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Posts Tagged ‘Advent Wreath’

With the coming of Advent on Dec. 3, the Church celebrates a new year, as we shift from year A to year B in the lectionary.  Advent B postings will follow. 

The beginning of the season (and for some churches, the close of the previous one, on Nov. 26) affords the opportunity to “dress the church” for Advent.  Offered below are two services centered around “Hanging of the Greens,” one of which is gratefully borrowed, with reference, and the other accumulated from many places through the years. 

There also follows a Chrismon service, which may be adapted and added to any period during the season if Chrismons are used in worship.  Please advise us of what your congregation does to welcome the season, and keep us advised of references you may add to the adapted materials below.  –David Chafin, ed.

See also:

Advent Hymn by David T. Chafin, 2013

Advent Candle Lighting Rituals

 

Hanging of the Greens (from Advent 1C)

Choral Introit – “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Lighting of the Altar Candles

The significance of the candles

Organ Prelude

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

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

 

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

response:  Creator of the Stars of Night, verse 2

 

The Second Lesson:  Isaiah 61: 1-4, 10-11

 

Sermon:  “Getting ‘Decked Out’ For Christmas

 

Hymn of Discipleship:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 

Communion:  Come, O Long Expected Jesus

 

Offering

 

Dismissal  When God is a Child,  verse 1

 

Full Text for Service Above

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.

Invocation

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 Lighting:

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.

 

Chrismon Service

Today we celebrate with joy and Thanksgiving all that God has given to us… the love of family and friends; the beauty of creation and good food to sustain us.  And we also come on this last Sunday before Advent celebrating with thankful hearts the Christ ‑‑ the King of all that was and is and will be.

So it is appropriate in our celebration this morning to reflect with hearts filled with hope and faith on the symbols that represent the Christ which will stand before us throughout this joyous season.  Hear these words from the 22nd chapter of Revelation:

Then he 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; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads.  And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

The tree as a religious symbol takes us back to the very beginning of history.  The Tree of Life enjoyed great popularity as a symbol for many centuries.  There was one in the Garden of Eden along with the Tree of Knowledge which caused the fall of Adam and Eve.  In the Middle Ages, the Cross was regarded as the Tree of Life.  We use evergreens at Christmas because of their representation of eternity ‑‑ always green even through the coldest winter months.  The lights which we hang are constant reminders of the hope that is ours in Christ, the Light of the World.   (light tree)

Anthem:  O Christmas Tree

Chrismons are monograms or symbols telling about the life, work and meaning of the life of Christ.  There were used by early Christians to show who they were and where they stood.  They often adorned tombs, jewelry, utensils, doors and other places.  In modern times, the symbols have been adopted and adapted by churches for the decorating of trees during Advent and Christmas to help us remember.   The Chrismons are traditionally white, symbolizing our Lord’s purity and gold , symbolizing his majesty.

Matthew 16: 13‑16:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Phillippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?  And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Christ is the title for the Messiah whom God sent to redeem his people.  The Greek monogram of the first letters of Christ ‑‑ Chi and Rho ‑‑ was one of the most widely used early Christian symbols.  Those who recognize Jesus as their Lord and Savior still use the Greek Chi, the X to identify themselves as his followers.

John 20: 30‑31:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

As early as the second century, Christians were using the fish as a symbol for the Christ.  Early Christians used the fish widely as an easily made and recognized secret sign.  During the times of the persecution of the church, Christians could find each other by using this simple password.   To the outsider the fish was a mere decoration; to the Christian, it was an affirmation of faith in the Christ.  The Greek word for fish ‑‑ ichthus, is an anagram on the first letters of the Greek words: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.

An ancient symbol appropriate to the themes of Advent may be found in the two Greek letters, Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end of the Greek alphabet.  Advent prepares us for the beginning and the end of the Christian epoch.  In Revelation 22 we read:                                                     Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”      This verse makes the word a title of Christ and a fitting symbol to represent his first and second comings.

Christ is the Word.  “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:2‑3).  The orb, the round ball, represents the world, and Christ’s activity in creation and in the world around us.

These four symbols, the chi rho, the fish, the alpha and omega, and the orb, remind us of the one who is the Christ, who comes into the world in hope.

Let us sing together verse 2 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful  witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” Rev. 1: 5a.   One of the most common symbols of the trinity is three entwined circles representing God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  While there is no direct reference to the trinity in Scripture, there are many references to the one who is and was and is to come.

The concept of wisdom personified is found in Proverbs 8 and this made possible the application to Christ, the wisdom  from on high through whom all things were made.  A burning lamp is a traditional symbol for wisdom and for the Christ hearkening back to Psalm 119:  Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Although the Gospels do not say that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ while he was in the water, the scene is frequently pictured that way.  The Gospels do tell us that when Jesus had been baptized he went up out of the water, the heavens opened, and then he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.  The descending dove then represents most frequently the baptism of our Lord.  Other doves are also seen frequently either resting or in flight and quite often represent the dove of peace, or the dove which reminds us of God’s covenant with the people of the earth that was made with Noah.  All are symbols of hope and the love of God.

The eight‑point star was a pre‑Christian figure that was adopted by Christians as a “concealed Chrismon during the Roman persecutions.  The crossing lines reveal Chi’s Rhos, and crosses to the initiate.  Then this design is used, one remembers that it was not always easy to be a Christian.  In today’s usage, the eight ‑pointed star generally refers to regeneration through Baptism in Christ.

Symbols of baptism, wisdom and the trinity ‑‑ may they all serve to remind us of the love of Christ which comes to each and every one of us.

Let us sing together vs. 3 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

The symbol of the cup is certainly no stranger to us.  Out denomination adopted the chalice as its symbol, because of the centrality of communion in the our worship services and in our lives.  But the cup also is a reminder of the cup of suffering, remembering Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane:  My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Jesus’ suffering is also deeply symbolized for all of us in the cross ‑‑  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

There are many forms and representations of the cross.  This one, the Greek cross that we hang on our tree this morning, has all arms of equal length.

