Worship in the season of Advent
The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the church.
It is a time when we yearn for the gift that God promises the world through the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. As a worshiping assembly, we lean forward to anticipate the fulfillment of the promise of new life and confidently proclaim the present reality of all things new in Jesus Christ.
In our Advent worship the readings, prayers, hymns, sermon and Advent traditions reflect hopeful expectation and present the reality of Christ’s tangible presence in a world that longs to be healed and renewed.
In Advent, the first season of the church year, the light becomes brighter on Advent wreaths in our churches and in our homes as we anticipate and acknowledge the presence of the light that no darkness can overcome, Jesus Christ.
The wreaths also symbolize expectant anticipation for the fullness of God’s presence in Jesus Christ and the faithfulness of God in the gift of eternal life. Consider using all white candles or blue candles that coordinate with the vestments and paraments of the season.
The older practice of using a pink candle on the Third Sunday of Advent as a symbol of joy is no longer consistent with the current lectionary.
Provide resources for families to begin the tradition of the Advent wreath in their homes. One possibility is “Come, Lord Jesus: Devotions for the Home: Advent/Christmas/Epiphany” by Susan Briehl ($6.99, ISBN 978-0-8066-2982-7 from Augsburg Fortress).
The text of “Evangelical Lutheran Worship” (ELW #261), “As the Dark Awaits the Dawn,” was written by Susan Palo Cherwien and captures the themes of the Advent season.
The hymn’s poetry is rich with images of expectancy and yearning. Because the melody by Carl Schalk will be new to your congregation and can be initially challenging with its wide intervals, have a soloist or the choir sing this hymn the week before the congregation sings it so that the tune can become more familiar.
The biblical readings for the Sundays in Advent give voice to a jarring reality: This violent, tragic, sin-filled world desperately needs the healing, reconciliation and peace of the presence of the Savior who is God-with-us, Jesus Christ. The proclamation of the word of God in Advent carefully balances the realistic confession of our human brokenness and longing for Christ’s healing with the tangible presence of Christ’s presence that is already at hand.
'Go in peace. Serve the Lord.'
Advent is an ideal time to emphasize the places where the expectant hope of Christ’s presence intersects with the needs of the local community and world. Try making the announcements that pertain to the church’s participation in God’s mission in the world just before the blessing and dismissal to emphasize the connection between worship and mission.
As the rubrics in ELW liturgies suggest: “Brief announcements may be made, especially those related to the assembly’s participation in God’s mission in the world.”
You might also want to read:
Advent: blue or purple?
The meaning of Advent through art
Telling, encountering and sharing the good news