Monday Muse: Advent Candle Liturgies

Advent is a season to savor — the longing, the impossible hope, the desperate eagerness for God to come and completely convert the world to holy ways of justice and love.

Savoring Advent, however, is often a rare luxury for church professionals working hard to bring the season to life for their congregations … and quite a spiritual feat for all of us striving to hold onto Advent as something distinct from Christmas (and from the tsunami that is Christmas consumerism).

In support especially of my colleagues in church work, the following Advent candle liturgies are offered as a relief from writing your own and as an opportunity to (hopefully) resonate with the Advent season in your own spirit. Please include a printed attribution to this website if you use these liturgies in worship.

Preachers may also want to join me this Wednesday, Nov 12, at 1:00pm EST for a webinar, Preaching Advent Like You Planned It Months Ago.

ADVENT CANDLE LITURGY CELEBRATING LIGHT

Advent 1
One: First the silence … then a whisper.
Another: First the shadows … then a spark.
Many: Light!
One: One voice murmuring, “Take courage.”
Another: One light reassuring, “Do not be afraid.”
Many: Hope!
One: Here, take my hand.
Another: Here, lend your voice.
Many: We are not alone!

Advent 2
One: First the tinder … then the kindling.
Another: First the spark … then the flames.
Many: Light!
One: One voice singing, “O grant us light.”
Another: One fire beckoning, “Come join the circle.”
Many: Peace!
One: Here, soak in the warmth.
Another: Here, rest and be comforted.
Many: We are not alone!

Advent 3
One: First the beacon … then the witness.
Another: First the sighting … then the celebration.
Many: Light!
One: One voice shouting, “Look and see!”
Another: One flash boasting, “Brightest and best!”
Many: Joy!
One: Here, beauty radiates! Colors dance!
Another: Here, praise rises with every burst and glimmer!
Many: We are not alone!

Advent 4
One: First the sigh … then the smile.
Another: First the blush … then the excitement.
Many: Light!
One: One voice calling, “Let us love one another!”
Another: One heart beaming, “This is our purpose!”
Many: Love!
One: Here, compassion sways!
Another: Here, community delights!
Many: We are not alone!

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day
One: First the mystery … then the angelic song.
Another: First the waiting … then the dawning.
Many: Light!
One: One voice humming a lullaby, “You have come!”
Another: One star singing joyfully, “You have come!”
Many: Christ!
One: Here, the holy arrives in weakness and humility.
Another: Here, the holy breaks open our hearts.
Many: We are not alone!

ADVENT CANDLE LITURGY AS THE (adapted) OLD TESTAMENT READING, REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY

Advent 1 (Isaiah 64:1-9)
Like a spark igniting tinder, then the woodfire causing a kettle to boil,
You, O God, cause a reaction whenever and wherever you appear.
Oh that you would appear now and set the mountains quaking!
When the earth trembles, we remember: you alone are the God who is at work.
Most Holy God, you demand of us a reaction — a response — and the dedication of co-laborers.
You have every reason to hold us accountable when we fail to walk in your ways, to give voice to your name, to hold fast to you.
Yet do not be angry with us for long, O God, for you have claimed us as your people.
Take us, mold us like the clay we are, and show us your hope that a new work can be done within us.
Light first Advent candle.

Advent 2 (Isaiah 40:1-11)
Speak tenderly to the world, O God our God; come quickly to tell her that her pain has gone on long enough.
Prepare the way of the LORD; make way for the peace of God!
Move the mountains! Lift up the valleys! Smooth the rough paths!
But how can we do this, O God, we who are like grass that fades in the sun, like flowers that wither before the wind?
Get up to a high mountain! Lift up your voice with strength and do not be afraid!
From the mountaintop we can see: God comes with might to redress the world’s suffering, to comfort her like a shepherd comforts a lamb.
Share the good news: here is your God!
Let your glory be revealed, most merciful God!
Light first two Advent candles.

Advent 3 (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11)
Tell me, tired ones, do you still sit in mourning?
Come, let us replace our ashes with garlands of flowers, and set aside our weary spirits to put on cloaks of praise.
You are a planting of the LORD, a holy reparation that brings life to the ruins;
Not for our own sake, but because God is faithful and loves justice! Because God cares about God’s reputation!
Rejoice in the LORD! Dance with exultation!
You, O God, are good and abundant!
Like a garden nurtures seeds into bloom,
So God nurtures our praise to burst into beauty for all the world to see!
Sing in joy and do not be silent;
For God is good news for the oppressed, healing for the brokenhearted, and freedom to the prisoners!
Light three Advent candles.

Advent 4 (2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16)
See the light of God that leads and comforts us!
Shouldn’t the light of God be kept in a holy place, a beautifully decorated space?
Listen as the LORD reminds us: “I do not live in a house as you do.”
God has moved among us for generations, ever-restless, never contained.
“From pastures to cities, across rivers and deserts, I have been with you.”
When we tried to build God into our churches and creeds, God refused to nest.
“I am your home. I am your rest. Whether you wander or set down roots, you live within my house.”
O God our God! In your house we are no longer lost; in your kingdom, we are forever loved!
Light four Advent candles.