One of the earliest symbols for the church was a ship:  indeed many churches were built to represent ships, at least one that is turned upside down.  the ceiling then becomes the hull of the ship; the pews the seats for those who rowed the great ships, the pulpit (which in early days was often raised) the wheelhouse or captains areas to oversee the rest.  It takes all persons on the ship to make it go and it takes God’s grace and wisdom as well.  Together we can sail into the world and serve the one who is the Christ.

Our last symbol is the cross over an orb ‑‑ the cross over the world, representing Christ over the world.  Jesus said, “God into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

Even at Advent we are called to do the same, through our Advent decorations we are continually reminded of the events in the life of Christ, of Christ’s victory over death, and of Christ’s call to each and every one of us today and every day.

If you have not accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, there is no time like the present;  or if you are seeking a church home, a community of faith to go through life with you, we invite you to come forward at this time, confessing Christ and uniting yourself with this part of Christ’s church, that we may grow and learn and live together in hope and in faith.

Hanging of the Greens: First Sunday of Advent

adaptation by Jeanyne Slettom

The Hanging of the Greens is a service for the first Sunday in Advent. It is based on the English tradtion of decorating the home with wreaths, garlands, a Christmas tree, and evergreens for Advent and Christmas. In a church setting, it readies the sanctuary (and church members) for the season. This service assumes a Protestant setting. It is adapted from an unknown source to reflect a process-relational theology.  Suggested hymns may be replaced by your favorites or appropriate anthems from a choir.

Prelude

Hymn  “Once in Royal David’s City”
Call to Worship – (Responsive)
How shall we prepare this house for the birth of Jesus?
            With branches of cedar, the tree of excellence and strength.
How shall we prepare this house for the eternal Christ?
            With garlands of pine and fir, whose leaves are ever living, ever green.
How shall we prepare this house for the prophet of Galilee?
            With wreaths of holly and ivy, telling of his passion, death and resurrection.
How shall we prepare our hearts for this revelation of God?
            By hearing again the words of the prophets and the promises of God.
For in the story of Jesus we see revealed the transforming power of God
We are reminded anew of God’s vision
of wholeness, justice, and peace for all of creation.
            Thanks be to God.

Passing of the Peace

Choir Anthem

Pastor’s Time with Children
The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing.
One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course other children teased them when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers and so we see them today. [Note:These paragraphs are posted on several internet sites.]

Organ solo/choir anthem/vocal solo “Los peces en el río” [Children arrange plants.]

The meaning of the service

Almost 2,000 years ago, the story goes, a clutch of sleepy shepherds were watching over their sheep on a star-brightened hillside in Palestine. It was a still, uneventful night. Suddenly the darkness was filled with a strange light. The stillness was broken by angel voices singing “Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, goodwill to all.” So begins Christmas, the most beautiful and meaningful celebration of the Christian calendar.

Christmas actually begins with Advent, the season through with we are moving. Both the seasons of Advent―the season of “going toward” the birth of Christ―and Christmas have a long history. These seasons and their customs have developed through many centuries and many countries. Old customs and observances are refined, renewed, replaced; new ones are added. Some of our customs have pagan origins but have been “converted” by redefining their meanings. What is significant for us is not what they may once have meant but rather what they mean for us today.

This morning our church building will begin to wear its Christmas apparel. For the first time our Christmas trees stand in the sanctuary. This day for the first time its lights will shine for us. As we make ready for the birth of the child by preparing this sanctuary, we make ready ourselves and the sanctuary of our own hearts. We are mindful that, although it is not Christmas yet, it will be here soon, very soon.

As we decorate the church, not only will we explain the history of the symbols of these special seasons, but we will rededicate these symbols―and ourselves―to the service of God. Let us prepare by listening an ancient hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Solo:   “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” [Verses 1,3, &4]

Significance of the colors [paraments]

The cycle around which our worship revolves is the church year. Today, the first Sunday in Advent, marks the beginning of a new church year. Paraments, which cover our communion table, pulpit, and lectern, are something like drapes and curtains in a home. With the changing colors of the church year, they attract attention, add variety, and point to the significance of the season or festival being celebrated. The traditional color for Advent is purple, a color that signifies the sacred, and spiritual fulfillment. Some traditions use blue, which represents anticipation and promise. As we prepare our communion table, pulpit, and lectern with the paraments, let us sing verses 1-3 of “We Hail You God’s Anointed.”

Hymn  “We Hail You God’s Anointed”  [Place paraments on the communion table, pulpit, and lectern.]       

God Will Send a Light to the Nations [Advent wreath & candles]

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 60:2-3     Reader:______________

The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries. The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as part of their Feast of Lights. Light has been used by many religious groups to symbolize truth, while the darkness of night has been the universal symbol for evil. Since Jesus was called “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 wax of altar candles represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. Candles made from pure beeswax were used to signify Mary, since this wax comes from virgin bees. This has resulted in the practice of some churches to burn only beeswax candles upon the altar or communion table. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as “a light to lighten the Gentiles.” From this statement, church leaders have used candles to symbolize the light of Christ shining throughout a broken world. As we light these candles upon the communion table, we symbolize God, Emmanuel, God with us, whose transforming power heals the world of sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and despair. Jesus embodies hope and help for those held captive by oppression. His ministry guides us to personal peace and joy through the illumination of his message of the love of God. As the candles on the communion table are lit, let us sing the first verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel[Communion table candles are lit.]

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 four candles provide us with a visual way to count off four Sundays of this season. The flame of each new candle reminds us that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season is not complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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 place 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 candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David. 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.  Will the children come forward and stand with me as we light the first candle.

The Gospel of John speaks of Christ as the true light coming into the world. In commemoration of that coming, we light candles for the four weeks leading to Christmas and reflect on the coming of Christ. It is significant that the church has always used that language—the coming of Christ—because it speaks to a deep truth. Christ is coming. Christ is always coming, always entering a troubled world, a wounded heart. And so we light the first candle, the candle of hope, and dare to express our longing for peace, for healing, and the well-being of all creation.

(One candle is lit.)

Loving God, as we enter this Advent season, we open all the dark places in our lives and memories
to the healing light of Christ. Show us the creative power of hope. Prepare our hearts to be transformed by you, that we may walk in the light of Christ.

