Advent Wreath, Narrative Lectionary

Advent Wreath Liturgies, Narrative Lectionary Year 1

Advent 1 – Hope (Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-4; 3:17-19)

One: People of God, prophets like Habbakuk pointed to a future hope, a Savior.
Many: No one knew when he would come.
One: They only hoped they would recognize the Messiah, the Son of God.
Many: We wait with hope for the One who has come and is coming.
One: Today we light a candle to symbolize our hope. We hope in the One who will come.
(Light the candle of Hope.)
One: People of God, a New Hope is coming.
All: We will rejoice in the Lord.

Advent 2 – Peace (Esther 4:1-17)

One: People of God, Esther was a heroic woman who took a great risk to bring peace for her people. .
Many: We want peace to overcome struggle, violence, and cruelty.
One: It can be dangerous to call for peace.
Many: This might be the job God needs us to do.
One: Today we light a candle to symbolize God’s peace. We hope in the One who will come. We pray for God’s peace to prevail.
(Light the candles of Hope and Peace.)
One: People of God, take courage.
All: We take courage from the light of God’s peace.

Advent 3 – Joy (Isaiah 42:1-9)

One: People of God, Isaiah promised a servant God who would come to save us.
Many: The Savior will be a light to the nations.
One: People everywhere are eager for the justice he will teach and the joy he will bring.
Many: We will see prison doors opened and people set free.
One: Today we light a candle to symbolize the joy we anticipate. We hope in the One who will come. We pray for God’s peace to prevail. Our joy will come with God’s servant.
(Light the candles of Hope, Peace and Joy.)
One: People of God, great change lies ahead.
Many: We wait to see it with joy!

Advent 4 – Love (Matthew 1:18-25)

One: People of God, today we hear the story of an angel appearing in a dream.
Many: Joseph was a righteous man who heard God’s messenger.
One: Because of his deep faith, he trusted in God’s steadfast love.
Many: When we know God’s love, we can extend it to others.
One: Today we light a candle to symbolize the steadfast love of God. We hope in the One who will come. We pray for God’s peace to prevail. Our joy will come with God’s servant. God’s love never ends.
(Light the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.)
One: People of God, remember you are God’s beloved children.
Many: We celebrate God’s steadfast love!

Christmas Eve – Christ Candle (Luke 2:1-14, [15-20])

One: People of God, when the angels appeared, the shepherds were terrified.
Many: We will not fear, for this is the night of Good News!
One: We celebrate the good news of a baby, born in a stable.
Many: Tonight we light a candle to mark his birth.
One: We hope in the one who has come, Jesus Christ.
(Light the Candle of Hope.)
We pray for God’s peace to prevail.
(Light the Candle of Peace)
Our joy comes with God’s servant.
(Light the candle of Joy)
God’s love never ends.
(Light the candle of Love)
Born as one of us, Jesus became God’s living Word of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
(Light the Christ Candle)
Do not be afraid! The Good News is here!
All: Glory to God in the Highest!

Looking for a carol of response? Now It’s Time to Light the Candle includes Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love.

Liturgies (2014) and carol (2015) are copyrighted by the Rev. Martha K. Spong. You are welcome to use these liturgies, based on the Narrative Lectionary Year 1, in weekly worship at your local church. You are also free to adapt them to your circumstances (using multiple readers, for instance). Please leave a comment to let me know where they will be used. This does not constitute permission to publish the readings as a set or to claim credit for them online or in print. Thank you, as always, to Working Preacher, for inventing and refining the Narrative Lectionary.

Advent, Reflectionary, The Inner Landscape

Winter Wonderland

The monthly specials at my favorite office away from home, Cornerstone Coffeehouse.

I write this from the draftiest location in my favorite local coffee shop, overcrowded as everything seems to be in the onrush of Christmas. I spent the morning reading blogs written by clergywomen, mostly, and thinking about all the pastors I know while drinking a holiday-themed beverage called “Winter Wonderland.” My morning included a trip to the Post Office to send off one overdue package, one present I hope will come as a surprise to the recipient, and a padded envelope full of stocking stuffers for my daughter in Japan (the cost of the postage affixed thereunto being something I will have to explain when I get home).

