Advent Wreath Readings based on the Song of Zechariah, Luke 1.67-79

2016-advent-wreath-trinity-sarasota

Advent Wreath at Trinity United Methodist Church in Sarasota, Florida

First Sunday in Advent: Hope
ONE
Blessed are you, O Lord our God
In Christ, you visit us and redeem us
In Christ, you raise up a mighty savior for us
In Christ, you deliver us from all that seeks to destroy us
In Christ, you show great mercy to us
You keep your promises and your covenant

ALL
Fill us with your healing and hope,
so we may speak and serve without fear,
in holiness and righteousness all our days
for the honor and glory of your name. Amen.

Light the candle of hope

Second Sunday in Advent: Peace
ONE
Blessed are you, O Lord our God
In Christ, you visit us and redeem us
In Christ, you raise up a mighty savior for us
In Christ, you deliver us from all that seeks to destroy us
In Christ, you show great mercy to us
You keep your promises and your covenant

ALL
Fill us with your power and peace,
so we may speak and serve without fear,
in holiness and righteousness all our days
for the honor and glory of your name. Amen.

Light the candles of hope and peace

Third Sunday in Advent: Joy
ONE
Blessed are you, O Lord our God
In Christ, you visit us and redeem us
In Christ, you raise up a mighty savior for us
In Christ, you deliver us from all that seeks to destroy us
In Christ, you show great mercy to us
You keep your promises and your covenant

ALL
Fill us with your justice and joy,
so we may speak and serve without fear,
in holiness and righteousness all our days
for the honor and glory of your name. Amen.

Light the candles of hope, peace, and joy

Fourth Sunday in Advent: Love
ONE
Blessed are you, O Lord our God
In Christ, you visit us and redeem us
In Christ, you raise up a mighty savior for us
In Christ, you deliver us from all that seeks to destroy us
In Christ, you show great mercy to us
You keep your promises and your covenant

ALL
Fill us with your light and love,
so we may speak and serve without fear,
in holiness and righteousness all our days
for the honor and glory of your name. Amen.

Light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love

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Notes:
This worship resource may be used for worship at home or as a congregation. It emphasizes the classic Advent candle symbols of hope, peace, joy, and love. The text is inspired by the Song of Zechariah, the powerful blessing and prophecy spoken by him at the circumcision of his son, John the Baptist. (Luke 1:57-80) It’s appropriate for any lectionary year.

This worship resource calls for more and more candles to be lit each Sunday. This reminds us of the present and second coming of Christ growing nearer as time passes and the celebration of Christ’s first coming at Christmas growing nearer as well. Thus, no candles are lit prior to the service. Some prefer to have the previous weeks’ candles lit prior to the service so only one candle is lit each week, thus adding light to those already lit. Feel free to use whichever method you prefer.

Click here for a resource for lighting the Advent Wreath on Christmas Eve.
Click here for a brief history of the Advent Wreath, instructions for how to make one, and two more Advent Wreath Readings

Advent Wreath Readings based on the Song of Zechariah © 2022 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution
(By Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com)
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Let the Tears Fall – A prayer of Lament and Release

Let the Tears Fall

Holy One, you are near and present in all things: highs and lows, joys and sorrows, celebration and suffering.

God, we come to you now in the midst of yet another storm, in a season of grief and loss of loved ones, belongings, and a sense of normalcy. More chaos, more loss, more pain.

Let the tears fall.

For the hurt in our hearts, we ask for healing, God. Hold us in our pain and bring peace to the storm.

What is hurting in your heart that you want God to heal?

The congregation offers their petitions silently or aloud

Let the tears fall.

For the hurt in our community, our families, friends, neighbors, strangers, we ask for healing, God. Surround our homes, neighborhoods, churches, schools, businesses, hospitals, and parks with your love and care.

What is the hurt in your community that you want God to heal?

The congregation offers their petitions silently or aloud

Let the tears fall.

For the hurt in our world from war, oppression, hunger, and injustice, we ask for healing, God. Shine hope in all places where there is despair.

What is the heart in our world that you want God to heal?

The congregation offers their petitions silently or aloud

Let the tears fall.

Lord, you catch them in your hands. In the ocean of our grief and lament, you call out again and again, “Peace, be still.”

We ask for healing in the name of Jesus, who heals all suffering and who taught us to pray, saying:                                

Conclude with The Lord’s Prayer

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I’m grateful for the prayer ministry of Rev. Macon Armistead, my colleague in ministry at Coronado Community United Methodist Church who gave me permission to post his moving prayer. 

This prayer could be used for a healing service or Longest Night service in addition to weekly worship. – Lisa <><

Let the Tears Fall © 2022 Macon Armistead
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Speaking Peace in the Face of the Storm

Quotefancy-806355-3840x2160As I write this, Hurricane Ian is gaining strength and making its way to Florida. I have family and friends in the Tampa Bay area. I serve a congregation located beachside between the Atlantic Ocean and the intercoastal waterway, Coronado Community Church in New Smyrna Beach. We have 10 sister churches in Cuba.