As the children return to their places let us all sing verse six of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

God will send a righteous king [cedar]

Scripture Reading  Jer. 23: 5 – 6    Reader:______________

In ancient times the cedar tree was revered as the tree of excellence and endurance. It also signified immortality and was used for purification. We place this cedar branch as a sign of Christ and of the kind of power he wielded: not the the power of might, but the power of transformation. As we contemplate his call to justice and peace, we seek to purify our hearts and “renew a right spirit within us.”

[Place cedar branch on the communion table.]

Hymn     “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”   verse 7

The prophet declares a child will be born (evergreens)

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 9:2, 6-7      Reader:______________

Have you ever wondered why we talk about the “hanging of the greens?” Or why an evergreen is called an evergreen? And why Christmas greens are traditionally used to emphasize the nativity? Green represents renewal, new life, freshness, and rebirth. Plants such as pine, fir, holly, ivy, and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not die; through the seasons of the year, they remain ever-green. Ever-alive. It is no wonder then that we deck our sanctuary and halls with evergreens during this Advent season. Advent is the season of preparation for the ever-coming  Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die each season, the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us that there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore, we hand this wreath of evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ so eloquently testified, is also without end, and is realized wherever truth, justice, and peace prevail.

[Hang wreaths.]

Hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter”

The fourth servant song [holly]

Scripture Reading Isaiah  53:1-6    Reader:______________

For Christians, this passage from Isaiah reflects the sufferings of Jesus on the cross and God’s transformation of that event into the promise of life. In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Savior, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

Hymn  The Holly and the Ivy
[Place holly sprigs on the communion table.]

The mystery of the incarnation [Christmas tree]

Scripture Reading  John 1:1-5, 9-14     Reader:______________

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World, we light the Christmas tree. During this season of Advent, whenever you see a lighted Christmas tree, let it call to mind the One who brings light to our darkness, healing to our brokenness, and peace to all who receive him.

Hymn  “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”   [Note: You may prefer the words, “O eternal love begotten”]
[Plug in tree lights. Children decorate tree.]

Blessing of the Christmas Tree – Unison

Loving God, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose path of justice and inclusivity lights a path for all who follow him. May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, that we may always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Nativity scene

The original crib in which the Christ Child was laid was a manger in the stable, a sign of his humble birth. The popular Christmas crèche at churches and in homes creates a tableau of Jesus in the stable crib at Bethlehem, depicting scenes described by Luke and Matthew.

St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with the first manger scene about 800 years ago. For a people who could not read it was an effective visual aid in telling the story of the birth of Jesus. We have such a scene here. I invite the children to arrange the wise men, shepherds, animals, angels, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.

[Organ music.]

[When the children are finished, they assemble to sing.]

Children:    “Away in a Manger”
Pastoral Prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Offering

Doxology
Prayer of Thanksgiving

We dedicate our lives and all that we have to the work of life, of love, of peace. Receive our gifts and lead us in wisdom and courage. Amen.

Commission and Blessing
Take time, in the busyness of this season, for quiet reflection—
For the light of God’s love is discernible everywhere.
            We will let ourselves be surprised by wonder,
            And set aside time to offer quiet thanks.

The good news of Advent is this:
Christ is coming. Christ is always coming.
            We will welcome Christ into our hearts.
            We will let ourselves be guided by his ministry.
            We will go forth from this place in hope.

Hymn    “Come, O Long-Expected Jesus”

Benediction

Benediction Response     “Amen”

Postlude 

Process & Faith is a program of the Center for Process Studies, an affiliated program of the Claremont School of Theology. This site and all content ©2012 Process & Faith, unless otherwise noted.

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The following were services used in 2007 at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Huntington, WV.  You are welcome to use the materials in them as desired.  They are offered to show how Advent Sundays were woven into the texture of those largely traditional orders of worship.  The scripts for the readings used are also republished here from 2014.

Words of Welcome and Call to Worship

Today is God’s day of hope—hope for us, hope for all humanity.  The darkness that surrounds us will not overtake us, for God is light; and in God there is no darkness at all.  Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Organ Prelude and Lighting of Altar Candles

* Greeting—PROJECTED

L: The Spirit and the church cry out:

P:  Come, Lord Jesus.

L: All who await Christ’s appearance pray:

P:  Come, Lord Jesus.

L: The whole creation pleads:

P:  Come, Lord Jesus!  Renew the whole creation!

* Hymn of Praise:  Title                           The Hymnal # 123 

Opening Prayer

Let us pray:  We rejoice in you, O God our hope, for in Jesus Christ you enter our world to bring to life your new creation.  May our lives be remade by the glory of your appearing, and may we lift up the name of your Son in our worship, our work, and our leisure; for we pray as he taught us saying…

* The Lord’s Prayer 

* Praise Chorus:   Gloria Patri                                                 The Hymnal #623

Lighting of the Advent Wreath (from Isaiah 2:2-5)

Response: One Candle Is Lit   projected

Bible Reading:           Romans 13:11-14

Musical Offering:  Just When We Truly Needed Peace

Psalm of Praise (from Psalm 122)

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem–built as a city that is bound firmly together.

     To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel,

     to give thanks to the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones for judgment were set up,

The thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”

For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Bible Reading: Matthew 24:36-44  

Reflections on the Word

Invitation and Hymn of Discipleship:  Title     The Hymnal #  133

Those desiring to make public profession of faith, to renew faith commitments, or to

join this faith community may speak with the Pastor during the hymn or following worship.

Moments for Mission and Ministry

Concerns, Celebrations and Expressions of Faith

Song of Preparation:      

Come, O God, commune here with us, as we lift to you our cares.

You, our hope and our deliv’rance, promise to receive our prayers.

God of love and understanding, you alone know heart and soul.

Listen to our intercessions, recreate us, make us whole.

© 2007 David T. Chafin; All rights reserved.

