Advent Wreath Ceremony, 2018 — without fire

Introduction: One thing we know about the Messiah. The birth in Bethlehem was not what was expected – those who longed for a Messiah were hoping for a political leader who would free them from Roman rule. Not a child, not a stable, not straw, not shepherds, not magi. One of the things we expect in Advent every year is the lighting of Advent candles on an Advent wreath. This Advent wreath ceremony surprises by inviting not the lighting of a wick but the pouring of living water each week.

This has been a year of terrible fires throughout the world. California which has suffered from raging wild fires for several years faces the worst fires in history. At this date more than a thousand people are missing. We all hold in our deepest prayers those who mourn lost family and friends, those whose homes, businesses, security has been destroyed, those who have been unable to breathe clearly for weeks. We also pray for firefighters, for first responders, for those who offer shelter and comfort.

Please feel free to use or adapt this liturgy for one Sunday or for the season. Each week includes an invitation with two possible scriptures, a children’s story (all ages) you may want to use, words for pouring and a prayer of invocation. The physical set up is the familiar wreath of evergreens, with three small blue or purple glass bowls and one that is pink, and a small pitcher. A electric string of clear tree lights surrounding the small bowls will add sparkle to the water.

Music – these verses may be used – one for each week, if you wish. This is an adaptation of an African American spiritual in public domain.

1) I’ve hope like a rainfall, I’ve got hope like a rainfall.
I’ve got hope like a rainfall in my soul.
I’ve hope like a rainfall, I’ve got hope like a rainfall.
I’ve got angels around me and I’m whole.

2) I’ve got peace like a river; I’ve got peace like a river;
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.
I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got hope like a rainfall.
I’ve got angels around me and I’m whole.

3) I’ve got joy like a fountain; I’ve got joy like a fountain;
I’ve got joy like a fountain, in my soul
I’ve got peace like a river; I’ve got hope like a rainfall;
I’ve got angels around me, and I’m whole.

4 I’ve got love like an ocean; I’ve got love like an ocean;
I’ve got love like an ocean, in my soul
I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got peace like a river;
Touched by hope and blessed by angels, I am whole.

First Sunday in Advent – December 2, 2018 — Hope

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2

Leader: As the people of Israel hoped for water in dry times,
so they hoped for the Messiah, the one promised.
People: We bring our hopes to Advent –
because we are thirsty for tenderness,
and longing for God’s Spirit to hover
over the dryness in our lives.
Leader: Long ago they thought Emmanuel
would be a leader in war, a torch of freedom.
People: The child who was born was called living water,
true vine, a door for all, bread of hope.

A story for all ages:
The very first people to start traveling to Bethlehem were the magi. They were following a star from a long distance away. Maybe they even began before Mary knew she was pregnant. If you have a crèche in your home or church, maybe you want to place the three magi and any camels in another room or a table at a distance. Because they were following a star, they could only travel at night. There is a story that there were several days with clouds in the sky and they were just stuck! They became discouraged and afraid they would be too late. A village girl approached them and said, “ Come to the well in the middle of town. Anyone can see what they hope for there. I believe you can see your star.” And they did. They looked up – no star; they looked down – the star was shining and they could plot their directions. The girl, Rachel, said, “A well is a blessing.”

Pouring: Today we pour water for the first Sunday of Advent
the Sunday of Hope. We celebrate the wells of grace
and the gentle rains that bring new growth
and quench our doubts and fears.
We wait for the Messiah who came long ago,
and who comes to us in our days. (pouring)

Prayer: Emmanuel, God-with-us, when we leave this place help us to draw deeply on our sources of hope and grace to share with all we meet. Amen

Second Sunday in Advent – December 9, 2018 – Peace

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; and leads me beside still waters… Psalm 23: 1-3a

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22: 1-2

Leader: We need peace in our lives and in our world.
People: Every month we need healing,
but December can be the hardest time of year
when we need rest from busyness
and gentle words for many sorrows.
Leader: Down by the Advent riverside
we follow the prints of Peace.
People: And there we meet the Prince of Peace.

A story for all ages:
Sheep need water. Only if the plants they find are very moist can they get by without it and that was never true in the hills around Bethlehem. If sheep can dream it is about leaves fat with water; if young shepherds can dream, it is about wells or streams without resident bullies. A story goes that when the angels came to sing about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, one shepherd had to stay with the flock, along with the dogs who protect against wolves. An angel came down and asked this left-out shepherd whether he wanted a bright fire and warm food. “No,” was the answer. “A warmer cloak?” “No.” “Shall I sing an angel song or let you touch my wings?” “No.” “What do you want while you are waiting?” “Let there be a small safe spring in these rocks, so none of my flock will sleep thirsty.” And there was.

