Advent Candle Liturgies: Narrative

‘Tis the season for prophets. While this feels particularly true on the morning after the U.S. presidential election, in fact the season for prophets has been ongoing and building. We’ve been needing prophets to speak against and to actively counter the global rise of xenophobia. We’ve been hearing (and dominant culture is adept at ignoring) prophetic voices in #BlackLivesMatter, in #WaterIsLife, and in other movements for justice.

My colleague Dwayne Royster observes, “those who would be prophets in this generation [must be] not just those who want to give a word but those that will do a work, put their hands to the plow and not look back.”

The Narrative Lectionary for the upcoming Advent season gives us prophetic voices from the biblical text to bolster our own prophetic commitments for the living of these days. The following candle-lighting liturgies are offered for devotional & liturgical use this Advent; please attribute written/printed credit to this website if you adapt these liturgies for use in your faith community.

Advent 1 (November 27): Daniel 6:6-27

ONE: The first Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light against power that craves power.
ONE: We light a light to proclaim the goodness and dominion of God.
ALL: We light a light against our own vain egos and deep fears.
ONE: We light a light for the promise of deliverance.
ALL: The first Advent candle.
ONE: Take courage.

Advent 2 (December 4): Joel 2:12-13 & 28-29

ONE: The second Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light to await God’s coming.
ONE: We light a light with longing for God to set the world trembling.
ALL: We light a light to hold out hope for God’s mercy.
ONE: We light a light for the promise of new dreams and visions by God’s spirit.
ALL: The second Advent candle.
ONE: Prepare your hearts.

Advent 3 (December 11): Isaiah 61:1-11

ONE: The third Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
ONE: We light a light to dedicate our work in support of our words.
ALL: We light a light not just to proclaim but to comfort, not only to preach but to provide, not only to bless but to release.
ONE: We light a light to share the labor and the fellowship.
ALL: The third Advent candle.
ONE: Go where you are sent.

Advent 4 (December 18): Luke 1:26-45

ONE: The fourth Advent candle.
ALL: We light a light as we greet one another in God’s name. 
ONE: We light a light so we can recognize and welcome God’s messengers.
ALL: We light a light and we marvel to imagine God’s possibilities.
ONE: We light a light to say “yes” to God’s outrageous call.
ALL: The fourth Advent candle.
ONE: Do not be afraid.

Christmas Eve (December 24): Luke 2:1-14

ONE: At last, the Christ candle.
ALL: We light a light and sing “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth.”
ONE: We light a light and retell the good news of great joy.
ALL: We light a light and we tremble in awe that God has come.
ONE: We light a light and cast out all fear.
ALL: The Christ candle!
ONE: Rejoice!

Mary-Child

If you’re using the Revised Common Lectionary for this Advent season, find Advent candle liturgies on the Isaiah texts here.

Advent Candle Liturgies: Isaiah

I’m ready for Advent — Christmas too, but Advent especially. I find that the season’s wild imagination and perilous possibilities confront my pessimism, my complacency, my worry, and they challenge: “Well then? If you perceive the world’s discontent, why not embrace a vision for and live boldly into God’s fulfillment?”

Listening for that vision, conveying its provocative call through Advent candle liturgies feels particularly cathartic for this election week in the US. Perhaps reading the liturgies will encourage you too. These are written as Calls to Worship before lighting Advent candles. Feel welcome to use and adapt these liturgies for your own context, with written attribution (in a bulletin, e.g.) to this website.

Advent 1 (November 27): Call to Worship on Isaiah 2:1-5

ONE: One day we will arrive. One day our hearts will catch sight of the mountain of the LORD.
ALL: LORD, we want to go there! O God, we long to be in your presence and walk in your ways.
ONE: Let’s go! All together, let’s make that journey to the mountain of God.
ALL: Sisters and brothers, friends and strangers, let us travel together. Surely we will get there.
ONE: Let the dream of that holy mountain give you courage and strength as we go.
ALL: What a vision: weapons of war turned into tools of harvest, and lessons of peace taught to all people.
ONE: Let us journey together in the light of the LORD!
[first Advent candle is lit]

ny-lake

Advent 2 (December 4): Call to Worship on Isaiah 11:1-10

ONE: Friends, I dreamt that a new shoot was growing from the stump we thought was long dead.
ALL: We dreamt too — of cows and bears grazing next to one another in the field.
ONE: In my dream there was a toddler laughing in wonder and without fear at the world around her.
ALL: In our dreams, the wolf and the lamb found shelter together in a barn; the leopard and the goat curled up next to one another in the hay.
ONE: Did you dream too of generosity and compassion clothing all people like a soft robe?
ALL: Yes, and all people recognized the evils of poverty and worked together for restoration.
ONE: Let us not shy away from our dreams but seek God through them.
[first and second Advent candles are lit]

Advent 3 (December 11): Call to Worship on Isaiah 35:1-10

ONE: Be strong! Do not fear!
ALL: The wilderness will become a place of joy. The desert will become a field for harvest.
ONE: Be strong! Do not fear!
ALL: The drought will break with a spring of water. The weeds and wild shrubs will become a highway for all God’s children.
ONE: Do not let your head or your heart or your body hold you back!
ALL: The highway will not be a place of fear but of fellowship. All will sing and dance with joy, and none will be lost.
ONE: God is coming. Do not fear!
[first three Advent candles are lit]

Advent 4 (December 18): Call to Worship on Isaiah 7:10-16

ONE: Come. The days are long, the nights are longer. If you are tired, seek a sign of the LORD God.
ALL: Can a sign make it all better?
ONE: Come. Here are honey and bread for comfort.
ALL: Waiting for God’s fulfillment can be discouraging.
ONE: Come. Here is the promise of Immanuel, God With Us.
ALL: Pay attention to the signs.
ONE: God knows we need a sign. Be prepared and welcome the signs.
[all four Advent candles are lit]

Christmas (December 25): Call to Worship on Isaiah 9:2-7

ONE: A child has been born for us!
ALL: Now we walk in God’s light, because the heavens have opened and joy has come!
ONE: The Prince of Peace has come to us!
ALL: Now the wars cease and the warriors may go home.
ONE: From this time onward, justice is established!
ALL: Now our burdens are eased, now the harvest has ripened, now righteousness is established!
ONE: The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this!
[all Advent candles and the Christmas candles are lit]

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]

.

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.

.

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.