Make Your Own Advent Wreath- ideas plus two sets of readings

I’m encouraging every household to create and Advent Wreath for their celebrations this year. Below you’ll find some easy, inexpensive options, many you may already own.

This year, Advent begins Sunday, November 29th.

First, a Little History 
“Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor, as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century. During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit.

The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America.” – Wikipedia

Ideas for Creating Your Own Advent Wreath
I’m a strong advocate for grace and creativity in Christian practices, especially practices that are relatively new. (Yes, a practice from the 1800’s is relatively new given Christians continue practices dating back thousands of years.)

With that said, now’s a great time to create an Advent Wreath for your home. Yes, you could buy an Advent Wreath. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, you could also create one. Each choice will be intentional, adding to its meaning. The act of creating the wreath will be a prayer in itself. The point of a Christian practice is to help you more deeply connect with God and others. What will help you connect?

COLORS 
Modern Advent Wreaths often use four purple or blue candles plus a white candle in the center. The purple/blue candles can represent many things- repentance, longing, waiting, sovereignty, night, etc. The white candle is often called the Christ Candle, representing Jesus, and isn’t lit till Christmas Eve. Sometimes, one of the purple/blue candles is replaced with a pink candle to represent joy.

Some Advent Wreaths use other colors. The “original” used red and white. What would it be like for the color of the candles to get lighter as you make your way to the white Christ Candle. What if the Christ Candle were gold or silver?

There’s no need to stress over authenticity or getting it right. Symbols are elastic. What colors will you choose? What do they represent for you?

CANDLES
Tapered candles will show the passage of time. Pillar candles are also beautiful. You could even use simple votive candles or tea lights. Be sure to use the needed candle sticks, platforms, or holders for your candles.

NUMBER OF CANDLES
The “original” wreath used well over 20 candles, lighting one a day from the beginning of Advent to Christmas Eve. This connects that wreath to the very popular Advent calendar or Countdown calendar. Most modern wreaths use 5 candles. One for each week of Advent plus the Christ Candle. How many will you use? Why?

SHAPE
Advent Wreaths are often shaped as a circle, a symbol of eternity. I’ve seen “wreaths” shaped like a spiral, a cross, or with the candles in a row like a path. What shape will you choose and why?

OPTIONAL ITEMS 

  • Fresh or artificial greenery. Evergreens, holly, and ivy are often used. How about poinsettia? What do you have in your yard which could be used?
  • Use figures from your nativity set to decorate your Advent Wreath. How about an empty manger in place of the Christ Candle? Replace it with the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve and/or place the baby in the manger. I have an olive wood carving from Israel of a pregant woman I love to use. On Christmas Eve, it’s replaced with a carving of a woman holding a baby.

advent wreath with MaryWhat other ideas do you have? Be sure to post your ideas plus a picture of your Advent Wreath in the comments! Don’t forget the explanation of why you chose what you did. 

ADVENT WREATH READINGS
Below you’ll find two simple options for readings to accompany lighting your Advent Wreath. You could also search the web for other readings, use the ones your congregation uses, or write your own.

1. Let in the Light
Four readings, each includes a scripture and concludes with a beautiful prayer by Dimitri of Rostov. Plus readings for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Epiphany.

2. Hope, Peace, Joy, Love
Only four readings. Each includes a scripture from Psalms and concludes with a Christmas carol.

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You are welcome to use either of these resources with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish any of these resources in any form.

Advent and Christmas Bible Reading Plans

There are so many preparations for Christmas- decorating, shopping, cooking, gatherings. It can feel overwhelming and stressful, even lonely. It sounds cliche, but it’s easy to miss “the reason for the season” in the rush of pressure and consumerism.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. We can prepare our souls in the midst of the other preparations. You have time for this. It just takes a plan.

Below you’ll find five seasonal Bible Reading Plans to choose from plus some ideas for integrating them into your day. If you have other ideas for using them or other spiritual practices that keep you close to God during the holidays, I’d love to hear about them. Thanks for leaving a comment.

May you find yourself at the end of this season even closer to Christ. – Lisa <><

Ideas for Using the Bible Reading Plans

  • Take time for reading before a meal, before bed, or first thing in the morning with your coffee or tea
  • Gather your loved ones around your nativity or advent wreath for the reading of the day. Wouldn’t it be fun to use your nativity figures to act out the reading!
  • Find a quiet place, light a candle, breathe, rest in God’s Word

1. Home for Christmas: Advent Wreath Readings Plus a Simple Bible Reading Plan
2020’s been a rough year so I created a plan with lots of resources and options. My hope is that this plan will help and encourage households as they worship together at home.

Home for Christmas contains the following:
• Four simple Advent Wreath readings
• Lyrics to five public domain Christmas carols, one for each week of Advent plus Christmas Eve.
• 18 scripture readings from Matthew, Luke, and John. Five readings for the first three weeks of Advent and three readings for the fourth week of Advent. Some scriptures are repeated so folks can savor the reading.
• Each scripture reading is accompanied by a title and sentence prayer
• Readings for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Epiphany which include scripture, prayer, and lighting the Advent Wreath.

