Liturgy by TLW



Ideas for Sundays in Advent

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Advent brings with it a whole host of rich traditions, from wreaths and calendars to Advent Lessons and Carols and Santa Lucia festivals. There are some favorites that I enjoy and have encouraged in congregations that I have served.

The first is the making of home Advent Wreaths and then blessing them with the children at the liturgy for Advent Sunday (1). Making the wreaths can be a fun fellowship or intergenerational Sunday School event. Do it before Advent 1.

It helps to provide styrofoam rings (already punched with holes), candles, clay (to steady candles in holes), greens and decorations. Ben Franklin's is great for these supplies and will usually give a church discount. A nominal fee can be charged to parishioners to cover costs. Rings and decorations can be saved for use again.

After the wreaths are completed, put them in the chancel so that all can see them at the Advent Sunday liturgy.

I have traditionally blessed the wreaths as part of a Children's Sermon. This gives me an opportunity to talk about the symbolism. Then I invite the children to raise their hands in blessing above the wreaths as I read the prayer of blessing:


Blessing of Advent Wreaths

P. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe. You sent your Son to be the Light of the world and to spread his light of love to all. Bless us and accept + these wreaths of light made from our hands. May their ever increasing brightness be a sign to us of the approaching nearness of your Son, that we might prepare in joy for his humble birth in a manger and be ready to receive him at his coming again in glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C. Amen


Lighting of the Church Advent Wreath can occur at various points of the liturgy of Advent and with greater or lesser focus. Perhaps the oldest tradition associates the lighting with the reading of the prophecy. Functionally, I have seen that mean lighting before the first lesson, during the first lesson and even after the lesson during the Psalm, sometimes with music, sometimes not. There is no hard-fast rule here.


Lighting it during the Children's Sermon gives the opportunity to speak about various symbols associated with each candle: Prophecy-Bethlehem-Shepherds-Angels, Hope-Love-Joy-Peace, etc. There are many fourfold formulas of this type that have been associated with the candles -- again none being hard-fast. I suppose that gives the freedom for developing your own fourfold formula if you would like.


At the same time, the wreath may simply be a visual marking of the progress of the season without comment or ceremony beyond lighting at the beginning of a service. It's interesting that the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services suggests that, when lighting the Advent Wreath, "no special prayers or ceremonial elaboration ... is desirable" (p.28).


On the Sunday nearest Dec. 6, I like to have a Children's Sermon on St. Nicholas. A visual aid helps, like a picture or one of the many small statues that are found everywhere these days. I use this as an opportunity to retrieve "St. Nick" from the secularism and commercialism of the season and place him squarely in the Christian tradition of loving and doing good for others. Histories of this fourth century Bishop of Myra can be found in many places, including Phil Pfatteicher's Festivals and Commemorations (Augsburg 1980, pp. 442-43). See my St. Nicholas Day web page for a song to go with the Children's Sermon.


For the liturgies of Advent, Advent 1 and Advent 4 seem to have a certain specialness about them. Advent 1 initiates the season of preparation and anticipation, while Advent 4 reflects the heightening of that anticipation. Accordingly, I have developed small additions to the general pattern of Advent that I set forth below.

For all of Advent, consider the following special for Confession and Absolution:


Advent Confession and Forgiveness

P. In the name of the Father, and the + Son, and the Holy Spirit.

C. Amen


P. The Lord of Advent tells us to be watchful for his coming, keeping our lamps lighted, and our hearts clean. Therefore let us confess to the Lord.


Silence for reflection.


P. God and Father of all:

C. We prepare our hearts for the coming of your Son, confessing our sins, confessing our attraction to a godless world that does not know Christ.  Forgive our sins, cleanse our hearts, and keep us faithful for the promised coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen


P. God sent his Son, the Babe of Bethlehem, to show his infinite love and forgiveness for all. Your sins are forgiven in the holy name of + Christ who came and will come again.

C. Amen


The Entrance Hymn and Apostolic Greeting would follow. Below are two different possible Advent Kyries that I have used.  The first one is a simple form that can be used for the whole season:


Advent Kyrie (for whole season)

A.   Restore us, O God of hosts.

C.   Come, Lord Jesus.


A.   Give us peace and strength in our days.

C.   Come, Christ Jesus.


A.   Be present with us, and we shall be saved.

C.   Come, Lord Jesus, and do not be slow.


The Hymn of Praise would be Hymn stanzas 1-2 of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." For Adv. 2 sing 1 & 3, for Adv. 3 sing 1 & 4, and for Adv. 4 sing 1 & 5.


A second possibility for the Kyrie divides the ancient O Antiphons between the four weeks, using half for the first two weeks of Advent, and the remainder for the second two weeks of Advent -- as follows:


Advent Kyrie (weeks 1 & 2)

A. O Lord, have mercy and come to us.

C. Come, Lord Jesus.


A. O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation:

C. Come and teach us the way of prudence.


A. O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai:

C. Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.


A. O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign before the peoples, before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage:

C. Come quickly to deliver us.


A. O Emmanuel, our King and our Lawgiver, the anointed of the nations and their Savior:

C. Come and save us, O Lord our God.



For Advent 3 and 4, the Advent Kyrie would be the second half of the O Antiphons, as follows:


Advent Kyrie (weeks 3 & 4)

A. O Lord, have mercy and come to us.

C. Come, Lord Jesus.


A. O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one can close, you close and no one can open:

C. Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.