Pouring: Last week we poured the water of Hope,
that quenches our doubts and fears. (pouring)
This week is the Sunday of Peace,
and we celebrate still and peaceful water
and those who make it accessible in our days,
for the river of life is all of God’s children. (pouring)

Prayer: Emmanuel, God-with-us, when we leave this place help us to draw deeply on hope and drink our fill of God’s peace. Amen

Third Sunday in Advent – December 16, 2018 – Joy (if someone in the congregation has a tabletop fountain, it might be a fun addition to the advent wreath.)

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

‘… those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ John 4:14

Leader: Advent is a time of many traditions.
People: God is always doing a new thing.
Leader: God offers us hope, peace, and even joy,
knowing that we live in a sad world.
People: And we do a new thing –
not “store” presents, but gifts of the heart.

A story for all ages:
“Let’s borrow a donkey.” Joseph said to Mary, and that advice was something their son Jesus would remember. Nala donkey was the silliest donkey in all Nazareth. Nala would be frisky and then balk. She went too fast and then wanted to take a nap. She drank her water with so much gulping and guzzling that everybody in the city square would turn and look. But Nala made people laugh. There were soldiers all around and nobody wanted to smile, but Nala made them laugh. The census meant that there were caravans of migrants on the road, uncomfortable, hungry, tired, but Nala made them laugh. Mary was hurting and Joseph was worried, but Nala’s spitting and snorting and sneezing made them laugh. Then, when the door was almost shut in their faces at the last inn in Bethlehem, Nala twitched her ears and heehawed so loudly, the exhausted innkeeper couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of joy and sent the new family to the stable.

Pouring: We have poured enough Hope,
to put out great fires and fears. (pouring)
We heard the Messiah say, “Peace be still,”
and knew it meant our waves. (pouring)
This week is the Sunday of Joy,
and we remember from a story about Cana
that, when Jesus asks us to pour water,
it means we are going to have a party. (pouring into the pink bowl)

Prayer: Emmanuel, God-with-us, when we leave this place may we be hydrated with hope, bathed in peace, and willing to splash the world with joy. Amen

Fourth Sunday in Advent – December 23, 2018 — Love

And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ Matthew 10:42

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:24

Leader: This month we gather around our Advent wreath.
People: We remember that God’s love is a circle.
Leader: This year we have poured bowls of water
rather than lighting candles,
and this, too, is for the sake of love,
comfort for those who mourn the losses of fires,
and letting another symbol
remind us of the starlight and the straw.
People: We celebrate all ways people share love,
and wait for the birth of Christ in our lives.

A story for all ages:
When a baby is born it takes a lot of water. Water heated up to make everything safe and clean, water cooled down to wash the baby before swaddling, and cold water on a cloth for a mother’s forehead. At one point Joseph poured a bucket over his head just to stay awake. Then the animals needed to be watered and the visitors needed a drink and, with all the hay out of their manger, some water needs to be nearby in case of fire. Somebody was running around with water in that Bethlehem stable long ago.

(Pull out a tray with cups of water or use a communion tray with the small glasses filled with water) Maybe it was you. Maybe it is you. (Choose an extrovert) Would you pass water to everyone who wants it? Oh, you need help? Who would like to help getting water to people? (As water is quickly passed with many helpers) Modern day love is helping everyone have water.

Pouring: We have poured a cup of Hope,
for the lips of the hopeless. (pouring)
We have poured a cup of Peace
in a world of conflict.(pouring)
We have poured a cup of Joy, —
did someone mention – hose?
is anyone afraid of splashing? (pouring)
This is the Sunday of Love
and our hearts are not as hard as flint,
so we pour love in the name of Jesus
who came long ago and comes today. (pouring)

Prayer: Emmanuel, God-with-us, long ago and always – we come to you for living water, for our world has too many fires, too many thirsty people, and a great drought of the Spirit. We welcome your coming and share your good news. amen

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8 Responses to Advent Wreath Ceremony, 2018 — without fire

  1. mbmankin says:

    Maren, This is beautiful! Thank you for your carefully applied creativity! Mary Beth

  2. rezrevres says:

    Once again Maren, you’ve created something that both beautiful but also conscious of the global environmental catastrophes. I thought I had all of my Advent services mapped-out this year, and I was feeling quite a generous measure of self-satisfaction. But now I think I’ll scrap everything I had intended and liberally borrow from you. Thank you so much.

  3. Maren says:

    Thank you so much, Matthew!

  4. This is so creative and thoughtful! Thank you Maren for ushering us into the Advent Season.

  5. Maren says:

    You are wleomce — joys to you, Cleo.

  6. Grace Murray says:

    We are using these. I we by out to find my bowls. Discovered some beautiful blue stainless wine glasses. But would I find pink? Well on a shelf just above, there was one, not translucent like the blue ones. But it was etched with a diamond pattern, picking up light and reflecting it back. I’ll have to post a picture after they are set up.

  7. Pingback: Advent wreath liturgies |

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