Advent Liturgies (Object Lessons)

Already posted: SIGNS, SAVIORS, SERPENTS, SONGS on the Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings; WAITING, PREPARING, SINGING, LABORING on the RCL’s Old Testament readings; WHERE JUSTICE GETS DONE on the Narrative Lectionary readings; and NATIVITY THROUGH ADVENT as a non-lectionary option.

Up now, the last of the original Advent liturgies that I’ll be posting for this season: OBJECT LESSONS, a non-lectionary set of liturgies (and related sermon series) aimed to make Advent tangible. I suggested OBJECT LESSONS as one of several Advent sermon series ideas during my Advent Preaching Hacks webinar, part of the Center for Progressive Renewal’s 2015 Advent webinar bundle. NOTE: When using object lessons in worship — not just for the “children’s moment” — it’s important to make the experience available to everyone. Don’t believe adults who tell you that they don’t need their own object to hold/use or that they’ll “just watch”; all of our spirits benefit from play!

Advent 1 (ORIGAMI) Isaiah 2:1-5
Also suggested: move the whole worship service to the chancel area. Crowd in the chairs for those who prefer seats and spread blankets/rugs for those who might enjoy sitting on the floor. Many church chancel spaces are elevated, thus bringing everyone up to the “mountain of the LORD’s house.”

Candle Lighting
In a world full of swords,
Make plowshares.
In a world full of spears,
Make pruning hooks.
In a world full of fear,
Make light and love.
[first candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We can imagine a different world, but God we are afraid that it is impossible to reach. We can imagine better ways of caring for neighbors and strangers, but God we are convinced that it cannot be done. Will we ever see a day without war? Will we ever see a season without fear? Will we ever reach your holy mountain? We are gathered at your feet, Most Holy God. Teach us, we pray.

Advent 2 (CLAY) Isaiah 64:1-9
Also suggested: structure this worship service so that it’s primarily an experience of silence. The Isaiah text invites a spirit of lament and confession; allow long periods of silence to make room for grief and meditation, and let the creative use of clay (or coloring for those who desire a not-so-messy tactile experience) serve as the good & redeeming news.

Candle Lighting
No ear has heard,
No eye has seen,
No hand has touched,
No heart has known, 
A god more awesome than this God,
A god more mighty, more merciful than our God.
[second candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We have sinned, and you are rightly angry. We have injured one another. We have wilted in faith. We have tried to hold onto you for our own gain, tried to see you in our own image. Despite our sins, we beg you: do not hide your face from us and do not abandon our hearts. Instead overwhelm us and awe us into humility. Grab hold of us and shape us like the clay we are. We are the work of your hand.

Advent 3 (POTLUCK) Isaiah 7:10-16
For the potluck, invite congregation leaders to bring simple snacks — enough to share — or invite the whole congregation to contribute to the feast. Consider worshipping at tables together rather than in pews. Also suggested: Bring chrismons to the worship service (tree ornaments if your church has them or printed copies of chrismon designs along with crayons/markers for coloring), making sure that there are enough chrismons for each participant. The Isaiah text lends itself to learning about signs of God and of Christian faith.

Candle Lighting
A sign:
As high as the stars, as deep as the seas.
A sign:
An adult, a child, a loved one, a stranger.
A sign:
Curds and honey, bread and cup.
A sign:
Light and goodness to bless all people.
[third candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
So often we believe that there is not enough: not enough signs to guide our faith, not enough love to turn the tides of war, not enough food to welcome all people to the table, not enough goodness to resist the powers of evil, not enough hope to comfort our weariness. You are enough, O Great God. You are more than enough.

Advent 4 (BUILDING BLOCKS) Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Also suggested: in addition to providing a wide variety of building toys (Legos, Lincoln Logs, etc.), bring seeds, pots & soil to worship so that congregants can “build” plants and sow seeds for new life.

Candle Lighting
What is God building?
Justice and joy.
What is God planting?
Comfort and community.
Give God your mourning,
And God will build gladness.
Give God your tired heart,
And God will plant praise.
[fourth candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Have mercy on us, O God. We have become so accustomed to our ashes that we cannot receive your healing. We have become so accustomed to war-torn cities that we cannot imagine peaceful communities. We have become so accustomed to injustice that we cannot see salvation blooming around us. Have mercy on us, have mercy.

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 source: with a citation printed in your worship bulletin or displayed on your projection screen identifying the author and website — Rachel Hackenberg and rachelhackenberg.com — as well as the date of this blogpost.

Advent Liturgies (Nativity)

Already posted: SIGNS, SAVIORS, SERPENTS, SONGS on the Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings; WAITING, PREPARING, SINGING, LABORING on the RCL’s Old Testament readings; and WHERE JUSTICE GETS DONE on the Narrative Lectionary readings.

Still to come: One more set of Advent liturgies on a non-lectionary theme (Object Lessons).

