Advent Candle Liturgy
GREEN ADVENT CANDLE LITURGY 2020
This Advent will be different! Covid 19 restrictions are preventing most of the usual popular town illuminations, parties, shows and celebrations. Many of these are peripheral to the Christian observance of Advent and the birth of Jesus anyway. Indeed, they often jarringly conflict with it. To say that Covid is depriving us of Christmas 2020 is therefore nonsense! Now that we are likely to be in Lockdown again, at least when Advent starts, some or all of the suggestions below may well have to be adapted to ‘Online’ Worship or personal home-based usage. I hope some of the suggestions will be helpful anyway!
We also now need to observe Advent and Christmas with the huge problems of the global environment before us. These concerns are even more urgent and critical than the Corona virus. We need to face up to this challenge in the light of the key Advent themes of judgment, repentance, watchfulness and preparedness for prophetic action as we open ourselves to the God who came, comes and will come to save and transform his creation in Jesus Christ.
So – here are some suggestions for a ‘Green’ Advent Candle Liturgy. You may find ideas and material which can also be used elsewhere in your Advent worship. If it is not possible to be worshipping in church, perhaps you can adapt them for home-based or Zoom worship.
Gordon Webster – November 2020
Advent Video 1
Advent Video 2
Advent Video 3
Advent Video 4
The text of these Liturgies are below
WEEK 1 ADVENT SUNDAY November 30 “COOLING OFF”
(Visual Aid – Pic of a frosty winter scene/ iceberg etc.)
Leader: Welcome to our worship on Advent Sunday. Let’s begin with the first verse of a hymn about God’s love in creation: StF 103, v.1.
God is Love: let heaven adore him; God is Love, let earth rejoice;
Let creation sing before him, and exalt him with one voice.
He who laid the earth’s foundation, he who spread the heavens above,
He who breathes through all creation, he is Love, eternal Love. (Timothy Rees)
Leader: Are we dreading the coming dark, cold winter months? Especially without the usual colour, lights, excitement and anticipation of a typical English Christmas to look forward to? Let’s be positive! Short, dark days and long, cold nights are God’s way of restoring nature and helping creation to revive and recover from the battering we have been giving it. The earth desperately needs to cool off, and so, perhaps, do we.
We light this first Candle of Advent for Planet Earth, and offer to God our penitence for adding to global warming and our resolve to try and cool it down.
Reader: (while candle is being lit) From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoar-frost from heaven? The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen. (Job 38: 29 & 30)....He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoar-frost like ashes. He hurls down hail like crumbs – who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind to blow, and the waters flow. (Psalm 147: 16-18).
Prayer (all): Creator God, thank you for winter – cold winds, short days and long nights, snow and frost, icebergs and deep-freezes. May we treasure them as your gifts to conserve and restore life on earth.
Saviour God, we confess our part in global warming, light pollution, wasteful consumption of earth’s energy and power.
Spirit of God, come and bring us new wisdom and resolve. Come and bring coolness and peace to our hot heads and frantic lives. Amen.
Reflective Music: Play a short quiet extract of e.g. Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’
(Winter) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaCyD_UCRhU&t=70s during which someone reads:-
Dear Lord and Father of mankind forgive our foolish ways;
re-clothe us in our rightful mind; in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence praise.
Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake,wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm! (J.G.Whittier StF 495, verses 1 & 6)
LET THERE BE GREENING
ADVENT 2 DECEMBER 6 ‘LET THERE BE GREENING’
(Visual Aid: Pic of someone planting a tree seedling etc.)
Leader: Welcome to worship on the second Sunday in Advent. We begin with Hymn 729 StF, V.1:
Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care:
gift of great wonder, ours to surrender, trust for the children tomorrow will bear.
Leader: Green candles highlight the need for a greener world. There have always been deserts, but desertification is increasing – rain-forests cut down, the ocean floor denuded by ‘vacuum’ fishing, plastic polluting rivers and seas....But there is hope. Isaiah prophesies: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. (Isaiah 35: 1 & 2).
In countless small yet significant ways, people are making that vision a reality here and now. Derelict corners of towns and cities are being transformed into allotments. Millions of saplings are being planted in Africa. Coral reefs are being re-grown....
So we light this candle as a sign of hope, celebrating God’s presence and blessing on all who work and campaign to re-green Planet Earth and all that brings joy and hope to the deserts of the soul.
Reader: (while Candle 2 is lit) Through thee the deserts laugh and sing,
and nature smiles, and owns her King.
Lord, on our souls thy Spirit pour; the moral waste within restore; O let thy love our spring-tide be, and make us all bear fruit to thee. (Henry Francis Lyte, MHB 695)
Prayer (all): Creator God, we thank you for the miracle of earth and water, fertility and growth, springtime and harvest.
Saviour God, we confess our part in creating deserts, adding to waste and rubbish, taking more from earth’s bounty than we put back.
Spirit of God, inspire and bless all that is being done to renew the earth, however small or great. Save us from thinking that our tiny contribution won’t matter. Help us to do what we can, believing it will make a difference. Amen.
