YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO USE OR ADAPT ANY OF THESE LITURGIES.  Attribution is appreciated: “Written by Beth Merrill Neel on her blog, ‘Hold Fast to What Is Good’.  Used with permission.”

Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon

In this season of waiting, in this time of preparation, we long to draw closer to God, as a comfort and as our savior. So often, we get in our own way; we make choices that trip us up as we move toward God. So then, let us make our confession, first in silent prayer.
Holy God, our hearts are breaking, and we don’t know whether to shout in rage or keep silent in fear. We take our rage and fear and regret and grief out on others, and we know that is wrong. We act selfishly; we consume and hoard and haggle, and we know that is not what you ask of us in this sacred time. Help us. Mend our hearts. Hear our voices. Comfort us in our grief, and open our hands so that we will share in our sorrow and joy, in our hope and despair. Come to us again, we pray, and make us ready to receive you. Amen.

Friends, hear this good news: in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven, and freed to love and serve. Alleluia! Amen.

Prayer of confession & assurance of pardon

Holy God, we might need to confess that we have forgotten what this story is about – the story of the birth of Jesus.
We’ve been confused, so we wrap ourselves with so much planning, and shopping, and gift giving and sending,
with so much decorating and card-writing and partying that we haven’t left any time
to sit in the dark,
to sit in silence,
to contemplate the Incarnation,
to give thanks for this one life that changed the world.

We have celebrated so many Christmases, and yet –
Yet we still need You to remind us what this is all about,
to turn us around and set us in the right direction.

May the generosity that drives us this season be present all year.
May the intentional reaching out to the far-flung and to the stranger continue past the holidays.
May our hearts, so full of so much, be mostly full of love
For You, for each other, and for ourselves.

Heal us, we pray. Amen

Friends in Christ, hear this Good News! God could not love you any more than God loves you at this very moment. You are that beloved. So know that wrapped in that love is grace and forgiveness, and a call to go out into the world to love.
Alleluia! Amen.

This year we chose our own themes for the Sundays in Advent, so this candle lighting liturgy may or may not be helpful to you!  Adapt as you’d like.

Advent 1 – Dec. 1
The story begins with hope for a child –
A child, born of woman, like us;
A child who will lead us,
A child who will inspire us.
A child who will be our living hope.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we give thanks for the coming child, Jesus.
(light candle)
Let us worship God.

Advent 2 – Dec. 8
In the midst of suffering and despair,
God’s prophet cries, “Comfort!”
Amid all that causes us pain, that brings us to tears,
God’s care falls over us like a gentle rain.
In this season of short days and long nights
We are called to tend to each other.
On this second Sunday of Advent, we give thanks for God’s compassion for us.
(light candles)
Let us worship God.

Advent 3 – Dec. 15
Throughout all of human history, God’s promise has stayed the same:
“I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
This day we worship our God, whose name “Emmanuel” reminds us of the promise:
On this third Sunday of Advent, we give thanks for God’s abiding presence among us.
(light candles)
Let us worship God.

Advent 4 – Dec. 22
On this bright morning full of love, we remember God’s gifts to us:
The gift of a child,
The gift of comfort,
The gift of presence,
And the gift of joy.
On this fourth Sunday in Advent, we give thanks to God for the gift of the Christ Child.
(light candles)
Let us worship God.

Every moment of living is an opportunity to do something differently, to face the truth of our lives, to turn toward God in hope. Every confession of those things which lie in hearts is an opportunity to come closer to God. Trusting in God’s grace and mercy, let us then make our confession, first in silent prayer.


Holy God, we aspire to love and trust you,
But so often we get in the way of ourselves.
We see only the deep sadness of the world,
and do not notice your people at work amid the sorrow.
We assume that things will never get better,
And do not see all that is good right now.
We close our eyes and complain about the darkness,
Rather than see the light that shines all around us.
Help us, Holy One. Help us to grow in love and trust, in compassion and hope, so that as the Christ Child comes to us once again,
We will see him, and know him, and rejoice. Amen.

God of grace and truth,
long ago your prophets told of your promises –
a promise of restoration and salvation.
We confess that we have not believed your promise,
that we have preferred brokenness to restoration,
and have lingered with dis-ease rather than welcome salvation.
We have remained steadfast in the ease of the status quo,
not wanting to face the hard work of repentance and change.
Forgive our stiff necks, and renew our strength,
so that we may receive the fullness of your promise,
and live into that joy. Amen.

In this season of Advent, we are reminded of God’s love for us, shown in the impossible act of God becoming incarnate, taking on human flesh, to reach us in love and save us from our worst abilities. This is the God to whom we pray, to whom we make our confession. Let us then come to God with the truth of our lives, first in silent prayer.

In the days that have been, O God, we have walked along crooked paths strewn with our selfishness and greed, our prejudice, and our apathy. We confess that we have hidden from the light, from the light which exposes everything, the love and the hate, the good deeds and the harmful ones.

On this day we admit to you our failings, where we have wandered, when we have not listened. We confess to you our sin.

In the days to come, remind us of your love and grace. Show us your power to transform hearts and minds. Sate us with peace in our souls that we will take peace into this war-weary world. In Christ we pray. Amen.

So, some alternative candle lighting liturgy.  Our Advent theme this year is Annuciations, and these follow that theme.

Week One – November 27
From deep in the past, the prophet Isaiah announced a word of peace:
God will judge between the nations and advocate for many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we light this candle as a sign of peace. (light candle)
Let us bring Isaiah’s hope into our world today.
And let us worship God.

Week Two – Dec. 4
In the days when Jesus began his ministry, John the Baptist announced a word of hope:
The One who is more powerful than I is coming after me!
On this second Sunday of Advent, we light this candle as a sign of hope. (light candle)
Let us bring joy into our world today.
And let us worship God.

