Advent! The beauty of a mysterious season that anticipates God’s interruption into the human story.

Or…if you’re a local church pastor who used every last creative fiber of your being to bring newness to the fall stewardship season: Advent! The strain of a countercultural-not-yet-Christmas season that yearns for inspiration but prefers tradition, that resists premature decorations but requires seasonal sales, that asks to be deeply stirred but struggles to be deeply still.

I pray that you who are pastors are not approaching Advent in a state of utter exhaustion or disillusionment, but — recognizing that both states (and more) happen in pastoral ministry — this week I’m posting Advent candle liturgies and Advent prayers of confession for those pastors whose spirits and creative juices are already running low. By week’s end you’ll find here a total of five sets of liturgies on the Revised Common Lectionary (Gospels as well as Old Testament), the Narrative Lectionary, and two non-lectionary themes.

NOTE: These liturgies are written to correspond with sermon series ideas that I developed for the Center for Progressive Renewal’s 2015 Advent webinar bundle. For in-depth reflection on the various sermon series referenced in these Advent liturgies, check out my webinar for CPR.

Here’s the first set:

(Revised Common Lectionary sermon series on the Gospel readings)

Advent 1 SIGNS: What are the signs? (Luke 21:25-36)

Candle Lighting
Though the earth should quake, though the seas should roar;
Though war begets war, though the climate shudders with change;
Though heaven itself falls, we know that all these are the signs of the world’s tumult.
But this is the sign of the LORD:
a light that is steadfast,
a light that bears love,
a light that welcomes the wandering and weary.
[first candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We are anxious for your coming, O God, anxious and eager for a new day when we no longer hurt or worry or feel afraid. We confess that we do not always trust you to bring about that new day. We confess that we often work against that day. Strengthen our hearts and our hope with a sign of all that you can do. By your grace, let us wait without fainting. By your grace, we will watch for you all the days of our lives. Amen.

Advent 2 SAVIORS: Who are we following? (Luke 3:1-6)

Candle Lighting
Cry out for the LORD! Cry out for God’s nearness!
Cry out for help! Let a savior come soon!
A savior — not a superhero or a soothsayer, not a politician or even a pastor.
Let the savior come from God. Let the Anointed One draw near:
to upend our upheaval,
to uphold every heart,
to spark a fire that we can follow.
[second candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
“Prepare the way” we hear, but we are uncertain of your way let alone our own. It’s so much easier to follow the loudest voice with the most convincing argument: whether friend or famous, scheming or self-serving. We are so eager for a savior that we would follow anyone, but you along deserve to be followed. You alone can save us. You alone can make mountains low and raise up valleys. You alone can take our uncertainty and give us peace. We long for peace. Amen.

Advent 3 SERPENTS: What should we do? (Luke 3:7-18)

Candle Lighting
The LORD is coming; how should we get ready?
The LORD is coming, but there are serpents inciting fear, there are snakes in the shadows of doubt;
There are vipers undermining life — and those fears, doubts, and oppressions are within us, not just around us.
What can we do differently?
Repent and share.
Repent and love.
Repent and shine a light.
[third candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Too often we live and act out of fear. Far less often, we live and act with joy and gratitude. Too often we fail to see our need for repentance, the harm we do to others and to ourselves. Far less often, we trust the love within others and the abundance of your possibilities. Forgive us, O God. Show us what to do, and then burn a fire within us to do it. We pray in the name of the One who is coming. Amen.

Advent 4 SONGS: What songs do we sing? (Luke 1:39-55)

Candle Lighting
Listen: a song is being hummed to bring comfort to the discouraged.
Listen: a song is being sung to help the weary stand with strength.
Listen: a song is building across creation to tell the story of God.
Sing and rejoice, o people!
Sing and magnify the LORD!
God has done great things!
God’s love shines eternally!
[fourth candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
For the times we have failed to lift our voices in praise, forgive us. For the times we have not joined the chorus of your love, forgive us. For the times we have not listened to your melody to inspire new ways of living, forgive us. Yours is the song of promise we cling to you, from day to day and generation to generation. Fill us up again with music to encourage our hearts, we pray. Amen.

Up next: Advent liturgies for the Revised Common Lectionary’s Old Testament readings.

You are welcome to use and adapt these liturgies and sermon series ideas for your faith community. Please credit this source just as you would credit a printed resource: with a citation printed in your worship bulletin and/or projected on your screen identifying the author and website (Rachel Hackenberg and as well as the date of this blogpost. 


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