Editor's note: This Sunday, Nov. 29, begins the season of Advent. This is the first in a series of articles from Discipleship Ministries with suggestions for Advent worship services for families. This week's theme is hope.
Advent is the season when we prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift of Jesus. It is a time of “getting ready” for the celebration of Christmas. Here are some ways you can prepare yourself and your family for celebrating Jesus’ birth:
- Make an Advent wreath. The wreath, because it is a circle, symbolizes God’s never-ending love. The wreath, because it is green, symbolizes life. An Advent wreath contains four candles representing the four Sundays leading to Christmas. Many people place a white candle in the center of the wreath to symbolize Jesus.
You can make a wreath using a Styrofoam base, greenery and purple candles. If you do not have a Styrofoam base, place your candles in candleholders. Arrange them in a circle, with the white candle in the middle. Place greenery around the candles.
- Use the Advent Worship Service for Families (below) and worship together daily during Advent, lighting the candles on your wreath.
- Make an Advent prayer chain. Use construction paper that is cut into 24 strips. Write a prayer concern on each strip. Tape the first strip into a circle. Take the second strip and insert it into the first strip before taping it into a circle. Continue until you have a chain. On Monday, Nov. 30, open your first strip and pray together as a family for what is on the strip.
- Make a family blessing jar. Place an empty jar on your dining table. Each day during Advent, state one blessing for which you are thankful. Write the blessing on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. On Christmas Day, pour out the blessings. Read together and give thanks to God for the blessings you have enjoyed during Advent.
- For each week of Advent, focus on one of the people or groups of people in the story of the birth of Jesus. Tell one another the stories from the Bible about the following:
Week one: prophets
Week two: Mary
Week three: Joseph
Week four: shepherds
- Discover more ideas for celebrating Advent in your home. The book ‘Tis the Season: Church Celebrations for Advent & Christmas by Rachel Gilmore (Judson Press, 2011) contains several programs for church use during the season of Advent. However, many may be used in your home. Of particular note are the ones included in “Celebrations for All Generations.”
- Use the following Advent Worship Service for Families as you light the candles on your Advent Wreath at home.
Advent Worship Service for Families
First week of Advent: Hope
First Sunday of Advent — Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015
Light the first candle on your wreath and read together the following meditation:
First Reader: This is the first Sunday in Advent. Today, we light one purple candle. This is the candle of hope. Advent is a time of waiting and hoping. We wait for the day when we celebrate again the birth of Jesus. We hope that everyone will come to know and worship God.
(Light the first candle)
All: Sing or read together the hymn, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” (page 196 in The United Methodist Hymnal).
Second Reader: When we look at the first candle, we remember God’s promise. God promised to send a Savior to the people. When we listen to our Scripture reading, we hear what the prophet Jeremiah wrote about God. Jeremiah was a prophet who tried to help the people of Israel and Judah remember that God had made important promises. God fulfills promises. God takes care of God’s people. We know that the Gospel witness is one that helps us understand that God is loving and just. God brings peace. This gives us hope. We anticipate again the birth of the baby Jesus, remembering that Jesus helps us know God’s love for us.
First Reader: Read Jeremiah 33:14-16.
Discussion: Jeremiah writes that God has said, “…I will fulfill the promise….” The promise Jeremiah refers to is God’s promise that God will send a Messiah to save the people. Talk together about promises. What are good promises? What promises make us feel hopeful about things that have not yet happened, but that we wish to happen? (You might talk about the promise of growing up or the promise of growing more faithful.) Discuss ways you can help the members of your family be people of hope.
Prayer: Dear God: Thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you for the words of the Prophet Jeremiah that remind us that you are the source of our hope. Help us to live each day, allowing you to form us in a way that brings about your kingdom here on earth. AMEN.
Monday, Nov. 30, 2015:
Today read Psalm 25:4-5. Memorize these verses. How do you think these verses give hope to people?
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015:
Is there someone you know who needs to hear words of hope? Make or select a card for that person and mail it today.
Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015:
Hope is something we need in our world.Today, pray for the leaders of our country. Pray that the ways our leaders lead our country will be ways that bring hope to people all over the world.
Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015:
As we get ready to celebrate again the birth of Jesus, we sometimes get very busy. Today, take a ten-minute break. Sit quietly. If it helps you to concentrate, look at your Advent wreath. Pray, asking God’s help to bring quiet and calm to a busy world.
Friday, Dec. 4, 2015:
Think about your family. Some may live with you. Others may be far away. Who in your family needs God's hope? Pray for this family member today.
Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015:
There are people in our neighborhoods, in our church, and in our community who need to know of God’s hope. Select someone to visit today. Visit by phone or in person. Go as a family or by yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a visit to a home. Maybe there is someone you always see at the library. Stop by today and talk with that person. Tell the person you visit one way he or she helps you feel hopeful.
Click here to view the entire series from Discipleship Ministries.