A. O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting:

C. Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.


A. O King of the nations, the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people:

C. Come and save us all, whom you formed out of clay.


A. O Emmanuel, our King and our Lawgiver, the anointed of the nations and their Savior:

C. Come and save us, O Lord our God.


Use "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" for the Hymn of Praise, as described above.


For all four Sundays, the Prayer of the Day would follow, then First lesson, Wreath Lighting at the lesson or the Psalm (or Wreath Lighting at other areas as discussed above), Second lesson, Verse, Gospel, Sermon, Hymn of the Day, Apostles Creed. On Advent 1-3, the usual Prayer of the Church would be said.


On Advent 4, the following Litany should replace the usual Prayer of the Church. It was written to express the increased anticipation that comes with the last days before Christmas, and is focused on the second coming seen as promise within the manger:


Litany for Christ's Coming (week 4)

A. As the days of Advent hasten on and we draw nearer to the day of Christ's coming, let us pray with fervent hearts for the needs of the world:

C. Come, Lord Jesus, and do not tarry.


A. Lord Christ, in joy and anticipation, we await your coming with lamps lighted and hearts aglow with faith.

C. Come now and illumine the whole universe.


A. All creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.

C. Come soon and save those who wait in darkness.


A. The suffering and the poor look to you for their hope.

C. Come and raise us to glory in your presence.


A. The troubled and oppressed have no where to turn but to you.

C. Come quickly and banish the powers of evil and darkness around us.


A. The sick and weary, the dying and faint-hearted cry out in their despair.

C. Come and bring us eternal wholeness and health.


A. Even the martyrs and the blessed dead make their plea, "O Lord, how long?"

C. Come now and give us eternal life.


A. The Spirit and the Church cry out:

C. Come, Lord Jesus.


A. All those who await your appearance pray:

C. Come, Lord Jesus.


A. The whole creation pleads:

C. Come, Lord Jesus.


P. Hearken to the prayers of your servants, Lord Jesus. By the sign of the manger of Bethlehem, give us hope in the promise of your return. Come quickly, Lord, and bring us to the joys of heaven, where we will praise you with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.

C. Amen


Then follows the Peace, Offering, Offertory Song.  For the Offertory Prayer:


Offertory Prayer:

A   Let us pray.  Lord of Advent,

C   Accept the offerings we bring this day, the work of our hands, the gifts of our labor, our lives to serve you.  Gladden our hearts as we watch for your coming and help us to share that gladness with all.  Amen


Great Thanksgiving, use a Eucharistic Prayer with the single Advent response of "Come, Lord Jesus" (as in LBW #33.  See also "Options for the Communion Liturgy" for other Eucharistic Prayers for the season).  Consider also the following possibility:


Great Thanksgiving

P    The Lord is coming soon!

C   His Advent is drawing near!


P    Therefore let us give him our thanks and praise.

C   And call upon his presence at our Advent table.


Eucharistic Prayer

P    Blessed are you, O God, King of glory.  You sent your only Son, Jesus Christ, into the darkness of our world to be a light among us, the light of your love.  In weakness, he took on our flesh in the form of a child to live and grow as one of us.  In weakness and strength, he showed forth your love and followed your call, even to death upon a cross for the sake of our sins.  Then you raised him from the dead to reign with you in glory, and promised his return to us in power to bring us into your everlasting kingdom.  For all this, we thank you, O God.  We live in that hope and await his coming again, raising our voices in fervent prayer.

C   Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.


P    In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;  broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:  Take and eat;  this is my body, given for you.  Do this for the remembrance of me.

            Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying:  This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.  Do this for the remembrance of me.

            Be with us at our table, O God, in our eating and in our drinking, that the Spirit of hope is kindled in our hearts and in our lives, uniting us in him who came and will come again, Jesus Christ our Lord.

C   Amen


Our Father


Use the following At the Breaking of Bread for all Advent:


P. This is the body of the One who was foretold by the prophets. This is the blood of Him who will return for you at the end of time.

C. Come to us now, O Lord, in the breaking of bread. As once you were born in a manger in Bethlehem, come to us again in the manger of our hands and hearts. Amen


(The above response presumes that the bread is given into the hands.)


After Distribution, the following Post-Communion Prayer:

A. Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we thank you for coming to us through the sacrament of this holy supper. May your presence in our lives give us patience and peace in this holy season. and make us eager for your return when you will bring all the faithful into your heavenly kingdom; where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C. Amen


On Advent 1, to help initiate the season, use the following Solemn Blessings:


P. May God be with you as you keep watch for the One whose Advent is promised.

C. Amen


P. May God embolden your witness to Christ's coming and so prepare his way.

C. Amen


P. May you be found ready and alert at Christ's return, at peace in body, mind and spirit, and doing his will.

C. Amen


P. And may God almighty, Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you now and forever.

C. Amen


On the other Sundays in Advent (2-4), consider this simpler Advent Benediction and Dismissal:


Advent Benediction

P. Receive the benediction. In all your Advent preparations, remain watchful with your eyes on Christ, whose birth in a manger is but a promise of his coming again in glory. And may the blessing of God, Father, + Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and forever.

C. Amen


Advent Dismissal

A. The Lord is coming soon. Come, Lord, and do not tarry.

C. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.