Prayers for Church and World, for Self and Others

Invitation to the Table

Communion Song:     Title                   Worship Songs #118

Thanksgiving for Bread and Cup

Sharing of Bread and Cup

Offering of Our Tithes and Gifts to God

* Doxology  (Praise God from Whom all blessings flow…)  The Hymnal #625

* Prayer of Thanksgiving 

* Sending and Blessing

* Mission Hymn:  “Lift Up Your Heads, O Mighty Gates”

 


 

Advent 2 (2007) – beginning of service only

Musical Meditation

Words of Welcome and Call to Worship

Friends, we have heard the promise:  God’s chosen One will soon be among us.  We must make ready our lives for the coming of the Lord.  The wilderness places of our lives may threaten to overwhelm us, and we may easily lose our way.  But the light grows stronger, day by day – the light of the glorious appearing of our Savior.  Let us watch and wait with eager longing.

Organ Prelude and Lighting of Altar Candles

* Greeting—PROJECTED

L: We celebrate the coming of the Promised One in whom dwells the spirit of God –

P:  The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

L: The spirit of counsel and might,

P:  The spirit of knowledge and awe.

L: We bear witness to the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus, by living in that same spirit.

P:  We will open ourselves to the presence of God in our lives and seek to live as God’s witnesses.

* Hymn of Praise:  Title                           The Hymnal #   124

Opening Prayer

Let us pray:  O God, you have truly brought to all the earth the hope of peace in your Son Jesus Christ.  By the example of his life, the words of his lips, and the wondrous act of your resurrection power, we have seen and known the extent of your love and grace.  Help us in our worship and in all of our lives to faithfully live after the pattern he has set for us, and to glorify you in all that we do; for we pray as he taught us saying…

* The Lord’s Prayer 

* Praise Chorus:   Gloria Patri                                                 The Hymnal #623

Lighting of the Advent Wreath (from Isaiah 11)

Response: One Candle Is Lit   projected

Litany    projected

etc…

Psalm of Praise (from Psalm 72)

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

            May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

            May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the             oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

            May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound;

            May righteousness flourish and peace abound until the moon is no more.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

            Blessed be his glorious name forever.

May God’s glory fill the whole earth.

            Amen and Amen.

   etc…


Advent 3 (2007)

Musical Meditation

Words of Welcome and Call to Worship

Friends and fellow-travelers in faith, let us listen for the voice of the one who calls out in the wilderness of our world and of our lives: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make God’s paths straight.”  As we gather for worship, may we make space for the coming of the Sovereign Lord, and be empowered to proclaim him through every moment of our lives.

 

Organ Prelude and Lighting of Altar Candles

* Greeting—PROJECTED

L: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John…”  He came to bring witness to the light, and we are called to do the same.

P:  Christ is coming!  We gain confidence from that assurance.

L: Now our hope grows even stronger, as three lights burn where there was darkness.

P:  God, who comes to dwell among us, will quicken our imagination, and we will find new and creative ways to proclaim the wonderful news: Christ is coming; Christ is here!

* Hymn of Praise:  Title                           The Hymnal #  125

Opening Prayer

Let us pray:  All of heaven and earth sing to you, O Lord our God, for this earth which you lovingly made has been given a King and Savior in your Son Jesus Christ.  As we prepare to fully welcome him, help us to be aware of the meaning of his coming—bringing hope among our empty lives, peace among those whose relationships are broken, and joy—great joy—where gloom and sorrow had once reigned.  We open ourselves to receive your great gifts, praying as he taught us saying…

* The Lord’s Prayer 

* Praise Chorus:   Gloria Patri                                                 The Hymnal #623

Lighting of the Advent Wreath (from Isaiah 35)

Response: One Candle Is Lit   projected

Litany   Psalm of Praise (from Psalm 146)

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

We give thanks to you, O God, for the promise of full joy that this

            season brings to light.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

            For all the troubles life can bring, you bring amazing possibilities

            that fill our hearts with joy.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Renew in us this day the promises of light after darkness, day after

            night, hope after despair, joy in this and every morning, for our trust

            is in you.  Amen.

  etc…

The Song of Mary from Luke 1

My soul magnifies the Lord,

     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

For God has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

     Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

For the Mighty One has done great things for me.

     Holy is God’s name.

God’s mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

     He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the

     thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

     and lifted up the lowly;

He has filled the hungry with good things,

     and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.

     This was the promise God made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his

     descendants forever.

  etc…


Advent 4 (2007)

Musical Meditation

Words of Welcome and Call to Worship

Organ Prelude and Lighting of Altar Candles

* Greeting—PROJECTED

L: Long ago the people were given a sign of God’s presence.

P:  “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.”

L: God’s promise to us remains sure and true:  God’s anointed Son will soon walk among us, to lighten our darkness, to restore the joy of our salvation, to save us from sin.

P:  God—the God of all love—is with us.  Praise the Lord!

* Hymn of Praise:  Title                           The Hymnal #  131

Opening Prayer

Let us pray:  God of all love, our hearts are moved by your gracious promises fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ.  Give us the grace we need to live lovingly in all of life, and empower us to make your love known through the deeds of our lives; for we pray as your Son Jesus taught us saying…

* The Lord’s Prayer 

* Praise Chorus:   Gloria Patri                                                 The Hymnal #623

Lighting of the Advent Wreath (from Matthew 1)

Response: One Candle Is Lit   projected

Litany   projected

etc…

Psalm of Praise (from Psalm 80)

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!

            You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth!

Stir up your might, and come to save us!

            Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

            You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

            Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.

            Then we will never turn back from you;

Give us life, and we will call on your name.

            Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

 

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Advent Candle Lighting

Republished from 2014:

The following materials were adapted from various sources, and built around common texts used during Advent lectionaries.  They offer the opportunity for a number of people to participate at the Advent Wreath, as well as a responsive piece and suggested hymn for use by the congregation.  Any parts may be re-assigned or divided as needed for use in your congregation.     — ed.

——————

Advent 1

The text is divided into 4 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

 

Reader 1

Listen to the prophet Isaiah:

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.   Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.   O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

(Isa. 2:2-5)

 

Reader 2

The poet George Herbert once wrote: “He that believes in hope dances without music.”

