An Advent wreath ceremony, 2019

For the last several years I have offered an alternative Advent wreath ceremony to give a slight twist on this good old tradition of remembering the circle of the season that brings us to hope and peace and love and joy. Last year’s (2018) offering was a pouring of water instead of the lighting of a wick to honor those places so damaged by fire. This year again there are many fires, certainly in California and in Australia, and you may wish to follow that tradition and find it here in the blog by searching “Advent wreath.” The offering for 2017, responding to the theological work of Cláudio Carvalhaes included an intentional speaking out against those things in our world that diminish hope, destroy peace, dampen joy and endanger love. It can also be found here by with the tag “Advent wreath.”

This year I am late (or rather I was thinking that I wouldn’t offer a liturgy for the opening of worship this year because there are so many words of beauty among us!) but I was moved by the thought of four candles illuminating the ways human and holy touch in this season, reminding us of the simple and amazing truth of Emmanuel, God with us, we find through the stories of Hope, the places of Peace, the festivities of Joy, the incarnations of Love.

Please feel free to use any number of readers and lighters each week, striving to engage as many people as wish to be chosen, and representing the full diversity of the congregation. Please adapt to your situation and feel free to email me at giftsinopenhands@gmail.com for a PDF of this liturgy.

Setting: The table upon which the wreath sits is larger this year, so that each week a few simple objects can be seen as others are named and called out by the congregation. Choosing the few objects on the table to represent so many others may be the responsibility of pastor or deacons, a facilitated group of children, or someone each week who loves to be a part of shaping liturgy but does not like being in front and speaking.

The First Sunday in Advent — Hope
Setting: On a table, the wreath and a Bible and a couple familiar Christmas stories, such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora, Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou …

Invitation
We come to this new season of Advent and gather around a wreath to light candles. The wreath reminds us of the circle of our human community and the lights illuminate the many ways in which we bring ourselves to the Incarnation, God’s longed-for presence among us — human and holy, Emmanuel — God with us and God coming to us.

Scripture — John 1: 1-4
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. the Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing came into being. What has come into being was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Lighting the Candle and Illuminating the Stories of Hope

Light one purple/blue candle
We light this candle for the Christmas story that shines hope on our lives.

Naming our stories of hope
The Advent season is a season of stories that bring us into the presence of God. The story of the birth of Jesus is told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, in carols that we sing, in legends as old as the first century Common Era and as new as a golden book on a grocery store shelf. And we celebrate this season of stories that give us more stories of hope and heart in book and song and movie from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol to Pat Mora’s A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas.

We celebrate today our stories of hope. Please call out your favorite Christmas stories, those that have traditional religious content and those that are parables for truth we find in our hearts, like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Carol of the Brown King, even, once you know its story — Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer … (let people name the stories that they love)

Unison Prayer
Emmanuel, we find your story in the pages of scripture and the whispers of all our storytelling. Help us in this Advent season to become your story-tellers of hope for our time. Amen

The Second Sunday in Advent — Peace
Setting: On a table, the wreath and a Bible and a representation of the earth (small globe or picture and a couple photographs of peaceful places or a stone, a shell, a small cactus …

Invitation
We come to the second week of the season of Advent and gather around a wreath to light candles. The wreath reminds us of the circle of our human community and the lights illuminate the many ways in which we bring ourselves to the Incarnation, God’s longed-for presence among us — human and holy, Emmanuel — God with us and God coming to us.

Scripture (Luke 2: 11-14)
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, good will to all!

Lighting the Candles and Illuminating the Places of Peace

Light one purple/blue candle and gently touch the Bible
We light this candle for the Christmas story that shines hope on our lives.

Light the second purple/blue candle
We light this candle to shine on the places that bring us peace, including this church, and the places and people that need peace this day.

Naming our places of peace
The Advent season reminds us that God chooses real places to meet us. Our hopes and fears met, not in the clouds, but in the little town of Bethlehem. We renew our peace in very real places — from a grandmother’s kitchen, to a seashore, from a decorated urban street to a snowy backyard.
Please name aloud some of the places you find peace … (let people name these aloud)

We pray for personal peace, community peace, global peace.
Please name aloud some of the places for which we pray … (let people name these aloud)

Unison Prayer
Emmanuel, we find peace in places near and far, expected and unexpected. Help us in this Advent season to pray for peace in our lives, our relationships, our communities, and our world. Amen

The Third Sunday in Advent — Joy
Setting: On a table, the wreath, a Bible and a representation of the earth (globe, shell) and symbols of holiday festivity — bows and curling ribbon or a small present, maybe a candy cane or some cookies, a caroling book, a tree ornament.