CLICK HERE for a pdf for printing this resource as a booklet.

2. Live Hope, Give Hope: A Plan to Share the Goodness of Jesus at Christmas
Readings from Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, John, and Psalms
Also includes a sentence prayer and action prompts to Help, Offer, Pray, or Encourage
December 1-31, 6 readings per week
This was originally offered in 2016, so you’ll need to adapt the day for “worship and rest” to fit this year’s calendar.

3. Comfort and Joy: A Simple Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Readings from Matthew, Luke, and Johnbible luke 2
Some of the readings are even repeated so you can go slow and go deep. It also includes a sentence prayer for each reading.
December 1-31, 5 readings per week
This was originally offered in 2014, so you’ll need to adapt the two days for “worship and rest” to fit this year’s calendar.

4. Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Advent Bible Readings from Old Testament to New
Old and New Testament Readings
December 1-25, everyday
This reading plan highlights the Old Testament names and prophesies concerning the Messiah which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

5. The Story of Christmas Reading Plan
Fifteen simple readings from Matthew, Luke, and John, will take you from the first visiting angel to the young family returning to Nazareth from being refugees in Egypt. If you would like to read about the birth of Jesus (Day 6) on Christmas Day, start this reading plan on December 20th with one scripture reading per day.

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You are welcome to use any/all of these resources with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish any of these resources in any form.

Two Prayers Based on Luke 1 and 2

summer in the scriptures luke

Mary’s Welcome
Based on Luke 1:26-38, Mary and Gabriel

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…
– Luke 1:35

Holy Spirit, come
Into the smallness of my life
Into the bewilderment of my being
Into fears which must be faced

Holy Spirit, come
Into the backwoods of my world
Into the places people forget
Into places people put down… what good can come from there

Holy Spirit, welcome
Here am I, the servant of the Lord
Let it be with me according to your word
Amen

Rest on Me
Based on Luke 2:22-38, Jesus is Presented in the Temple

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. – Luke 2:25

There was also a prophet, Anna… She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:36-38

Holy Spirit,
as you rested on Simeon and Anna,
so rest on me
Keep me expectant and open to your appearing
Fill my speech with stories of your praise and glory

Holy Spirit,
You reveal salvation to every person
reveal it again to me
Shine your light on every motivation,
on every hidden thing
Pierce my soul
so nothing I say or do opposes you

Holy Spirit,
as you guided so many that first Nativity,
so guide me
Continue to point me forward
eyes open, steady, and true

Lead me to a faithful end,
so I may rest in peace forever with you
with others
and with my true self

I trust and pray in the name of the Promised One
Jesus Christ
my Savior and Savior of the World
Amen
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For the next few months, I’m reading a chapter from the Gospels each day. This is part of the Summer in the Scriptures reading plan sponsored by the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Click Here for the reading plan.

You’re most welcome to read along and to join the Facebook discussion group, Summer in the Scriptures. You don’t need to be a Methodist or attend a Methodist church. All are welcome and all means all.

As part of the Facebook group, I’ve been supplying prayers based on the day’s reading. Feel free to post your prayers and observations based on the readings here or there as well.

May the grace of the Gospels, the challenge, and the call, inspire us to great faith and great good works in Jesus’ name. – Lisa <

Mary’s Welcome © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Rest on Me © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Rejoice Greatly (Luke 2)

Sermon Series christmas messiah 1110 x 624

Sermon Series:
For Unto Us A Child is Born, Messages Inspired by Handel’s Messiah

Message 2 of 4: Rejoice Greatly
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/22/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field and Glory to God
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion

At the end of the first part of Handel’s Messiah, the text shifts from mostly quoting the prophet Isaiah to the more familiar Christmas story found in the New Testament.

So what text is chosen first?

  • Caesar Augustus calling for a census?
  • Mary and Joseph, the human heroes of the story?
  • Herod, the villain of the story?

Nope. Charles Jennens, who compiled the scriptures which make up Handel’s Messiah, chose the story of the shepherds.

Who from the Christmas story most inspires you? Why? I usually choose Mary, the first and best disciple, and I usually gloss over the shepherds. I thought of them as side characters. I often don’t even read their whole story. I stop with the angels singing to them.

But this year, they’ve captured my heart thanks to Handel’s Messiah.

In Messiah, a solo soprano acts as the narrator and angel of the Lord for this part of the scripture…
Luke 2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

 A choir acts as the heavenly for this part of the text
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

The choir is followed by a solo soprano doing vocal gymnastics in an incredibly difficult and exuberant version of Zechariah 9:9-10. Is the soloist the prophet rejoicing that the Old Testament promises are in the birth of Christ? Or maybe it’s a shepherd or angel overcome with excitement.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen. Rejoice greatly.

How will you receive the coming of Christ? Will you receive Jesus with great joy?