My responsibilities are different from the past few years, as I am not serving a church, and I’ll admit that feels strange. I wonder if it isn’t true that having to craft and curate experiences for other people gave me a sense of purpose that made the mixed-up world feel closer to manageable. After all, if I accomplished Advent wreath liturgies and multiple bulletins for special services with all their moving parts, I had control over my little sliver of the universe.

Beautiful artwork by Hannah Garrity of A Sanctified Art, amateur coloring job by yours truly.

This Advent I am busy with other things and missing the familiar ones dearly. I am trying to look at my faith life as a regular person’s faith life. I’ve been coloring in the devotional booklet put together by the wonderful women artists of A Sanctified Art. This morning’s reading was from Psalm 80; those words and I have a long history of meditations, sermons, devotions I have written. They have lived inside my head.

Our meeting today was different. I don’t need to unpack them for anyone else, or embroider them for any liturgical or homiletical need to be met. I was able to let the words and the colored pencils work their way with me. In the loss of a familiar role, there is the luxury of being no one in particular this Advent.

Of course, I am sharing *that* thought with you. As the other preacher at my house said on Facebook just this morning, everything is sermon material.


Advent, Prayers for Pastors

At the end of the wick (a prayer)

The end is coming.
Darkness lies on the earth,
our batteries run down,
gas gauge in the empty zone,
printer flashing “low ink.”

The longest night draws near.
The news is unreadable.
We turn off the television,
or change the channel,
tune the radio to music.

The candles burn lower.
At the end of the wick,
we pray for fuel,
to be Your change in the world.
Burn in us, O Love!



The cry of Advent

A man in the middle of his life, a husband and a father of four, suffers reverses in his business. An employee’s mistake, which he will cover to protect, may send him to prison. He thinks everyone would have been better off without him. He gives in to despair.

An old man, so distant from his feelings you would think he had none, is confronted by memories of the ways he has hurt other people. He worries that he will go to his grave and continue to be haunted by his mistakes. He gives into fear.

A recluse cannot stand the way his neighbors noisily celebrate the holidays. He hatches an elaborate plot in order to spoil their fun. He gives into bitterness and anger.

tumblr_inline_mxywiynrd41s6gli3His heart, you may have guessed, is two sizes too small.

In church yesterday, we prayed our own small-heartedness:

“But we confess that instead of peace, we allow fear to shape us. Instead of hope, we allow bitterness to shape us. Instead of joy, we allow despair to shape us. Instead of love, we allow anger to shape us.”

We all have need to repent.

John the Baptist went out into the wilderness when despair for the world grew in him, and every Advent we find him there by the Jordan, preaching and baptizing and basically raising hell and heaven with anyone who will listen.  Just when we wonder if that beaded blouse we bought ten years ago ever went to the dry cleaner, he takes the stage and insists we turn. Just as we try to remember where we stored an Ugly Christmas sweater, he raises his cry.


He is the voice, crying in the wilderness.

Just when we are wondering how to entertain our gluten-free, tee-totaling friends and relatives, he rears his head, raises his voice and demands our attention.


Turn away from your sins. Turn away from your despair, George Bailey! Turn away from your fear, Ebenezer Scrooge! For goodness sake, turn away from your bitterness and anger, Mr. Grinch! Even for the non-churchgoing folk, the stories of the season are full of the themes we return to in Advent, year after year.


muppet-christmas-carol-ghost-of-christmas-future-sliderWe may live in the same space as our fictional heroes of the season, counting the money and coming up short like George Bailey, up in the night with terrible visions like Ebenezer Scrooge, worn out like the Grinch, by the “noise noise noise noise!!!” They thought they knew it all.

They thought that nothing would ever change.

John, first, and then Jesus, push us over and over again to realize that it doesn’t matter where we worship, or what we wear, or who our granddaddy was, it matters how open we are to God’s love and forgiveness and how willing we are to share God’s love with others. What matters is being willing to own up to the ways we are unwilling and disconnected, and to turn away from those attitudes and tendencies, and turn toward God.


It is the cry of Advent.

So turn around. Sit down with the Who’s and carve the Roast Beast.

Bring the biggest prize turkey in town to the Cratchit family for their Christmas dinner.

Look at the friends who surround you and realize that you really do have a wonderful life.

It’s not too late to turn around.

Turn around, away from despair, and find joy. 

Turn around, away from bitterness, and find hope. 

Turn around, away from anger, and find love. 

Turn around, away from fear. 

Turn toward peace. 

Turn toward peace, and see what is coming.