Up now: NATIVITY THROUGH ADVENT, a series of Advent liturgies centered on aspects of the nativity story. If you watched my webinar for the Center for Progressive Renewal, you heard me say that there are many approaches to preaching the nativity story through Advent: taking the story chronologically, focusing on individual characters, and examining the places/settings throughout the story, among many other options. While some of us may be liturgical purists who maintain strict boundaries between Advent and Christmas, working through & over the richness of the Christmas story during Advent can add depth to a holiday that otherwise is liturgically limited to December 24/25.

Among the “Nativity Through Advent” ideas, the theme of PLACE holds particular resonance for me, so the following liturgies assume a sermon series on places in the nativity story and in our faith.

Advent 1 (SANCTUARY) Luke 1:5-23

Candle Lighting
In the presence of God,
We are in awe.
Overwhelmed by God,
We are speechless.
Graced by God,
We are thankful.
[first candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We are humble before you, O God. We are in your place, in your time, in your presence, and we confess our awe before you. How can we stand before your power? How can we boast in the presence of your imagination? How can we claim wisdom before your foolishness? Everywhere we go, you stun and surprise us. All the world is your sanctuary, O God. Keep us ever mindful and meek.

Advent 2 (HOME) Luke 1:39-45

Candle Lighting
You are welcome here.
God is welcome here.
You are welcome here.
We are welcome here.
Come and be here.
Come and be you.
Holy God, come among us and be You.
[second candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We are not always welcoming, O God, and we do not always feel welcome. We have not celebrated one another as the good gifts we are. We have not cried together in the seasons when we have needed a good cry. We have not visited one another often enough to gasp in joy or sigh in pain. Forgive us, O God. Teach us again to create home for friends and strangers, loved ones and enemies.

Advent 3 (CITIES/BUSY PLACES) Luke 2:1-5

Candle Lighting
The ways are crowded,
God is not lost.
The days are busy,
God’s time stands still.
The journey is long,
God’s light guides our feet.
[third candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Our ways are not our own, O God. We hurry and race, twist and turn, trying to keep up, trying to get ahead, trying to stand out in the crowd. We change our ways at a moment’s whim. We change our minds by fear or persuasion. We are told where to go, where not to go. We struggle to listen for you. We cannot sense your way. Where the ways are crowded and confused, guide us we pray. Where the noise fills our ears, bring a quiet piece to our hearts.

Advent 4 (FIELDS/WIDE OPEN SPACES) Luke 2:8-15

Candle Lighting
Field and forest,
Glory to God!
Sheep and sparrow,
Glory to God!
Rock and river,
Glory to God!
Let all creation
Give glory to God!
[fourth candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We are longing for wide open spaces to breathe and to be amazed, but so often we do not look up to see them. So often we do not look up to see you. We miss the beauty of a drop of dew, of a single snowflake. We fail to tune in to the bird’s song. We forget to breathe deeply. Startle us, we pray. Wake us up, and our praises will echo across the open fields to your glory.

IMG_0959You 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 source: with a citation printed in your worship bulletin or displayed on your projection screen identifying the author and website — Rachel Hackenberg and rachelhackenberg.com — as well as the date of this blogpost.

Advent Liturgies (Narrative)

Already posted: SIGNS, SAVIORS, SERPENTS, SONGS on the Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings and WAITING, PREPARING, SINGING, LABORING on the RCL’s Old Testament readings.

Still to come: Two sets of Advent liturgies on non-lectionary themes (Nativity-through-Advent and Object Lessons).

Up now: WHERE JUSTICE GETS DONE, Advent liturgies on the Narrative Lectionary’s scripture readings. “Where Justice Gets Done” is one of several Advent sermon series ideas that I developed for the Center for Progressive Renewal’s 2015 Advent webinar bundle. For in-depth reflection on this sermon series and others, check out my webinar for CPR.

Advent 1 (IN WORDS) 2 Kings 22:1-10 & 14-20, 23:1-3

Candle Lighting
In word and work,
We walk in the sight of the LORD.
In love and learning,
We walk in the sight of the LORD.
In generosity, in faith,
We walk in the sight of the LORD.
[first candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
You would be right, Most Holy God, to rain disaster on us because of our unfaithfulness, because of our self-loathing and other-hatred, because of our carelessness with creation, because of our quickness with war. You would be right to do so, but have mercy we pray. Hear the confession of our sins and the humility of our hearts. Put your word within us, and we will live by your ways. [silence]

Advent 2 (IN PLACES) Isaiah 40:1-11

Candle Lighting
From wilderness to city,
From desert to highway,
Make space for God!
In field and valley,
Across seas and mountains,
Make space for God’s people!
[second candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We cry out, “Comfort us, O God!” but we have not comforted others. We pray, “Speak gently to us!” but we have cursed neighbor and stranger. We ask, “Make a way for us, O God!” but we have not made a way for you or for the refugee. We yearn, “Reveal to us your glory!” but we watch for you only on Sundays. We invite, “Come and be with us!” but we turn away sisters and brothers from the table. [silence]

