. Members from different families share in this.
7. Have a central candle burning and a supply of small candles, and invite a member of each family to come and light a small candle and take it back for the lighting of the first candle in their own wreath.