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day (Isaiah 9:2-7)
The people who wandered at night have seen the sun rising gloriously in the east.
We have been lost in the darkest shadows; now the light shines through!
Before you, O God, we dance with joyful abandon, as when the harvest has been gathered for the winter!
Now our burden has dropped from our shoulders, to be picked up no more!
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us!
On his shoulders shall rest all burdens and authority, and we will praise his name: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Unending One, Bringer of Peace!
His authority will multiply and his peace will be eternal,
For the child who has been born will establish justice by the holy power of God, from this time on and forevermore!
Light four Advent candles and the Christ candle.

ADVENT CANDLE LITURGY ON SILENCE

Advent 1
at the start of worship, with lights dimmed/out
liturgist stands next to the Advent candles
liturgist allows 15-30 seconds of silence before announcing:
Let there be hope!
first candle is lit
worship leaders allow another 15-30 seconds of silence
worship begins

Advent 2
at the start of worship, with lights dimmed/out
liturgist stands next to the Advent candles
first candle is already lit

liturgist allows 15-30 seconds of silence before announcing:
Let there be peace!
second candle is lit
worship leaders allow another 15-30 seconds of silence
worship begins

Advent 3
at the start of worship, with lights dimmed/out
liturgist stands next to the Advent candles
first two candles are already lit

liturgist allows 15-30 seconds of silence before announcing:
Let there be joy!
third candle is lit
worship leaders allow another 15-30 seconds of silence
worship begins

Advent 4
at the start of worship, with lights dimmed/out
liturgist stands next to the Advent candles
first three candles are already lit

liturgist allows 15-30 seconds of silence before announcing:
Let there be love!
fourth candle is lit
worship leaders allow another 15-30 seconds of silence
worship begins

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day
at the start of worship, with lights dimmed/out
liturgist stands next to the Advent candles
all four Advent candles are already lit

liturgist allows 15-30 seconds of silence before announcing:
Let Christ be born!
white Christ candle is lit
worship leaders allow another 15-30 seconds of silence
worship begins

ADVENT CANDLE LITURGY ON THE NARRATIVE LECTIONARY AS A SENDING

Advent 1 (Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:2-4; 3:17-19)
No longer need you worry for help or despair over trouble. There is a vision of what God has in store!
Though the land lies in hibernation, though the flowers do not bloom, though the fields produce no yield, still we hope in God our strength!
First candle is lit and carried in procession out from the sanctuary.

Advent 2 (Esther 4:1-17)
Shall we keep silent as violence rages and power strangles?
Even in this time — especially in this time — we will dare to test the bounds of peace for the sake of justice and strain the limits of respectability for the sake of life.
Two candles are lit and carried in procession out from the sanctuary.

Advent 3 (Isaiah 42:1-9)
Do not bruise the tall reed or quench the barely-burning wick, but wait patiently with all creation for the LORD’s coming.
All things will pass, new things will come, God alone is forever; God alone receives our joyful praise. We will be a light to God’s coming!
Three candles are lit and carried in procession out from the sanctuary.

Advent 4 (Matthew 1:18-25)
Do not be afraid, though angels walk among us, though God stirs new life within us.
The one whose name is Emmanuel is near! Now there is no disgrace, only the fulfillment of God’s promise and the courage to enter a new day!
Four candles are lit and all carried in procession out from the sanctuary.

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day (Luke 2:1-20)
There is good news of great joy, heralded first to the shepherds and now to us!
Let us go out to see what God is making known to us!
Four candles plus the Christ candle are lit and carried triumphantly out from the sanctuary.

13 thoughts on “Monday Muse: Advent Candle Liturgies

    • Judy, I too am most familiar with using the Advent candle liturgy as a Call to Worship. To challenge myself, I just added one more (on the Narrative Lectionary) as a sending for the end of worship. What do you think? 🙂

  1. Rachel, thanks so much for the adaptation of the RCL this year. I was trying to figure out how to do just that; Year B is challenging relative to A and C for use with the Advent Wreath liturgy. Your rework is great.

  2. Pingback: Wednesday Festival: Advent Planning | RevGalBlogPals

  3. Thank you, Rachel, for your liturgies. I really appreciate them and your generosity in sharing. I hope to use the “Why”? series that you posted in another place as a jump-off for sermons (and I can relate to the questions of a two year old since I have toddlers) and I really like the Hebrew Scripture Advent Candle lighting liturgy. I may adapt to our setting…but I promise to give attribution. These are wonderful. Thanks.

  4. Thank you, Rachel. Feeling empty and low this season. Hoping and praying advent brings new life to my bones as well as my soul.

  5. I have a congregation in mourning. We approach Gaudete Sunday having just buried our church warden a couple of days ago. They walk past her flower filled grave to come into church.. I still believe in joy. Joy in the midst of tears. I have therefore taken liberties with your candle liturgy based on Isaiah 61 and adapted it for Advent 3 (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11)

    Tell me, tired ones, do you sit in mourning?
    Come, let us offer God the ashes of grief, disappointment, pain, to receive garlands of grace, and lay down our weary spirits to put on cloaks of praise.

    You are a planting of the LORD, a holy Hope that brings new life to ancient ruins and devastated lives,

    Not for our own sake, but because God is faithful and loves justice!
    Rejoice in the LORD!

    You, O God, are good and abundant!
    Like a garden nurtures seeds into bloom,
    So God nurtures our praise to burst into beauty for all the world to see!
    Sing in joy and do not be silent;
    For God is good news for the oppressed, healing for the brokenhearted, and freedom to the prisoners!
    ..

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