The following was designed for use on the First Sunday of Advent
Choral Introit – “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming
Lighting of the Altar Candles
The significance of the candles
Call to Worship
L: As quietly as the winter steals upon us, the season of hope approaches.
P: We wait for our redeemer, for god’s promise to be fulfilled.
L: The day is coming quickly. The God of mercy draws near.
P: Therefore, we wait with hope, attentive to all the signs of his coming. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Hymn of Praise: Lift Up Your Heads, O Mighty Gates #129
Invocation and Lord’s Prayer
THE ADVENT WREATH
The First Lesson: Jeremiah 33:14-16
The significance of the Advent Wreath
The Lighting of the Candle of Hope
The Litany of Hope
L: Christians around the world begin this day to await the advent of Christ. We join a joyous and hopeful throng in lighting the Advent candles, symbols of our faith and signs of God’s love.
P: We gather as a people of hope.
L: Christian people around the world stand together in breathless anticipation of a miracle that has been
repeated for hundreds of years, yet that astounds us anew each year.
P: Our hope springs anew, from an ancient vision.
L: As we light the first Advent candle, let it stand for hope based not on wishful thinking, but on deep conviction. We believe, we have seen, we have received the Prom ise and the Great Gift, and therefore, in the midst of darkness and imperfection, we hope.
P: We gather expectantly, joyfully, and with deep commitment, for we have heard that a special child is to come, that god is to be among us, and that soon we will see a new creation on earth. We are a people of hope.
The Hymn of Hope: One Candle is Lit, verse 1, #128
Children’s Lesson: The Holly and the Ivy
Solo: The Holly and the Ivy
Congregation at Prayer
meditation: Creator of the Stars of Night verse 1, #127
response: Creator of the Stars of Night, verse 2, #127
The Second Lesson: Isaiah 61: 1-4, 10-11
Sermon: “Getting ‘Decked Out’ For Christmas
Hymn of Discipleship: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel #119
Communion: Come, O Long Expected Jesus #125
Dismissal When God is a Child #132, verse 1
Significance of the Altar Candles (as the candles are being lit)
The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries. The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as a part of their Feast of Lights. Since Jesus has been referred to as “the light of the world” in the New Testament, the lighting of candles has become an important part of our Christian worship. Some early Christian leaders stated that the body of the candle represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as a “light to lighten the Gentiles.” As we light these candles upon the altar we symbolize his coming in the world of darkness, sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and death. He came to bring hope and help to those who were held captive by oppression, and to guide them to personal peace and joy through the illumination of the love of God.
O God, in the weeks to come, our attention to this blessed and holy event, the birth of your Son, will be continually distracted. help us to distinguish between the secular and the sacred, and to remember the true meaning of our joy and excitement. Help us to refocus our minds and hearts on your loving and most precious gift to us, your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in whose name we pray as he taught us, saying, Our Father….
Advent is a time of expectation, and this is symbolized not only by the four-week period of preparation, but also by the lighting of an Advent candle on each Sunday of the season. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshiper that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season will not be complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve.
The tradition of the Advent wreath is traced back to an old Scandinavian custom that celebrated the coming of light after a season of darkness. In that day candles were placed on the edge of a horizontal wheel. As the wheel was spun around, the lighted candles would blend into a continuous circle of light. Today we use a circle of evergreen to remind us of the continuous power of God, which knows no beginning nor ending.
There is also symbolism in the colors of the candles in the Advent wreath. The three purple, or white, candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David. He is coming as the King of Kings as well as the Prince of Peace. the pink candle is lighted on the third sunday of the Advent season. This candle symbolizes joy; its use goes back to the Latin church which asked the worshipers to fast during this period of time.
A progression is noted in the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath. The first symbolizes expectation and hope. The second reminds us that we are involved in a season of preparation for peace in the coming of Christ. The third candle is proclamation, as we proclaim that Christ brought joy to the world when he appeared. The revelation of God’s love for all humankind is portrayed by the lighting of the fourth candle. The culmination of the season comes on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, as the Christ candle is lighted.
Let us join now in this season of expectation and hope as we light our first candle, the Hope Candle, and join in our Litany of Hope.