There’s much to warrant true concern. There’s much that is unknown. In the midst of it all, God is near. God’s well of hope, safety, and belonging is deep and it is for you. Love one another, make the best decisions you can, pray and trust God. You are not alone.
Your sister and servant in Christ- Lisa <><

Jesus, we see You calming storms
Storm tossed seas and stormy lives
Extend Your power and grace again,
Upon us and all in need

Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits
overwhelmed by the crashing waves of circumstance
Jesus, speak peace.

Moment of silence

Speak peace and perspective over minds and hearts
adrift in confusion or drowning in fear
Jesus, speak peace.

Moment of silence

Speak peace and hope over people, families, and communities
swamped by danger and loss
Jesus, speak peace.

Moment of silence

Speak peace and truth over the media.
Inspire them to use their influence
to build hope and goodwill rather than stir up anxiety
Jesus, speak peace.

Moment of silence

Speak peace and protection over first responders –
firefighters, law enforcement, medical personnel,
power workers, government workers, and shelter workers-
as they risk their lives to keep people safe
and help those who are suffering.
Jesus, speak peace.

Moment of silence

Speak peace and belonging over those who are displaced by evacuation –
those in shelters, those stranded on highways,
those in hotels, those far from loved ones.
Keep them safe.
Jesus, speak peace.

Moment of silence

Speak peace and well-being over those who are hunkering down-
the well prepared, the foolish, and the vulnerable,
especially those who are poor or alone.
Jesus, speak peace.

Moment of silence

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in You

Offer your own prayers. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

If you are using this prayer in a group setting, one person reads the light print and everyone reads the bold print. 

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Speaking Peace in the Face of the Storm © 2017, updated 2022 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Modern Ash Wednesday Service

AshWednesday1PRELUDE
People are encouraged to enter in silence. Lights are dim.
As people gather, words appropriate to the day appear and disappear on the screen.
You can create your own presentation or find one for free online here.

INVITATION TO THE OBSERVANCE OF LENTEN DISCIPLINE
The Pastor reminds the congregation of the origins of Lent and Ash Wednesday, following it with an invitation to observe a holy Lent through various Lenten disciplines. An excellent invitation to use or model your invitation after may be found online in the United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 322.

SCRIPTURE AND SONG
At the end of the invitation, an acoustic guitar and djembe begin to play the introduction to the first song. We are indebted to Taylor Burton-Edwards, compiler of an excellent Contemporary Service for Ash Wednesday, for the idea of alternating the reading of scripture with the haunting song O-So-So from The Faith We Sing, #2232.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 1 twice)
Following the singing, a shofar blows.
A recording will work if you are unable to locate and play one live.
A person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.

ONE VOICE Joel 2:1-2, 12-17a (NRSV)
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 2 twice)
Following the singing, a person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.

ONE VOICE 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2 (NRSV)
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 3 twice)
Following the singing, a person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 may be substituted for the verses from Psalm 103.

ONE VOICE Psalm 103:8-14 (Adapted from the New Jerusalem Bible)
The Lord is tenderness and pity, slow to anger and rich in faithful love;
His indignation does not last forever, nor his resentment remain for all time;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses.
As the height of heaven above earth,
so strong is his faithful love for those who revere him.
As the distance of east from west, so far from us does he put our faults.
As tenderly as a father treats his children, so the Lord treats those who revere him;
He knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 4 twice)
Instruments and singing end before the next prayer

THANKSGIVING OVER THE ASHES
The Pastor offers a prayer of thanksgiving, calling to mind the many meanings associated with ashes: our creation out of dust, mourning our sin (sackcloth and ashes), and our mortality (eventual return to dust). An excellent prayer to use or model your prayer after may be found online in the United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 323.

IMPOSITION OF ASHES
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead, place their offering on the altar table, and pray at the altar rail. The words projected as persons gathered are again projected. The guitar plays softly.

The following words are traditionally spoken by those applying the ashes as the ashes are received:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)
Repent, and believe the gospel.

CONFESSION AFTER THE IMPOSITION OF ASHES
Show the video Confession Starter from Shift Worship.

TIME OF SILENT CONFESSION
After a few minutes of silent confession, project the words to the following scripture.

ALL SPEAKING: Psalm 51:1-3, 7, 10-17 (NIV)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from blood-guilt, O God, the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

WORD OF GRACE AND PARDON

SONG: Come Thou Fount (United Methodist Hymnal, #400)
Or another song of your choosing

BENEDICTION

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First Offered at Community United Methodist Church, DeBary FL
Modern Ash Wednesday Service Compilation
© 2012 Nicole Sallee and Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Nicole and Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The United Methodist Book of Worship
(The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville. 1992)

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NRSV are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Order of Worship for a Blue Christmas Service (also known as a Longest Night Service)

blue-nativity

A Blue Christmas Service is offered especially for those hurting during the holidays. It’s often offered December 21, the longest night of the year.

