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Lighting Up Advent: Three sets of Scripture readings

Many congregations invite individuals or families to read Scripture and light candles in an Advent wreath at the beginning of Advent services. The readings provided here are correlated with the Scripture readings in the Revised Common Lectionary. Three sets are provided for each Sunday in Year A, which begins with Advent, 1995. Churches may choose readings the Old Testament, New Testament, or the salms, depending on the theme of the services during Advent.

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Lighting a candle is a simple yet profound act. It is a testimony to the power of light over darkness. Even the light of one candle can reveal our faces as we stand near the candle. As we light the candle, we begin our journey to Christmas, a day of joy and celebration.

The first candle on the Advent wreath is called the Prophecy candle, it opens the period that anticipates Christmas and remembers those who first spoke the promise of the coming Christ child.

[Light one of the blue candles.]

One candle, burning bright,
Chasing away the darkness from light.
One candle, glowing light,
The blessing of God, giving new sight.

From the Old Testament

Scripture: Isaiah 2:2-5

Prayer

God of light, place a candle in our hearts, so we may walk as children of the Light, treading gently on the paths of peace and ever ready to welcome the signs of new life. Amen.

From the Psalms

In Psalm 122 we see religious people approaching the holy city ofjerusalem. They are filled with joyous anticipation of worship. Soon they will be in the city and in the temple. Soon they will be in the presence of the Lord. In that context, the psalmist prays for the peace of Jerusalem.

Scripture: Psalm 122

Prayer

Dear God, on this first Sunday in Advent we begin a spiritual pilgrimage as we joyously anticipate Christmas day, a reminder of the birth of our Savior. As we come to this place of worship, we know that we are in your presence. Give us your peace that through us all may know the peace that Christ brings. In his name we pray. Amen.

From the New Testament

Scripture: Romans 13:11-14

Prayer

Dear God, as we celebrate the first coming of Jesus and anticipate his second coming, help us to be awake and ready to do battle. We battle against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil. Clothe us with Jesus Christ that we may walk in his light, which is able to banish darkness. In the Savior's name we pray. Amen.

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Waiting is hard in a fast-paced society. We want the stoplight to change quickly, the grocery line to move fast, and Christmas morning to arrive soon. We forget that before good things happen, preparations must be made.

Last week we lit the Prophecy candle and remembered those who first spoke the promise of the coming Christ child.

[Light the blue candle that was lit last week.]

The second candle on the Advent Wreath is called the Bethlehem candle. It is a symbol of the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child.

[Light another blue candle]

Two candles, burning bright,
chasing away the darkness from light.
Two candles, glowing light,
The blessing of God, giving new sight.

From the Old Testament

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

Prayer

Come, Holy God, come and save us. Come, Holy Christ, come and touch us. Come, Holy Spirit, come and revive us. Come and turn us around, and point us to your kingdom. Amen.

From the Psalms

Psalm 72 is one of the "royal psalms," sung at the coronation of a new king. Central to this prayer is the expectation that the king will be just and compassionate and that he will especially protect the needy. The church has traditionally seen this as a messianic psalm since the ideal of the compassionate ruler finds its ultimate expression in Christ.

Scripture: Psalm 72:1-8

Prayer

Dear God, as the kings and rulers of our world are enthroned, we have witnessed the elaborate preparations made for those events. By the power of your Spirit, move us to make the preparations needed to welcome you, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Soften our hearts, break down our resistance. Open us anew to your life and love that we may be transformed and may be agents of transformation in the lives of others. For Jesus' sake. Amen.

From the New Testament

Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12

Prayer

Dear God, in this very busy season with so many things to do, help us to hear anew your voice calling us to prepare the way for our Lord and Savior Jesus. Call us to repentance. Live in us by your Spirit that our lives will produce good fruit to the praise and honor of your name. Amen.

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Jesus is coming, shout for joy! Joy is a word we see and hear everywhere at Christmas. Joy to the world is the message of the season. Joy is the theme of this day.

Two weeks ago we lit the Prophecy candle and remembered those who first spoke the promise of the coming Christ child.

[Light the blue candle that was Hi on the fust week]

Last week we lit the Bethlehem candle, a symbol of the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child.

[Light the blue candle that was lit last week]

The third candle on the Advent wreath is called the Shepherds' candle. It remembers the first in a long line of people who joyfully shared the good news of the Savior's birth. The candle is a different color, reminding us that our period of waiting is half over.

[Light the pink candle]

Three candles, burning bright,
Chasing away the darkness from light.
Three candles, glowing bright,
The blessing of God, giving new sight.

From the Old Testament

Scripture: Isaiah 35

Prayer

Holy God, create in us a fountain of joy, stir in us a spirit ready to dance, kindle in us the fire of gladness, set loose in us songs of praise. For you are the One who comes with healing and blessing. Amen.

From the Psalms

Psalm 146 praises the Lord as the Creator of the world and the Provider for his people. The psalm contains a wonderful "catalog" of the loving deeds of God, who gives food to the hungry and raises up those who are bowed down. The words remind us of the answer Jesus gave when John the Baptist asked him if he was the Messiah.

Scripture: Psalm 146:5-10

Prayer

Dear God, with joy we acknowledge your care and love for us. With joy we acknowledge that our help is in you, the Maker of heaven and earth, our Maker and our re-Maker through the life and death of the One born in Bethlehem. Through faith in him, grant us solid joy that lasts long beyond this Christmas season and that equips us to face the adversities of life. Amen.