This is a good picture for a life of faith. To hope in God’s grace is to move to a rhythm that other people may not hear. It is to act out a drama others cannot imagine. It is to glide through life guided by a tune that plays only in your own heart.

The hopes of our faith make no sense from the outside. It’s a rough world, with forces that try to dominate our lives. But we hope in a God of truth and justice to have the final word.

In a world where violence and force always seem to win the day, we hope in a force of love that is the supreme power. In a world where wealth and status seem to have the upper hand over desperate, needy people, we hope that poverty and innocence have God’s special blessing.

 

Candle-lighter: Light 1 candle

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 1)

Reader 3 As the hymn ends…

            Having hope means constantly expecting a different kind of future, even when history seems to confirm our fears. Hope is for those who feel the pain of the world. Hope is for those who agonize at human cruelty. Hope is for those who hear the cries of homeless and hungry children, and cry along with them.

In a world where hope seems so far away, we are a people of hope. We listen for the voice of angels in the wind. We stretch to see the first light of a new day on the horizon. We long for a new birth of grace in every human heart. We wait. We listen. We hope.

 

Reader 4 (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Christ we sit in darkness, but you are our light. We long for your coming into our hearts, into our lives and into our world.

            You are the One for whom all the peoples of the earth wait. Our world has been shaken by fire and earthquake and storm; Our security has been shaken by bombings and wars and uncertainty.

            We wait in anticipation expecting God’s light to penetrate our darkness and radiate within us.

In the midst of our doubts and our insecurities we are reminded that you are never shaken. Your faithfulness reaches to the ends of the earth.

            We watch and wait expecting new light to shine as the season of joy approaches.

You are our rock and our refuge, an ever present help in trouble. Come down, come in, walk with us so that we trust in you and not be shaken.

            We wait in hope attentive to all the signs of Christ’s coming.

 

 

Advent 2

The text is divided into 7 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

Reader 1

Listen to the Prophet Isaiah:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

ALL:

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

Reader 1 (continues)

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

 (Isa. 11:1-10)

Reader 2

Advent is about peace. And we do so long for peace. We live in a world of chaos and discord. The trademark of our times is violence. In a nation awash in guns, we continue to raise our children on myths of machismo. Our movie heroes are tough-talking, gun-wielding musclemen. Our streets are dangerous. Our civil dialogue has given way to abusive rhetoric. And a routine trip through a busy intersection is often enough to give us a glimpse of at least one other driver’s middle finger. In all of it, we do long for peace.

 

Reader 3

The state of our minds often mirrors the state of our world. We juggle hyperactive schedules, fragmented families, and hypertensive pressures. We worry about our children, we agonize over how to care for our parents, and no job seems secure. Our choices of antacid are outnumbered only by our spiritual options. We grasp for gurus and scan self-help books in serial confusion. Stress is the name of our days. And we do so long for peace.

 

Candle-lighter: Light 2 candles

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 2)

 

Reader 4: As the hymn ends…

Surely the peace of our world starts with the peace of a heart. We are reminded that there is a peace of God which passes all understanding. At the core of each of us, if we will only listen, there is a still, small voice which can calm our fears, quiet our lives, and dispel our desperation. At the heart of each of us, if we only seek it, there is a spirit that rests in the grace of God. An assurance at the center of our lives can tame the chaos at the edges.

 

Reader 5

That spirit of God is also the hope of our world. Peace can come only when we can understand each other, knowing that God’s spirit makes us truly one. In the eyes of even a murderer, I can see my own anger. In the face of a terrorist, I can see my own desperation. In the breast of my enemy, I can feel my own fear. Peace is possible because we share that one spirit that rests in the presence of God.

 

Reader 6

Not one of us is a stranger to the other. Every passion or malice that might separate us I can find and recognize in my own heart, and so our differences lose their force. We are one with each other, and one with God, and that is a peace beyond the power of any stress or violence that can assault us. As we await the Bringer of Peace, the peace of God is already with us.

 

Reader 7 (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Prepare the way! The promise is come!

            The lion shall dwell with the lamb.

Prepare the way! The old with the young!

A child shall teach us to stand.

Prepare the way! Make the paths straight!

Earth shall fill her deep valleys!

Prepare the way! Break down walls of hate!

            The Way is approaching! Servants keep watch. Soon we shall see the salvation of our God!

 

Advent 3

The text is divided into 6 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

 

Reader 1

Listen to the word of God from Isaiah:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. …Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people…the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 (Isa. 35:1-10)

Reader 2

Advent is about joy. But our times seem little suited for rejoicing. Our culture irritates and entertains, intoxicates and numbs, but rejoicing seems like a foreign idea. You can’t do it on cue. Joy can’t be bought and sold. You can’t plan for it or train for it. It doesn’t fit into a well-ordered life, and it’s not FDA approved.

 

Reader 3:

Joy comes only when least expected. We rejoice only when life has been turned on its ear; when—whatever we feared, whatever we steeled ourselves against–some gift of God has presented itself instead. When we rein in our loves to protect ourselves from pain, when we curtain our hopes from fear of disappointment, when we equip ourselves with cynicism to avoid looking foolish, we do so at the expense of joy.

 

Candle-lighter:  Light 3 candles (in places where a pink candle is available, this should be the 3rd one lit)

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 3)

Reader 4: As the hymn ends…

As freedom can only be tasted in all its sweetness by those who know the feel of chains, so joy sings with its most full-throated glory only in spirits enlarged by the weight of despair and softened by the brine of tears. Pleasures floats on the surface of life. Happiness flits across a moment or an hour. But joy springs from the depths.

 

 

Reader 5

Joy is new life beating in a heart that has been broken. Joy is awakening to a fair morning from a nightmare of reality. Joy is a flight sunward on wings you had forgotten you had. Joy is the sound of laughter erupting from a procession of grief. Joy is God’s melody amid the discord of life, a song carrying the rhythm of eternity and touching the chords of longing in our souls.

Hand microphone to Reader 6

 

Reader 6: (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

We give thanks to you, O God, for the promise of full joy that this

            season brings to light.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

            For all the troubles life can bring, you bring amazing possibilities

            that fill our hearts with joy.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Renew in us this day the promises of light after darkness, day after

            night, hope after despair, joy in this and every morning, for our trust

            is in you. Amen.