Week Three – Dec. 11
In the fullness of time, Mary, the mother of Jesus, announced a word of joy:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
On this third Sunday of Advent, we light this candles as a sign of joy. (light candle)
Let us share Mary’s love with our world today.
And let us worship God.

Week Four – Dec. 18
Before Jesus was born, the angel appeared to Joseph and announced a word of love:
Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we light this candle as a sign of love. (light candle)
Let us bring the angel’s joy into our world today.
And let us worship God.

Christmas Eve Prayers and Things
On this holy night, we gather as many –
As strangers and friends, as the faithful and the wondering,
We gather as many and as one community.
We come to seek the light, the hope, the Good News.
On this holy night, we wait for God to come to us again.
We light these candles as a sign of our hope, for the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overwhelm it.
(The candles are lit.)
Let us worship God who comes to us even now.

Let us pray together:
O God, our God, our Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace: we come to you this night with much on our hearts. In this time set apart, in the quiet and stillness, help us draw near to you and to each other. Open our ears to hear your good news; open our eyes to see the possibilities for peace and grace that await us. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

The Invitation to the Table 
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving & Lord’s Prayer 
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

For this sacred time, for this holy night, for the gift of incarnation, we give you our deepest thanks and highest praise, O God. For in the fullness of time, you came to us an infant, confounding the wise and encouraging the faithful, so that you might know us and live as us, teach us, and heal us, and save us. May your Spirit come to us now, and settle upon this bread and cup, that they might become for us the spiritual presence of the body and blood of Christ. As we share this feast, may we be fed with grace and courage, with hope and joy, that we will go out into this night, and into the day tomorrow, messengers of your good new. Hear us now as we are bold to say the words that Jesus taught:

This year we’ve departed from the usual themes, and invented our own:  Waiting, Light, Messenger, Journey.  The liturgy below reflects those themes.

Week One: Waiting
We are those who wait for the Lord.
We wait for a sign; we wait for a cure; we wait for peace.
In this season of Advent, we wait for God to come to us again.
We light this candle in our waiting, to give us light, to warm us, to be a sign of welcome to the One who is coming to us again.
(the first candle is lit)
Let us worship God whose advent we await.

Week Two: Light
We are those who seek the light of God.
We seek God’s warmth and illumination and power.
In this season of Advent, we open our eyes to the Light that is coming into the world.
We light these candles as symbols of the coming light of Christ.
(the first two candles are lit)
Let us worship God, who gave us the Christ, the light of the world.

Week Three: Messenger
We are those who listen and look for a message from God.
We await a message of hope, of friendship, of help.
In this season of Advent, we seek out those who are messengers of the Good News.
We light these candles to illumine the path of the messengers, that they will find their way to us.
(the first three candles are lit)
Let us worship God, who sends messengers of glad tidings for us and the world.

Week Four: Journey
We are those who are making a journey.
We travel through life, accompanied by faith, in search of the living God.
In this season of Advent, we journey to a humble stable in long-ago Bethlehem.
And so we light these candles as a step on the journey, an act of hope and faith.
(the four candles are lit)
Let us worship God, our companion on the journey.

This year our Advent theme is The Signs of the Times, and the following candle lighting liturgy reflects that theme.
Week One – November 30
What is the sign that we see?
“The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
What will all this mean?
That the Son of Man is coming with great power and glory, to shine light in the darkness and to redeem his people. (the first candle is lit)
In hope of our redemption, let us worship God.

Week Two – December 7
What is the sign that we see?
“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be laid low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.”
What will all this mean?
That the Messiah is coming, and we are to prepare his way and light his path.
(the first and second candles are lit)
Let us worship God as we welcome the coming Christ.

Week Three – December 14
What is the sign that we see?
That the oppressed hear good news, and the broken-hearted are comforted; that the captives and prisoners are released, and those who mourn receive the oil of gladness.
What will all this mean?
When the Messiah comes, all that is wrong will be made right, and His light will shine with healing.
(the first, second, and third candles are lit)
Let us worship God who calls us to do great things.

Week Four – December 21
What is the sign that we see?
“God has scattered the proud with the thoughts of their hearts. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
What will all this mean?
That God’s new way has begun, and we are invited to live with justice and compassion as we share God’s light in the world. (the first, second, third, and fourth candles are lit)
Let us worship God who is born in our hearts again.

Christmas Eve – December 24
What is the sign that we see?
“A child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
What will all this mean?
That we are saved, and loved; that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overwhelm it. (the four candles and the Christ candle are lit)
Let us worship God.

Prayer of Confession
Holy God, we confess that we are busy with many preparations. We are busy with parties, with feasts, with giving. We are busy cleaning house and wrapping presents. We are busy with the stuff of the holiday. And we confess that our busyness may be misplaced, that we spend more time preparing for things than preparing for You. Draw us back to the center which is You. Remind us that our hearts and souls have work to do, too. Enable us to let go of that which does not matter, and to see what does matter. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness
Sisters and brothers in Christ, the promise is true: God loves us. God forgives us. God is coming to us even now to save us. Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Amen.

10 thoughts on “Advent

  1. May I use your Prayer of Confession for a Kids/Youth service I am doing on December 17, 2017, at my church, Emanuel Lutheran in Blackfoot, Idaho? I am looking for ideas for the service and I like what you have written.

  2. May I use some of these items for our virtual Christmas Eve service at FPC Auburn, AL this year? I will be glad to give credit to your beautiful work and words.

  3. Greetings in Christ,

    You are a gifted writer and quite able to cut to the heart of matter with striking words and powerful truths.

    Thank you for sharing your work with others.

    May I use some of your Advent responses for our blended worship services during Advent and Christmas?


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