How is your Christmas season going? I’ve never been so absent. I had the chance for some vacation with husband. Pastors never take a vacation in December, but this year it was the only time we had between Ed’s jobs. I got back from vacation and then got sick. Multiple days in bed. How about you?

How are you receiving what is meant as “Good News with Great Joy”?

Receive with Fear– The angel says, “Do not be afraid” (aka I’m not going to hurt you) because their appearances are so surprising, startling, unexpected. That’s how many experience this season, fear-full because the feelings and triggers are surprising, startling, and unexpected.  Everything feels out of control.

Receive as an interruption, and intrusion- I’ve got to watch the sheep. Let me get back to work. Bah humbug. It’s all a bother.

Receive as a chore/burden– Now there’s even more on my to-do list. I’ve got to find someone to watch the sheep. Then I have to walk all the way into Bethlehem in the dark. Then I have to search for a baby in a food trough.

Are you open to receiving the Good News of Christmas with Great Joy? Not great happiness. Not great success.

The angels do.  They are lighting up the night sky with their celebration, flooding it with singing and worship and the promises of God.

Mary does. Her celebration is quieter. She treasures it, ponders all in her heart. You could have both public celebrations and private wonder.

The shepherds do. I imagine them as big balls of enthusiasm. Like frat boys- rough and tumble, out in the middle of the night doing their thing in the dark, caring for the sheep. The angels come and they say, “Yea, let’s go!”

Enthusiasm- en theos, God with and God within, full of the Spirit

ENTHUSIASTIC, JOYFUL CELEBRATING
Dancing on the cruise ship – They danced all day long. Line dancing, cha cha lessons, Zumba, dancing before and after dinner. We’re the people of God, why aren’t we dancing?

Lisa, did you dance? No, I watched from the balcony and smiled. I don’t do that. I don’t know-how. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. I missed out worrying about what other people think. Be a fool for Christ and rejoice.

Choir singing outside of Publix- Christians in the wild singing the Good News. People are singing along and smiling. There’s a joy and eternal quality to the sacred songs which is different than the secular songs.

Lisa Elyse Christmas headbandsThe bright, sparkly Christmas headband my mom and sister made me for Christmas. What would it be like to wear it every day between now and New Year’s?

I’m going to do it. I’m going to let my little light shine. I’m not going to be embarrassed my Savior is born and born again in me. I’m tired of being an incognito Christian. In camouflage, in hiding. This is our season. This is our story. It’s time to dance and sing, celebrate and rejoice. We have no reason to be ashamed of celebrating our Lord.

MORE ABOUT SHEPHERDS
One idea is that they were special shepherds who raised the sheep to be sacrificed in the temple, which was only about 4 miles away. They had a special cave they used for birthing sheep. A spotless male lamb would be quickly wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger till it calmed down and could be with its mother.

If this is true, when they heard the angel describe Jesus’ birth they knew exactly where to find Mary and Joseph, in the birthing cave. They knew exactly who Jesus was- the Lamb of God. The way Jesus was wrapped foreshadows his burial clothes for he would be the sacrifice to save us all.

This is beautiful and theologically rich. But what if they were just regular ordinary shepherds going about their regular ordinary tasks? Shepherds who are lowly, uneducated, migrant workers, dirty jobs kind of people, not the most trustworthy. What if this is who God chooses. It sounds just like God.

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

The shepherds are full of enthusiasm. They don’t overthink it. They don’t over plan it. They are fully present to God and the Good News.

17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds are the first to hear the Good News. The first to see the long-awaited, long-promised Messiah. The first to affirm Mary and Joseph who were probably feeling and thinking so many things.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The shepherds are the first to hear the Good News.
The first to see the Messiah.
The first to affirm Mary and Joseph.
The first to share the Good News.
The first to rejoice- glorifying and praising God.   

And so, beloved of God, let the shepherds inspire you to receive and rejoice
Rejoice with an indescribable joy.

Inexpressible. Unspeakable.
A joy greater than words
A great and glorious joy.

Loose. Liberated. Boundless.

Receive and Rejoice!
A joy worthy of new birth, of a living hope
A joy anchored in The Imperishable, The Eternal.
Undefiled and Unfading

Receive and Rejoice!
This joy was chosen for you.

Destined for you.
Sanctified, sprinkled, and saved for you.
By the Merciful One. The One Who is With You.
Receive and Rejoice!
~ Receive and Rejoice, by Lisa Degrenia

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Receive and Rejoice © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ponder Prayer (Luke 2:15-20)

Nativity by He Qi

Nativity by He Qi

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. – Luke 2:19

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Ponder Prayer
Welcome Little One
Holy One

So much has been said about you already
So much to take in

How can I hold you?
How can I hold you and all that you are?

Make by heart your baby book
There to gather all the names
the stories
the promises
There to pause and ponder
the silent snapshots
Treasuring you as you treasure me
Keeping them safe for times to come

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Click the link to read the scripture which inspired this reflection, Luke 2:15-20

Today’s post was made richer and clearer after reading Richard Rohr’s post, Finding God in the Depth of Silence

Ponder Prayer © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.