 

 

Advent 4

The text is divided into 6 readers; you may divide it any way you wish, and include someone to light the candles at the appropriate time.

 

Reader 1

Listen to the Gospel according to Luke:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 (Luke 1:26-38)

Reader 2

Advent is about love. Francis Bacon once wrote: “A crowd is not company, faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk is but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.”

We are social beings. That is our blessing and our curse. We long for each other. We long to touch, to share, to bare some part of ourselves, to be understood, to invite others into our lives. We all long to lessen the loneliness that lurks in the background of even our most crowded moments.

 

Reader 3:

We are born alone and we will ultimately die alone, but in between we desperately want to be known, to be understood, to belong, to find some kind of acceptance just as we are—some intimacy of soul. And so we reach out with fragile, delicate efforts of love.

But love is dangerous. We can hurt each other. Hearts can be broken. Rejection can come. If you try to belong, you can be excluded, and that can hurt more than being alone.

Love, and the vulnerability that comes with it, can be the riskiest business of all. But there is no love without such risks. Like hunger and thirst, the longing for love is implanted deeply within us, and God offers us many opportunities to care, to reach out, and to love.

 

Candle-lighter: Light 4 candles

 

All sing the candle-lighting hymn.(Suggested: “One Candle Is Lit,” Chalice Hymnal #128, verse 4)

 

Reader 4: As the hymn ends…

There is some part of this gift of life that can’t be stored up or locked away. Some part of this spirit that God has placed in us will die if we do not spend it or share it or give it away.

 

Reader 5

Love is always a risk, but it is a risk upon which the very heart of our life depends. To love is to touch the heart of God. To look into the eyes of another and recognize our common soul is to see the face of God. Even to feel the ache of a heart broken for love is to discover God’s grace.

 

Reader 6: (may be offered responsively or by one voice)

Let us pray:

Your love, O God, is great, and the risks you have taken were supreme.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

From the depths of your creating love, you made us male and female.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

In the goodness of your covenant, you created us a community of your love.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

In the fullness of time you sent us Jesus, a man of love that risked all for the sake of the world.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

In your resurrection power, you have revealed your love to all humanity.

Teach us the way of love, and help us to walk in it.

Help us, O God, to reveal your love as we discover anew the tremendous power of the Christmas story and meet again the Christ-child, born anew among us.

Amen and Amen.

 

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With the coming of Advent on Dec. 2, the Church celebrates a new year, as we shift from year B to year C in the lectionary.  Advent C postings will follow, as we are able.  The beginning of the season (and for some churches, the close of the previous one, on Nov. 25) affords the opportunity to “dress the church” for Advent.  Offered below are two services centered around “Hanging of the Greens,” one of which is gratefully borrowed, with reference, and the other accumulated from many places through the years.  There also follows a Chrismon service, which may be adapted and added to any period during the season if Chrismons are used in worship.  Please advise us of what your congregation does to welcome the season, and keep us advised of references you may add to the adapted materials below.  –David Chafin, ed.

 

Hanging of the Greens (from years gone by on Advent 1C)

Choral Introit – “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Lighting of the Altar Candles

The significance of the candles

Organ Prelude

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

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

 

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

response:  Creator of the Stars of Night, verse 2

 

The Second Lesson:  Isaiah 61: 1-4, 10-11

 

Sermon:  “Getting ‘Decked Out’ For Christmas

 

Hymn of Discipleship:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 

Communion:  Come, O Long Expected Jesus

 

Offering

 

Dismissal  When God is a Child,  verse 1

 

Full Text for Service Above

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.

Invocation

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 Lighting:

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.

 

Chrismon Service

Today we celebrate with joy and Thanksgiving all that God has given to us… the love of family and friends; the beauty of creation and good food to sustain us.  And we also come on this last Sunday before Advent celebrating with thankful hearts the Christ ‑‑ the King of all that was and is and will be.

So it is appropriate in our celebration this morning to reflect with hearts filled with hope and faith on the symbols that represent the Christ which will stand before us throughout this joyous season.  Hear these words from the 22nd chapter of Revelation:

Then he 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; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads.  And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

The tree as a religious symbol takes us back to the very beginning of history.  The Tree of Life enjoyed great popularity as a symbol for many centuries.  There was one in the Garden of Eden along with the Tree of Knowledge which caused the fall of Adam and Eve.  In the Middle Ages, the Cross was regarded as the Tree of Life.  We use evergreens at Christmas because of their representation of eternity ‑‑ always green even through the coldest winter months.  The lights which we hang are constant reminders of the hope that is ours in Christ, the Light of the World.   (light tree)

Anthem:  O Christmas Tree

Chrismons are monograms or symbols telling about the life, work and meaning of the life of Christ.  There were used by early Christians to show who they were and where they stood.  They often adorned tombs, jewelry, utensils, doors and other places.  In modern times, the symbols have been adopted and adapted by churches for the decorating of trees during Advent and Christmas to help us remember.   The Chrismons are traditionally white, symbolizing our Lord’s purity and gold , symbolizing his majesty.

Matthew 16: 13‑16:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Phillippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?  And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Christ is the title for the Messiah whom God sent to redeem his people.  The Greek monogram of the first letters of Christ ‑‑ Chi and Rho ‑‑ was one of the most widely used early Christian symbols.  Those who recognize Jesus as their Lord and Savior still use the Greek Chi, the X to identify themselves as his followers.

John 20: 30‑31:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

As early as the second century, Christians were using the fish as a symbol for the Christ.  Early Christians used the fish widely as an easily made and recognized secret sign.  During the times of the persecution of the church, Christians could find each other by using this simple password.   To the outsider the fish was a mere decoration; to the Christian, it was an affirmation of faith in the Christ.  The Greek word for fish ‑‑ ichthus, is an anagram on the first letters of the Greek words: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.

An ancient symbol appropriate to the themes of Advent may be found in the two Greek letters, Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end of the Greek alphabet.  Advent prepares us for the beginning and the end of the Christian epoch.  In Revelation 22 we read:                                                     Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”      This verse makes the word a title of Christ and a fitting symbol to represent his first and second comings.