From the New Testament

Scripture: Matthew 11:2-11

Prayer

Dear God, with joy and praise we acknowledge the signs that your kingdom has come in Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sin. We rejoice that you have made us new creatures in Christ. With joy we commit ourselves to the proclamation of the good news of great joy. In the Savior's name we pray. Amen.

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT

The Advent wreath is a circle with no beginning and no end. It is a symbol of endless love and faithfulness. Out of darkness light shines, pointing us in hope to the One who came to overcome the darkness of this world and to be our light in the world to come.

Three weeks ago we lit the Prophecy candle and remembered those who first spoke the promise of the coming Christ child.

[Light the blue candle that was lit three weeks ago.]

Two weeks ago we lit the Bethlehem candle, a symbol of the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child.

[Light the blue candle that was lit two weeks ago.]

Last week we lit the Shepherds' candle, remembering the first in a long line of people who joyfully shared the good news of the Savior's birth.

[Light the pink candle.]

The fourth candle on the Advent wreath is called the Angels' candle. It reminds us of the hope fulfilled in the first coming of our Savior and of our continuing hope as we anticipate his coming again.

[Light the last blue candle]

Four candles, burning bright,

Chasing away the darkness with light.

Four candles, glowing bright,

The blessing of God, giving new sight.

From the Old Testament

Scripture: Isaiah 7:10-14

Prayer

God of angels and sheep, God of the poor and meek, in these days before Christmas, quiet us so we may hear where new life is struggling to be born, slow our rush so we may hear the faint sound of angel wings and the words whispered in hope. Open our hearts to the wonder of ImmanuelóGod with us. Amen.

From the Psalms

Psalm 24 extols God as the great Lord who founded the earth and whose victorious rule governs history. The earth is the Lord's. He is the King of glory.

Scripture: Psalm 24

Prayer

Dear strong and mighty God, by the power of the Spirit who created the earth and everything in it, create in us pure hearts and renew within us steadfast spirits that the hope fulfilled in Bethlehem may more and more permeate our lives until we share fully in your glory. In the name of the King who comes and comes again we pray. Amen.

From the New Testament

Scripture: Romans 1:1-7

Prayer

Dear God, in the fullness of time you sent the One promised through the prophets who looked forward in hope. You have given us a living hope by raising him from the dead. Enliven our hope as we live in the expectation of your coming and your coming again. Amen.

CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE

Four Sundays ago we lit the Prophecy candle and remembered those who first spoke the promise of the coming Christ child.

[Light the blue candle that was lit on the first week]

Three Sundays ago we lit the Bethlehem candle, a symbol of the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child.

[Light the blue candle that was lit on the second week]

Two Sundays ago we lit the Shepherds' candle, remembering the first in a long line of people who joyfully shared the good news of the Savior's birth.

[Light the pink candle]

Last Sunday we lit the Angels' candle, and were reminded of the hope fulfilled in the first coming of our Savior and of our continuing hope as we anticipate his coming again.

[Light the last blue candle]

Tonight the Advent season ends. We wait no longer. That great event for which we waited has happened. God's promise of a Redeemer is fulfilled. Christ Jesus is born. We light the Christ candle with praise to our God who brings joy to the world.

[Light the Christ candle]

From the Old Testament

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7

Prayer

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, we rejoice that you, so wonderful, so mighty, so everlasting, and so princely, entered time in the weakness of human flesh in a lowly stable in Bethlehem as the son of a peasant couple. O Child of Bethlehem, your birth gives us great joy. Make our joy complete so that we, like you, spend our lives looking to the interests of others. By the power of your Spirit, instill in us your attitude of humble service. In your name we pray. Amen.

From the Psalms

Scripture: Psalm 96

Prayer

Dear God, in the birth of Jesus you have shown your majesty and splendor and have put a new song in our hearts and lives. O Christ of God, be born in us today that through us your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. In your mighty name we pray. Amen.

From the New Testament

Scripture: Titus 2:11-14

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, tonight we celebrate your lowly coming as a baby in Bethlehem even as we wait for your glorious appearing on the clouds of heaven. We give thanks for your redeeming work, which assures us of victory, for the power of your Spirit that enables us to say "no" to sin and "yes" to righteousness, and for your love, which forgives us when we fail. Help us to live today and always as your sons and daughters. Amen.

 

Excerpt

ADVENT PRAYER

O God, you give us your Good News and call us into a new covenant relationship with you. Help us to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let the valleys be lifted up!

Draw us away from degrading thoughts and actions, and lift from us depressions and worry.

(Silent Prayer)

Through humble people, redeem your world, O God. Let the mountains be leveled off!

End our pride and take away our arrogance: save us from false hope and unwarranted presumption.

(Silent Prayer)

Through faithful people, redeem your world, O God. Let the crooked be made straight!

Forgive our sin, and pardon our wrongdoing; defeat evil and overcome the power of death.

(Silent Prayer)

Through saved people, redeem your world, O God. Let the rough be made smooth!

Help us grow in understanding, and give us wisdom to discern that which is good and true.

(Silent Prayer)

Through sanctified people, redeem your world, O God. Let all people see the salvation of our God.

Redeem your world, and make all things new, and bring us into your holy and perfect presence, now and for all eternity.

(Silent Prayer)

Keep us humble and faithful. Save us and sanctify us, O God.

For the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.