Advent 3 (IN COMMUNITY) Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-4 & 10-13

Candle Lighting
God is good!
This is the foundation.
God is love!
This is the bridge.
God is beautiful!
This is the community.
[third candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
O God: Make us new, but don’t make us change. Bring us together, but don’t challenge our perspectives. Guarantee our purpose, but do not shake our foundations. Fill us with praise, but spare us from tears. [silence]

Advent 4 (IN MYSTERY) Luke 1:5-13 & 57-80

Candle Lighting
Blessed be God.
Blessed be the Mystery.
Blessed be God.
Blessed be the Silence.
Blessed be God.
Blessed be the Insight.
[fourth candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We confess, Eternal God, that we love to know. We love to tell you what we know and how you should be. We love to impress others with all that we know. We envy experts and soothsayers. We especially love to be right. But you, O God, are right and wise — not us. You are most high and merciful — not us. You are the insight to every question. You are the question that leads to conversion. [silence]

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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 source: with a citation printed in your worship bulletin or displayed on your projection screen identifying the author and website — Rachel Hackenberg and rachelhackenberg.com — as well as the date of this blogpost.

Advent Liturgies (RCL OT)

Already posted: SIGNS, SAVIORS, SERPENTS, SONGS on the Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings.

Still to come: Advent liturgies on the Narrative Lectionary and two non-lectionary themes (Nativity Through Advent and Object Lessons).

Up now: WAITING, PREPARING, SINGING, LABORING, Advent liturgies on the Revised Common Lectionary’s Old Testament readings. “Waiting, Preparing, Singing, Laboring” is one of several Advent sermon series ideas that I developed for the Center for Progressive Renewal’s 2015 Advent webinar bundle. For in-depth reflection on this sermon series and others, check out my webinar for CPR.

Advent 1 (WAITING) Jeremiah 33:14-16

Candle Lighting
We wait… With each second, with every hour.
We wait… Through each day, through each season.
We wait… God’s day is coming.
We wait… God’s work will be done.
Like a burning candle that stands watch through the night,
We wait.
[first candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Like farmers watching the land after a planting, we are expectant before you, Most Holy God. You are the seed of possibility, the root of life, the growing harvest of justice, the off-shooting branch of salvation … and we are impatient for it all. Impatient to know what might be. Impatient to forecast our lives and to secure our futures. Impatient to see the fruit of justice. Impatient for your salvation and healing. We forget that this is your work, O God, not ours. Forgive us. Grant us the faith to wait and to watch for what you will do. Amen.

Advent 2 (PREPARING) Malachi 3:1-4

Candle Lighting
Prepare the way:
To the north, south, east and west.
Make room for God’s work:
In our hearts, in our world, in our church, in our relationships.
Be prepared: like a refiner’s fire, God will work to make us more beautiful than gold, more precious than silver.
Prepare the way.
[second candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Have mercy, O God: we want to prepare the way for you, but we don’t know which way you are coming. Have mercy, O God: we want to prepare the way for you, but we are so easily distracted. Have mercy, O God: we want to prepare the way for you, but if you come then we will have to put aside our agendas and our egos. Have mercy, O God. Have mercy.

Advent 3 (SINGING) Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Isaiah 12:2-6

Candle Lighting
Sing aloud, o people, sing and shout!
Rejoice with all your heart, o church!
Set your feet firmly on the ground, open your mouth,
And sing! Sing to bless the LORD who is in your midst.
Here is our song: a triumphant light against the long shadows.
With joy, we sing!
[third candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Forgive us, O God. Too easily we give in to fear and we forget to sing your praise. Pour your joy over us and renew our hope. [silence] Forgive us, O God. Too easily we doubt our strength to do your work. Pour your song over us to wash away our shame and hesitation. [silence] Forgive us, O God. Too easily we forget to see ourselves and one another in your image. Pour your love over us so that we recognize your beauty in our midst. [silence] Forgive us, O God, and restore us we pray. Amen.

Advent 4 (LABORING) Micah 5:2-5a

Candle Lighting
From the smallest
To the greatest,
From the least
To the most,
In each one, there is a light to shine brightly.
We labor together for the light!
[fourth candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
It is so hard, O God — this work that you are doing, this work that you are asking us to do. It is so hard to wait and work, to love and labor, without seeing immediate results. It is so hard to care and imagine, to welcome and risk, without knowing what exactly you are doing or how exactly your kin(g)dom will come to pass. We are anxious. We are tired. We are restless. We are cynical. Have patience with us, we pray. Amen.

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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 source: with a citation printed in your worship bulletin or displayed on your projection screen identifying the author and website — Rachel Hackenberg and rachelhackenberg.com — as well as the date of this blogpost.

Advent Liturgies (RCL Gospel)

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:

SIGNS, SAVIORS, SERPENTS, SONGS
(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.

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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 rachelhackenberg.com) as well as the date of this blogpost.