Christ is the Word.  “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:2‑3).  The orb, the round ball, represents the world, and Christ’s activity in creation and in the world around us.

These four symbols, the chi rho, the fish, the alpha and omega, and the orb, remind us of the one who is the Christ, who comes into the world in hope.

Let us sing together verse 2 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful  witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” Rev. 1: 5a.   One of the most common symbols of the trinity is three entwined circles representing God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  While there is no direct reference to the trinity in Scripture, there are many references to the one who is and was and is to come.

The concept of wisdom personified is found in Proverbs 8 and this made possible the application to Christ, the wisdom  from on high through whom all things were made.  A burning lamp is a traditional symbol for wisdom and for the Christ hearkening back to Psalm 119:  Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Although the Gospels do not say that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ while he was in the water, the scene is frequently pictured that way.  The Gospels do tell us that when Jesus had been baptized he went up out of the water, the heavens opened, and then he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.  The descending dove then represents most frequently the baptism of our Lord.  Other doves are also seen frequently either resting or in flight and quite often represent the dove of peace, or the dove which reminds us of God’s covenant with the people of the earth that was made with Noah.  All are symbols of hope and the love of God.

The eight‑point star was a pre‑Christian figure that was adopted by Christians as a “concealed Chrismon during the Roman persecutions.  The crossing lines reveal Chi’s Rhos, and crosses to the initiate.  Then this design is used, one remembers that it was not always easy to be a Christian.  In today’s usage, the eight ‑pointed star generally refers to regeneration through Baptism in Christ.

Symbols of baptism, wisdom and the trinity ‑‑ may they all serve to remind us of the love of Christ which comes to each and every one of us.

Let us sing together vs. 3 of Love Divine all Loves Excelling.

The symbol of the cup is certainly no stranger to us.  Out denomination adopted the chalice as its symbol, because of the centrality of communion in the our worship services and in our lives.  But the cup also is a reminder of the cup of suffering, remembering Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane:  My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Jesus’ suffering is also deeply symbolized for all of us in the cross ‑‑  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

There are many forms and representations of the cross.  This one, the Greek cross that we hang on our tree this morning, has all arms of equal length.

One of the earliest symbols for the church was a ship:  indeed many churches were built to represent ships, at least one that is turned upside down.  the ceiling then becomes the hull of the ship; the pews the seats for those who rowed the great ships, the pulpit (which in early days was often raised) the wheelhouse or captains areas to oversee the rest.  It takes all persons on the ship to make it go and it takes God’s grace and wisdom as well.  Together we can sail into the world and serve the one who is the Christ.

Our last symbol is the cross over an orb ‑‑ the cross over the world, representing Christ over the world.  Jesus said, “God into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

Even at Advent we are called to do the same, through our Advent decorations we are continually reminded of the events in the life of Christ, of Christ’s victory over death, and of Christ’s call to each and every one of us today and every day.

If you have not accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, there is no time like the present;  or if you are seeking a church home, a community of faith to go through life with you, we invite you to come forward at this time, confessing Christ and uniting yourself with this part of Christ’s church, that we may grow and learn and live together in hope and in faith.

Hanging of the Greens: First Sunday of Advent

adaptation by Jeanyne Slettom

The Hanging of the Greens is a service for the first Sunday in Advent. It is based on the English tradtion of decorating the home with wreaths, garlands, a Christmas tree, and evergreens for Advent and Christmas. In a church setting, it readies the sanctuary (and church members) for the season. This service assumes a Protestant setting. It is adapted from an unknown source to reflect a process-relational theology.  Suggested hymns may be replaced by your favorites or appropriate anthems from a choir.

Prelude

Hymn  “Once in Royal David’s City”
Call to Worship – (Responsive)
How shall we prepare this house for the birth of Jesus?
            With branches of cedar, the tree of excellence and strength.
How shall we prepare this house for the eternal Christ?
            With garlands of pine and fir, whose leaves are ever living, ever green.
How shall we prepare this house for the prophet of Galilee?
            With wreaths of holly and ivy, telling of his passion, death and resurrection.
How shall we prepare our hearts for this revelation of God?
            By hearing again the words of the prophets and the promises of God.
For in the story of Jesus we see revealed the transforming power of God
We are reminded anew of God’s vision
of wholeness, justice, and peace for all of creation.
            Thanks be to God.

Passing of the Peace

Choir Anthem

Pastor’s Time with Children
The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing.
One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course other children teased them when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers and so we see them today. [Note:These paragraphs are posted on several internet sites.]

Organ solo/choir anthem/vocal solo “Los peces en el río” [Children arrange plants.]

The meaning of the service

Almost 2,000 years ago, the story goes, a clutch of sleepy shepherds were watching over their sheep on a star-brightened hillside in Palestine. It was a still, uneventful night. Suddenly the darkness was filled with a strange light. The stillness was broken by angel voices singing “Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, goodwill to all.” So begins Christmas, the most beautiful and meaningful celebration of the Christian calendar.

Christmas actually begins with Advent, the season through with we are moving. Both the seasons of Advent―the season of “going toward” the birth of Christ―and Christmas have a long history. These seasons and their customs have developed through many centuries and many countries. Old customs and observances are refined, renewed, replaced; new ones are added. Some of our customs have pagan origins but have been “converted” by redefining their meanings. What is significant for us is not what they may once have meant but rather what they mean for us today.

This morning our church building will begin to wear its Christmas apparel. For the first time our Christmas trees stand in the sanctuary. This day for the first time its lights will shine for us. As we make ready for the birth of the child by preparing this sanctuary, we make ready ourselves and the sanctuary of our own hearts. We are mindful that, although it is not Christmas yet, it will be here soon, very soon.