Reflection: Play a short extract of e.g. Beethoven’s 6th (Pastoral) Symphony, 2nd Movement, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQzEkDWjyVU while someone reads: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 21:1 & 22:1-2)
Hymn 729 StF, v.3:
Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses and air that is sweet,
health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete. (Shirley Erena Murray)
ADVENT 3 DECEMBER 13 LIFESTYLE (JOHN THE BAPTIZER)
(Visual Aid - download of painting of John the Baptist by Titian, 1540)
Leader: Welcome to our worship on this third Sunday in Advent. We begin with Hymn 182 StF, verse 1:
On Jordan’ bank the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings glad tidings from the King of kings!
John the Baptist called people to repent and be dipped in the Jordan, in readiness for the ‘Mightier One’ about to come. Today, let’s concentrate on his example and lifestyle rather than his message: Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey...(Mark 1:6) This wild man of the wilderness must have had a very small carbon footprint!
Self-denial – this sounds more like Lent than Advent! But Jesus also ordered his disciples on their missionary travels to dress and live as simply as possible (Matt. 10: 9 & 10). Our flabby over-indulgence hampers us as well as depriving others.
Without living on locusts and wild honey, we must drastically reduce OUR carbon footprint to ‘bring forth fruits worthy of repentance’, and thereby make ready for Jesus Christ to come afresh into our world and our lives.
So as we light this third candle, let John’s actions and life, as well as his message, search and challenge us.
Reader (while candle is lit): And the crowds asked John, “What shall we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3: 10&11)
Prayer (All): Creator God, we give you thanks for your bountiful provision for our need, but not our greed.
Saviour God, we acknowledge that we have exploited other life forms and been wasteful and greedy in what we eat, wear and consume, and need to repent.
Spirit of God, lead us into a life-style whereby we will live simply so that other humans and creatures may simply live. Amen.
Reflection: A lighter note could be struck with a short recording of a song such as ‘The Healthy Eating Song’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JldSBUQB34 suitable particularly for All Age Worship.
Hymn StF 182, verses 2 & 5:
Then cleansed be every heart from sin; make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare for Christ to come and enter there.
To God the Son all glory be whose advent sets his people free,
whom, with the Father we adore, and Holy Spirit, evermore. (John Chandler)
ALL CREATURES GREAT & SMALL
ADVENT 4 DECEMBER 20 ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL
(Visual Aid – Painting by Edward Hicks ‘The Peaceable Kingdom’, c1834)
Leader: Welcome to our worship on the fourth Sunday in Advent. We shall mostly be singing carols today, but let’s begin with a verse of StF 92 to introduce our theme:
Think of a world without any animals, think of a field without any herd,
think of a stream without any fishes, think of a dawn without any bird:
We thank you, Lord, for all your living creatures;
we thank you, Lord, and praise your holy name.
Psalm 8 glorifies God who has given us humans ‘dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea’. But we have abused our ‘dominion’ by exploiting them and exterminating many species completely. Our dominion has become callous greed. We are beginning to realise that by so doing we are destroying what is essential for our own survival, as well as being irresponsible and bad stewards of what God has placed in our care and ruining the flimsy web of life which we and all God’s other creatures are part of.
So we light this fourth candle to celebrate the abundant variety and richness of our fellow creatures.
Reader (while 4th candle is lit): The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them....They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11: 6 & 9)
Prayer (All): Creator God, we praise you for your natural world and its creatures in all their myriad forms and beauty.
Saviour God, we ask your forgiveness for preying upon our fellow creatures and failing to protect and conserve them.
Spirit of God, bless and inspire all who are trying to re-create environments where wildlife can thrive and show us how we can share in this vital task. Amen.
Reflection: All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man....the air shares its spirit with the life it supports. Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. (Attrib. Chief Seattle).
(During this a snatch of suitable music is played, e.g. Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKz6XJlI_jk OR play YouTube recording of song from ‘Dr Doolittle’ ‘Talk with the Animals’!
CHRISTMAS DAY DEC. 25TH
Just a few suggestions on how to link the Green Advent theme with the celebratory spirit of the Birth of Jesus Christ. I suggest this be done somehow by A): stressing the idea of Jesus being the source and creative origin of Planet Earth and its ecosystem. This might be symbolised by lighting the ‘Christ’ candle FIRST, then each of the others. And/Or B): light in reverse order, with the Christ (white) candle LAST to symbolise that Jesus was born into all this, vulnerable like everyone else, dependent on climate, vegetation, other people, other creatures etc. and being its ‘cosmic’ redeemer through suffering, dying and rising. But the main thing is to stress and celebrate Christ’s centrality, presence and lordship.
Begin perhaps with StF 330:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing....
Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns! Let all their songs employ;
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy...
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love... (Isaac Watts)
When the white Christ candle is lit, read e.g. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible...all things have been created through him and for him. (Coloss.1: 15&16)
Some lines of Charles Wesley from StF 199 also capture some of these mind-blowing thoughts:
Emptied of his majesty, of his dazzling glories shorn
being’s source begins to be, and God himself is born!
See the eternal Son of God a mortal son of man;
dwelling in an earthly clod, whom heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, at this! See the Lord of earth and skies;
humbled to the dust he is, and in a manger lies.
There are also plenty of carols, poems etc. which stress the context, participation and response of nature, animals etc. in the humble, rural “earthy” birth of Jesus.
A reproduction of a classic painting of the Nativity could also be used as a visual aid, e.g. Antoniazzo Romano (altarpiece base) 1482.
- Circuit Office, North Walsham Methodist Church
- Grammar School Road
- North Walsham
- NR28 9JH