Invitation
We come to the third week of the season of Advent and gather around a wreath to light candles. The wreath reminds us of the circle of our human community and the lights illuminate the many ways in which we bring ourselves to the Incarnation, God’s longed-for presence among us — human and holy, Emmanuel — God with us and God coming to us.

Scripture (Isaiah 9:2-3a)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy.

Lighting the Candles and Illuminating the Festivities of Joy

Light one purple/blue candle and gently touch the Bible
We light this candle for the Christmas story that shines hope on our lives

Light the second purple/blue candle
We light this candle to shine on the places that bring us peace, including this church, and the places and people that need peace this day. (may name places from the past week)

Light the pink candle
We light this candle to celebrate the generosity and festivity of this season and to hold in tenderness and care feelings of loss and loneliness.

Naming our festivities of joy
The Advent season is filled with cultural symbols — trees and gifts and cards and events and special foods and customs. When we are careful to delight in them rather than taking them on as burdens, these symbolic activities bring us joy. From candy canes to hanging stockings, let us name the customs that give us joy … (let people name them aloud)

Unison Prayer
Emmanuel, we celebrate the true joy in so many of our human customs of this season and consecrate them to you. We acknowledge the stress that expectations put upon some of us. We hold tenderly the sadness and depression that longer nights, commercial demands, memories of loss, or simple loneliness bring. Transform the joy that each of us finds into a gift of kindness. Amen

The Fourth Sunday in Advent — Love

Setting: On a table, the wreath, a Bible and a representation of the earth, one tree ornament with tinsel, and symbols of human love. Suggestion:, a pair of wedding rings borrowed from an LGBTQ couple, a photograph of a companion animal, a drawing made by a young child, a prayer shawl made by an elder.

Invitation
We come to the last week of the season of Advent and gather around a wreath to light candles. The wreath reminds us of the circle of our human community and the lights illuminate the many ways in which we bring ourselves to the Incarnation, God’s longed-for presence among us — human and holy, Emmanuel — God with us and God coming to us.

Scripture (John 1:9, 12 a, 14a)
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world … But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God … and the Word became flesh and lived among us …

Lighting the Candles and Illuminating our Incarnations of Love

Light one purple/blue candle and gently touch the Bible
We light this candle for the Christmas story that shines hope. on our lives

Light the second purple/blue candle
We light this candle to shine on places that bring us peace, including this church, and the people and places in the world that need peace this day (may name places/situations from the past week)

Light the pink candle
We light this candle to celebrate the generosity and festivity of this season and hold in tenderness and care feelings of loss and loneliness.

Light the third purple/blue candle
We light this candle to name the human loving into which Jesus Christ was born.

Naming our incarnations of love
We are the children of God. We use the Light of the World to look around us. We embrace the Word made Flesh and we have become lovers not just of things of the Spirit but of things of the flesh — of family and friends, of neighbors and strangers, of humans and creatures. We have on this table the wedding rings of (names), a photo of (name) the dog/cat/ gerbil of (name), a drawing made by (child’s name), a prayer shawl made by (elder’s name). Please say aloud, a whisper or a-silence in this interlude some of the names of those you love … (let people name names aloud or give them time to do so in silence)

Unison Prayer
Emmanuel, we celebrate love that illuminates all of our lives. We love so many around us, those who are living, those who have died, those we will meet tomorrow or next week or next year, those we may never meet. Bless each of them and keep our hearts open to the extravagance of loving that you offer us, through the Word made flesh, Jesus. Amen

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9 Responses to An Advent wreath ceremony, 2019

  1. cwundershine says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve been overwhelmed and to have something this beautiful gifted to my community is a blessing!

    • Maren says:

      I am pleased that I was not too late! I will put together a Christmas Eve addition, I promise. (but this one took 5 hours solid work) so I decided it was better to get it up.

  2. William J Wassner says:

    Thanks for sharing your gifts!

  3. Pingback: Advent wreath liturgies | pilgrimwr.unitingchurch.org.au

  4. Kathy Clark says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Maren!

  5. Amanda Lape-Freeberg says:

    Oh Maren, yet again you have gifted my congregation and me a beautiful way to deepen our faith, to bless our journey, to make us whole. Blessed Advent to you. Thanks you.

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