Some come because they are mourning the death of a loved one. Some are far from home. Some suffer from illness, addiction, or estrangement. Some are lonely, struggling financially, or in conflict with another. Some hurt because of the great pain, need, and violence in our nation and world.

The reasons for coming are many. We gather in the midst of suffering to remember God is good. God is strong. God is near. We are not alone and we have every reason to hold on to hope.

Pre-Service Set Up
People to greet and pass out programs
Blue strips of paper in the pews
Evergreen clippings placed at the prayer rail
Anointing oil for prayer helpers
Tissues at the prayer rail and in pews
A table with 4 blue pillar candles and 1 white pillar candle
A box of matches
Blue tablecloth or white with blue runner for the table

Gathering Music

Welcome
This might include a brief explanation of the purpose of the service

Opening Prayer
One or All praying
Merciful God,
In this season of rejoicing, we come to you weary and grieving
In this season of feasting, we hunger for healing and relief
In this season of light, our hearts are veiled in sorrow and shadow
Will this season ever end?

“Yes.” We hear your, “Yes.”
Those who are weary will find rest
Those who mourn will be comforted
Those who hunger will be filled
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness will not overcome it.

Lighting the Christ Candle
Strike a match and light the white candle

One voice We welcome you O Christ, Light of the World. In the midst of our suffering, help us to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Scripture Isaiah 11:1-5, The Voice Translation
One voice
On this humbled ground,
a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising, will sprout from Jesse’s stump
a branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment, He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength, He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth
The impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

A brief message of hope is offered based on the Isaiah reading

Candle Lighting
Instrumental underscore- O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Light one blue candle
One voice- This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of truth.
There is no need to hide or deny. God welcomes us as we are.

One or All voices
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. ~Psalm 86:1

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of lament.
We recognize our wounds and cry out to God.
We accept God’s invitation to express every feeling and question.

One or All voices
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. ~ Psalm 22:1-2

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of courage.
Courage to be honest, to seek help, to comfort one another.
Courage to dare to love and dream again.

One or All voices
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. ~ Psalm 28:7

Light one blue candle
One voice: This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of hope.
God is good. God is strong. God is near,
leading us to a day without tears and pain, without sin and death.
Healing and deliverance are coming; if not now, then on that day.

One or All voices:
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. ~Psalm 65:5

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Cry out to Jesus by Third Day

Instructions for Prayer Time

  • You are encouraged to write your burdens and sorrows on the blue strips of paper and then place them on the table with the candles
  • Following that, make your way to the prayer rail
  • Persons are available to pray with you as you stand or kneel
  • Anointing oil is also available.
  • Please take an evergreen clipping with you as you return to your seat as a reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness

Instrumental underscore following the instructions

Prayer after everyone is seated.
One person praying as they place their hand on the blue strips of paper.

Jesus, you are full of compassion, you understand our pain. Our suffering changes our experience of you and the celebration of your birth. We are caught between remembering happier times and grieving what might have been. In our loss we feel cut off- disconnected, adrift, alone.

Root us in your steadfast love. Anchor us in your faithful promises.
Hold us, and all who weep this holy season throughout the world-
those who mourn, those far from home, those looking for work,
the lonely, the addicted, the abused,
the estranged, the oppressed, the enslaved,
the poor, victims of war, the sick and dying.
Shelter and sustain us all with your healing and hope, your peace and light.

We love you, we need you, we trust you,
We ask this in your name Jesus, praying as you taught us…

All praying
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen

Song
Suggestion- The Only Real Peace I Have by Allison Speer

Affirmation of Faith for Christmas
Adapted from the poem First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle.

One Voice: Christians, what do you believe?

All Voices: God did not wait till the world was ready,
till nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame,
God came and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh;
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh,
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
For to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Passing the Peace

Song- Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
All singing
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
All who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us, binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.

Announce before the blessing- Following the blessing, you are welcome to stay as long as you like. Persons are available to speak with you further about your situation. You are also welcome to set an appointment with the pastor or director of congregational care. (give contact information)

Blessing

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This prayer is printed as a gift for persons to take home along with a piece of evergreen.
I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Dignity
Humility
Forgiveness

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Compassion
Truth
Enduring

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
Knowing my sufferings are not like his
and not like others
yet shared with the universal longings of all humanity
Real and Painful and Deep
No need for comparison
Only companionship

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
As Christ bore his for all
All I will ever suffer
All we all will ever suffer
Will be made known
Will be made whole
Through his love and self giving

In this I believe
and trust
and follow
and hope
In this I am made new
Thanks be to God!
Hallelujah!
Amen!

For Grace to Bear Suffering © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Blue Christmas Service © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.