Each Advent, our congregation uses candles and an Advent wreath to mark the weeks of anticipation before Christmas. Lighting another candle each week helps us to measure the time of waiting, and the growing light reminds us of the ways Christ’s life illuminates our lives.
This year, we echoed this Advent tradition by lighting candles on the six Sundays of Lent. While Lent is often understood as a time of gathering darkness as the church prepares to remember Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, and death, experiencing the season with increasing candlelight was an opportunity for our congregation to consider the work of Christ in our lives and to remember our dependence on his light even in a world where darkness seems to reign.
We took time in worship each Sunday to reflect on our journey toward the cross, hear Scripture, and light a purple candle. On Good Friday we held a Tenebrae service in which we extinguished the six Lenten candles plus the Christ candle as we remembered the darkness of Jesus’ Passion. As we celebrated the resurrection on Easter morning, we relit the Christ candle.
The following readings accompanied the candlelighting each week. Each reading includes a narration exploring the theme of the sermon text for that day, followed by an encouragement from Scripture. The congregational response, repeated each week, highlights our dependence on Christ’s light as we follow him.
Seasonal Introduction for the Bulletin
During the season of Lent, the church travels with Jesus on the road to the cross. As we prepare to remember our Savior’s betrayal, arrest, suffering, and death, we reflect on what things in our lives we may need to put to death so we can live in the newness of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. We will mark the weeks of Lent by lighting candles in the sanctuary; these same candles will be extinguished on Good Friday as we remember the crucifixion. May the light of Christ shine more deeply into our hearts as we walk this road with him, revealing the darkness within us and making us new.
Lord Jesus, as we walk with you through these forty days, let your light shine into our hearts.
Brighten the darkness of our lives, and show us where we need to repent.
In our thoughts, words, and actions, teach us to rely on you.
Renew us as your people, that we may carry your light to the world.
First Sunday in Lent
As we enter the season of Lent, we look to Jesus, our Savior. We remember that he is our prophet, priest, and king; he has all authority in heaven and on earth; and he reigns as our risen Lord. It is through Christ’s sacrifice that we are able to come before our God, and so we look to him to save us and our world.
Hear these words from Hebrews 4:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
[The first candle is lit from the flame of the Christ candle.]
Second Sunday in Lent
On this second Sunday of Lent, we hear Jesus crying, “Woe to you, hypocrites!” He condemns the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for doing religious works to be seen by others, for following the letter of the law without understanding its true meaning. We remember that we too are tempted by this kind of hypocrisy, wanting recognition, glory, and human approval more than God’s presence. Let us commit ourselves to sincere faith, which looks to God in honest humility, that we may be cleansed from our sins and do his will.
Hear these words from Psalm 40:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.
[The second candle is lit.]
Third Sunday in Lent
Today is the third Sunday of Lent. This morning Jesus tells us to keep watch for signs of the arrival of the kingdom of heaven, when he will return in glory. Even though the world around us seems dark, we trust that the struggles we face will produce the fruit of righteousness in us as God works out his will in his beloved children. Let us be watchful and ready for Jesus’ work in us and through us.
Hear these words from Psalm 130:
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
[The third candle is lit.]
Fourth Sunday in Lent
On this fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus reminds us to prepare ourselves for the coming of his kingdom. He calls us to be faithful in continuing his work on earth: to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the captives, and release from darkness; to bind up the brokenhearted and comfort those who mourn. We commit ourselves to this work, confident in our hope for Christ’s return.
Hear these words from Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
[The fourth candle is lit.]
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent. As we travel with Jesus toward the cross, we hear him praying for his disciples and for all who will believe in him. We remember that just as he prayed for us during his ministry on earth, the risen Christ continues to pray for us as he reigns in heaven. Let us take comfort in this promise and seek the unity that will display God’s glory to the world.
Hear these words from Ephesians 4:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
[The fifth candle is lit.]
Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm Sunday)
John 13:1–17; Luke 22:14–20, 39–46
This Palm Sunday, we are eager to join the people of Jerusalem in crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” But we remember how quickly these cries turned to words of hatred and condemnation as the people called for Jesus to be crucified. Because of his great love for us, this is how our Lord provides for our salvation: through his suffering and death, Jesus paid the price of all our sins, and through his resurrection, he brings us into new life.
Hear these words from Colossians 2:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
[The sixth candle is lit.]
Luke 24:1–12, 36–49
Today is Easter Sunday! The tomb is empty, and we celebrate the good news of the resurrection: Christ, who died for our sins, is risen, and we are raised to new life with him. Our lives are no longer our own, but because we belong to the risen Christ, we live by his Spirit. Hear these words from 2 Corinthians 5:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
—2 Corinthians 5:17–20
[The Christ candle is relit.]
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Including the Whole Church
There are always individuals who are not able to physically join worship. Consider recording one such individual leading the first portion of the candlelighting liturgy and playing that video for the gathered worshipers. Then invite someone present to light the candle and lead the response.