As we decorate the church, not only will we explain the history of the symbols of these special seasons, but we will rededicate these symbols―and ourselves―to the service of God. Let us prepare by listening an ancient hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Solo:   “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” [Verses 1,3, &4]

Significance of the colors [paraments]

The cycle around which our worship revolves is the church year. Today, the first Sunday in Advent, marks the beginning of a new church year. Paraments, which cover our communion table, pulpit, and lectern, are something like drapes and curtains in a home. With the changing colors of the church year, they attract attention, add variety, and point to the significance of the season or festival being celebrated. The traditional color for Advent is purple, a color that signifies the sacred, and spiritual fulfillment. Some traditions use blue, which represents anticipation and promise. As we prepare our communion table, pulpit, and lectern with the paraments, let us sing verses 1-3 of “We Hail You God’s Anointed.”

Hymn  “We Hail You God’s Anointed”  [Place paraments on the communion table, pulpit, and lectern.]       

God Will Send a Light to the Nations [Advent wreath & candles]

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 60:2-3     Reader:______________

The lighting of candles has been a part of religious worship for centuries. The Hebrews burned candles for eight days as part of their Feast of Lights. Light has been used by many religious groups to symbolize truth, while the darkness of night has been the universal symbol for evil. Since Jesus was called “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 wax of altar candles represented the body of Christ, while the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame portrayed his divine nature. Candles made from pure beeswax were used to signify Mary, since this wax comes from virgin bees. This has resulted in the practice of some churches to burn only beeswax candles upon the altar or communion table. When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon referred to the Christ child as “a light to lighten the Gentiles.” From this statement, church leaders have used candles to symbolize the light of Christ shining throughout a broken world. As we light these candles upon the communion table, we symbolize God, Emmanuel, God with us, whose transforming power heals the world of sin and evil, war and strife, stress and turmoil, suffering and despair. Jesus embodies hope and help for those held captive by oppression. His ministry guides us to personal peace and joy through the illumination of his message of the love of God. As the candles on the communion table are lit, let us sing the first verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel[Communion table candles are lit.]

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 four candles provide us with a visual way to count off four Sundays of this season. The flame of each new candle reminds us that something is happening, but something more is still to come. The Advent season is not complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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 place 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 candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David. 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.  Will the children come forward and stand with me as we light the first candle.

The Gospel of John speaks of Christ as the true light coming into the world. In commemoration of that coming, we light candles for the four weeks leading to Christmas and reflect on the coming of Christ. It is significant that the church has always used that language—the coming of Christ—because it speaks to a deep truth. Christ is coming. Christ is always coming, always entering a troubled world, a wounded heart. And so we light the first candle, the candle of hope, and dare to express our longing for peace, for healing, and the well-being of all creation.

(One candle is lit.)

Loving God, as we enter this Advent season, we open all the dark places in our lives and memories
to the healing light of Christ. Show us the creative power of hope. Prepare our hearts to be transformed by you, that we may walk in the light of Christ.

As the children return to their places let us all sing verse six of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

God will send a righteous king [cedar]

Scripture Reading  Jer. 23: 5 – 6    Reader:______________

In ancient times the cedar tree was revered as the tree of excellence and endurance. It also signified immortality and was used for purification. We place this cedar branch as a sign of Christ and of the kind of power he wielded: not the the power of might, but the power of transformation. As we contemplate his call to justice and peace, we seek to purify our hearts and “renew a right spirit within us.”

[Place cedar branch on the communion table.]

Hymn     “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”   verse 7

The prophet declares a child will be born (evergreens)

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 9:2, 6-7      Reader:______________

Have you ever wondered why we talk about the “hanging of the greens?” Or why an evergreen is called an evergreen? And why Christmas greens are traditionally used to emphasize the nativity? Green represents renewal, new life, freshness, and rebirth. Plants such as pine, fir, holly, ivy, and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not die; through the seasons of the year, they remain ever-green. Ever-alive. It is no wonder then that we deck our sanctuary and halls with evergreens during this Advent season. Advent is the season of preparation for the ever-coming  Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die each season, the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us that there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore, we hand this wreath of evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ so eloquently testified, is also without end, and is realized wherever truth, justice, and peace prevail.

[Hang wreaths.]

Hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter”

The fourth servant song [holly]

Scripture Reading Isaiah  53:1-6    Reader:______________

For Christians, this passage from Isaiah reflects the sufferings of Jesus on the cross and God’s transformation of that event into the promise of life. In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Savior, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

Hymn  The Holly and the Ivy
[Place holly sprigs on the communion table.]

The mystery of the incarnation [Christmas tree]

Scripture Reading  John 1:1-5, 9-14     Reader:______________

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World, we light the Christmas tree. During this season of Advent, whenever you see a lighted Christmas tree, let it call to mind the One who brings light to our darkness, healing to our brokenness, and peace to all who receive him.

Hymn  “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”   [Note: You may prefer the words, “O eternal love begotten”]
[Plug in tree lights. Children decorate tree.]

Blessing of the Christmas Tree – Unison

Loving God, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose path of justice and inclusivity lights a path for all who follow him. May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, that we may always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Nativity scene

The original crib in which the Christ Child was laid was a manger in the stable, a sign of his humble birth. The popular Christmas crèche at churches and in homes creates a tableau of Jesus in the stable crib at Bethlehem, depicting scenes described by Luke and Matthew.

St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with the first manger scene about 800 years ago. For a people who could not read it was an effective visual aid in telling the story of the birth of Jesus. We have such a scene here. I invite the children to arrange the wise men, shepherds, animals, angels, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.

[Organ music.]

[When the children are finished, they assemble to sing.]

Children:    “Away in a Manger”
Pastoral Prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Offering

Doxology
Prayer of Thanksgiving

We dedicate our lives and all that we have to the work of life, of love, of peace. Receive our gifts and lead us in wisdom and courage. Amen.

Commission and Blessing
Take time, in the busyness of this season, for quiet reflection—
For the light of God’s love is discernible everywhere.
            We will let ourselves be surprised by wonder,
            And set aside time to offer quiet thanks.

The good news of Advent is this:
Christ is coming. Christ is always coming.
            We will welcome Christ into our hearts.
            We will let ourselves be guided by his ministry.
            We will go forth from this place in hope.

Hymn    “Come, O Long-Expected Jesus”

Benediction

Benediction Response     “Amen”

Postlude 

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