Advent and Christmas Eve 2011

This post contains 5 sermons covering the 4 Sundays of Advent and Christmas Eve. In the language of Godly Play, we need time to get ready for the mystery of Christmas. My church uses the children’s sermon time to light the Advent Wreath candles: the children gather on the chancel steps; we review the previous candle’s theme; we present today’s theme and message; we light the candles using an echo prayer; and we end singing the third verse of Away in a Manager. My church also uses new church members/families to light the candles each week, and the family with the newest baby lights the candles on Christmas Eve. I hope that you will be able to adapt these sermons to your own worship time.

1st Sunday in Advent–Nov 27–Hope–Mark 13:24-37
2nd Sunday in Advent–Dec 4–Peace–2 Peter 3:8-15a
3rd Sunday in Advent–Dec 11–Love–John 1:6-8, 19-28
4th Sunday in Advent–Dec 18–Joy–Luke 1:26-38
Christmas Eve–Dec 24–Christ is Born!–Luke 2:1-20

1st Sunday in Advent–November 27, 2011
The Candle of Hope
lectionary focus: Mark 13:24-37

Welcome to the First Sunday in Advent!

Advent is the church season when we prepare ourselves for the joyful mystery of Christmas. As this takes time, we have four Sundays in Advent. Each week we will talk about how to prepare our hearts for Christmas and we will light one more candle in our Advent wreath. This Sunday we will be lighting the first candle which is the Candle of Hope.

Our Bible Story today tells us to be prepared for God, to expect God, to be filled with hope. Now, I have always thought hope meant there was something that we wanted but we might not get it: I hope it snows; I hope I have fun today. I thought hope was a whiny feeling that was also a bit scary…but boy, was I wrong! The word hope means that bubbly, fizzy, crazy excitement we have about knowing we are getting something! It is the anticipation, the expectation for something good that we know will happen. We have a saying in our culture about “having butterflies in our stomach,” when we are so excited it feels like butterflies are flapping around inside us! There is a great poet who said, “Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul.” (Emily Dickinson, 254)

Wow! Hope is not just having one Advent candle; hope is having a whole sky of fireworks lighting up our hearts! God’s hope is excitement because it will happen. This is how God wants us to be ready for Christmas. This is how God wants us to be ready to live each day. God wants us to be filled with hope like we are going to burst with excitement about carrying the love and joy of Christmas in our hearts every day.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: Today Miles and his grandfather will light our candle.)
While we now light the first candle of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light this candle
on the first Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with a bursting hope
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

2nd Sunday in Advent–December 4, 2011
The Candle of Peace
lectionary focus: 2 Peter 3:8-15a

Today is the Second Sunday in Advent!

Last Sunday, we lit the first candle, the Candle of Hope. We talked about hope being that excited expectation of what we know will happen; we are bursting with hope for the mystery of Christmas.

When I was a child, the place where I lived did not get much snow. When I grew-up, I lived in western North Carolina and we got lots of snow. My first winter there, we got 18 inches in one day! I was amazed to learn that snow is very quiet. Now, when it rains, we can hear it. The rain beats on the roof; the rain hits the windows; the rain rattles in the downspouts; and don’t forget the sound of thunder! But when it snows, it is silent. You can’t tell it is happening unless you are watching it. We would sit and watch the snow fall and fall and fall and never hear it. And then, when everything is covered in snow, everything else gets quiet, too. I was amazed that something so silent could change everything so completely.

Our candle for the second Sunday in Advent is the Candle of Peace. We prepare ourselves for Christmas by having Peace. Like snow, peace comes quietly. We do not hear it, and yet when there is peace, it changes everything, making the world get quiet and look so beautiful. Our Bible story today calls us to wait for God with peace. Yes, we are to be filled to bursting with hope, but we are to be changed with peace. As we prepare ourselves for the joyful mystery of Christmas, we carry an excited hope wrapped in a beautiful blanket of quiet peace.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: This Sunday our new members, the Atwood family, will light our candles.)
While we now light the first and second candles of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light these candles
on the second Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with a quiet peace
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

3rd Sunday in Advent–December 11, 2011
The Candle of Love
lectionary focus: John 1:6-8, 19-28

Today we will be lighting the third candle of Advent! Just one more Sunday before Christmas! So far we have lit the first candle of Advent, the Candle of Hope, and the second candle of Advent, the Candle of Peace. Today we will light the third candle, the Candle of Love. In our Bible story today, we hear of Jesus’s cousin, John. John was just a bit older than Jesus. When they were grown up, John went out in the world to prepare the people for the preaching of Jesus–to tell people that Jesus was coming to save the world. The people listened to John and then asked him, “What are we supposed to do? How are we to get ready for Jesus?” I think it is perfect that on this Sunday with the story of John that we have the Candle of Love. Because love is the answer. Love is what God wants us to do. And love is doing. Love is not just a feeling, it is an action. We do love by helping and sharing and laughing to show our feelings of love to God and to each other.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: Today the three Lindseys will light our three candles.)
While we now light the first, second, and third candles of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light these candles
on the third Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with a loving heart
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

4th Sunday in Advent–December 18, 2011
The Candle of Joy
lectionary focus: Luke 1:26-38

Welcome! Today we light the last of the Advent candles…our preparation is almost over. We have lit the Candles of Hope, and Peace, and Love. Today we will light the Candle of Joy. Ah, joy! It seems funny to prepare for Christmas with joy as joy is what happens on Christmas. And preparing for something is supposed to be work. And work is supposed to be hard…not joyful and fun? In our Bible story today, we hear about Mary learning that she will be the mother of Jesus. Being a mother is a lot of work. I would think Mary would be a little scared and worried about all the work she was going to have to do. But Mary responds with excitement. She is bursting with hope, yet wrapped in peace, and filled with love that she will get to do this great work. Mary is joyful to do this great work: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord!” Each of us should do our work with such joy. And I don’t mean just the fun things we do to prepare for Christmas or work here at church; I mean our chores around the house and our work at school. God calls each of us to do all sorts of work–and some of it is hard work–but if we respond with joy then it doesn’t seem like work at all. When we prepare ourselves by carrying hope, and peace, and love, and joy…we are ready to serve God in the way He calls us to make the world a more beautiful place.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: Lighting our four candles today are some of our college students who have come home for the holidays.)
While we now light the first, second, third, and fourth candles of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light these candles
on the fourth Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with joy
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

Christmas Eve–December 24, 2011
The Christ Candle–Christ is Born!
lectionary focus: Luke 2:1-20

Merry Christmas!

We began our Advent season a long time ago, four weeks ago. We have talked about Advent being the season to prepare for the joyful mystery of Christmas, the season of waiting for Christmas. In sign language, the sign for waiting is THIS…your hands in front of you and wiggling your fingers. Wait. Can you do that with me?

As we waited for Christmas, we lit the four candles of Advent. Tonight we have the Garcia family with Jon and Maria and Grace and new baby Anna to help us light the candles. First they will relight the four Advent candles. We remember the first Candle of Hope–we are bursting with a knowing hope; we remember the second Candle of Peace–we are quietly changed by peace; we remember the third Candle of Love–we are prepared to do love; we remember the fourth Candle of Joy–we work with joy. I think we are prepared for Christmas!

But wait (sign wait)! What about tonight’s candle? The white candle is called the Christ Candle. In the Bible stories of the birth of Jesus, one of my favorite parts is the shepherds. Those guys were out on a regular night, doing their regular job, watching the sheep. The Bible tells us that in the middle of this regular work night, the angels filled the skies singing about the birth of Jesus. The shepherds were afraid! But the angels told them to Fear Not! That the Jesus was born and the world was filled with hope and peace and love and joy. The Bible tells us that after the angels left the shepherds, the shepherds looked at one another and went with haste to meet the Baby Jesus. The shepherds did not wait. The shepherds hurried. They hurried to meet the joy of the world. The sign language sign for hurry is THIS moving your hands as the letter H up and down. Notice how much it looks like wait. Notice how easy it is to move from waiting to hurrying. And so tonight we end our wait and hurry to the mystery of Christmas, hurry to meet the Baby Jesus. And so the Garcia family will now hurry and light the Christ Candle. And as they do, will you repeat after me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light the Christ Candle.
We end our Advent waiting.
We are prepared
for the mystery of Christmas.
We hurry to welcome the Baby Jesus.
Alleluia
Alleluia
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

We are not Christians alone. My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.
Thank you for visiting my blog.
I’d love to hear how you have used these sermons.
Merry Christmas!
And a Peaceful New Year!

About these ads

9 responses to “Advent and Christmas Eve 2011

  1. Pingback: - Burning Candles

  2. It’s too bad the Advent candles are out of historic order. Pink comes on the Third Sunday of Advent, Joy Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the monks broke their penitential liturgies and feasted for joy right in the middle of Advent. Then they returned to their penitential theme. Gaudete is Latin for joy. The Sundays are: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love.

    • Thanks for commenting on this post! You are right about this Advent history and the Latin term. Fortunately there is denominational precedence for various orders and themes, and these 4 Advent sermons can be presented in any order. My tradition uses the pink candle to represent Mary and the joy of being Christ’s mother. While the Episcopalians include the Magnificat with the Third Sunday this year, the gospel readings in the Revised Common Lectionary feature John the Baptist on the Third Sunday and the annunciation to Mary on the Fourth Sunday. Our church chose to order our candles to fit the RCL. On the journey to Bethlehem, we can just travel the simple road or we can go deeper to reach the mystery of Christmas by sharing our thoughts and comments. Thanks for expanding our Advent experience.

  3. Thank you for your blog! I am in my first year of my first calling as a Children and Youth Ministry Director and having a resource like your blog for my Children’s Messages has been a great blessing to me! Thank you again! I love how you connect all of the messages together with the 3rd verse of Away in a Manger, it is such a great way to flow through Advent with the children!

    • Thank you, Chris, for your comments! Glad to have you on the chancel steps. We usually use music as a transition to start and end the time for children, but like you say, singing this verse does make for a nice flow through the season.

  4. Pingback: 4 Advent Sermons and 1 Christmas Eve Sermon 2012 Year C | on the chancel steps

  5. Pingback: Gathering Advent 2013 | on the chancel steps

I wonder what you think of this story?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s