Advent Wreath Lighting Devotion 2009
"Come Lord Jesus. Come to brighten every corner of the world."
Advent is the season in the Christian year when we hear and participate in the time of waiting for the birth of the Messiah, and we look with hope for the second coming of Christ. It is a time of intentional prayer for the light of Christ to fill the darkest corners of our world. We hear the voice of God in scripture. We hear the voices of God's people around the earth as we pray together for the brilliant light of Christ's love to warm the hearts and lives of humankind.
In worship we use the colors purple and blue as visual reminders of the season. One of the primary symbols of the season has become the Advent Wreath. The wreath itself is a symbol of life without end. The lighting of a candle each week marks our journey through the four weeks of Advent. In 2009, Advent begins on November 29 and culminates with the lighting of the Christ candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
The Wreath and Litany
Advent Wreaths take many forms, depending on your worship space and creativity. In many settings, the wreath is a simple circle made from fresh evergreens. Often there is someone in a faith community who is interested in creating the wreath. Encourage artists within your community to be creative with the natural materials found in your geographical area, as well as other materials such as wood or clay. Always be aware of safety and ensure that the materials are not close to the candle flames.
The United Methodist Book of Worship suggests that all four candles be purple with a larger white candle in the center. Is there someone in your community who could make the candles? In some settings, artists choose to place white candles within purple candleholders. This is especially effective in settings where there is a possibility of the candle being blown out by a breeze during worship.
Consider various ways of leading the litany in your worship. Perhaps a different lay person or family in your church could lead the devotion each week. Are there youth or children who could help by reading scripture or lighting the candles? One person could lead the entire devotion or one person could read the scripture, another read the devotion, and a third lead the closing litany and song. In Advent 2009, the lectionary focus is the book of Luke. The Advent Wreath Lighting Devotions provided here use one of the other lections each week as the scripture focus.
The Music for the Advent Wreath Lighting
Advent I-IV: Halle, Hallelujah! (Global Praise 3: 21)
The sung response for each of the four weeks in Advent can be taught and led in a variety of ways. You may want to start Advent by using the "call and response" or "hear it, sing it" models of learning, then move to the "sing it" model once the congregation knows the melody.
Call and Response: The song can be "lined out" for the congregation and sung in a call-and-response pattern. The song leader would sing the first phrase, "In you we put our trust," inviting the congregation to repeat the phrase. The next phrase, "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!" would be sung in the same manner. The song leader could "draw" the shape of the music in the air to help the congregation see the music phrase and to help them move down on the final ending.
Hear It, Sing It: The choir /praise team could sing the entire stanza of the song, inviting the congregation to join them as they sing the stanza a second time.
Sing It: Invite the congregation to learn this song as they sing. The song leader will want to "draw" the shape of the melody to help the congregation. You will also want to have the melody line played by flute, recorder, violin, or light flute sound on the keyboard to support the congregation.
"Halle, Hallelujah" should be sung with minimal accompaniment. Consider adding a single drum strike on the strong beats of each measure. A single finger cymbal strike could be played on the beat under the held notes (measure 2, 4, and 8, beat 4.) As you move through the four weeks of Advent add a bit more rhythmic interest by filling in with simple drum patterns or adding a light shaker. The accompaniment can build over the four weeks of Advent. If you think the congregation would feel more comfortable supported by hearing the melody line, ask a flute, violin, or recorder player to play the melody as you sing. A light flute stop/patch on the keyboard could also be played.
Christmas Eve/Day: Glory to God (Global Praise 2: 90)
This wonderful canon by Claire-Lise Schmidt (France) will certainly add to the excitement of lighting the Christ Candle. Consider singing it through three times, first by the song leader/choir in unison, then by everyone in unison, then sing the song in canon the third time. Remember that you don't have to sing it in four-part canon. The song leader and congregation could sing the first voice and the choir/praise team could sing the second voice. Another option is to practice singing this in two-, three-, or four-part canon with the choir and invite the congregation to join in with the first voice of the canon. If your space is flexible, consider asking the choir to stand around the congregation and sing the canon in as many parts as you can. Consider alternating languages between the primary language of your congregation and another language to help everyone remember that the newborn child came for the whole world!
Consider using this several times during worship. It can be sung as a unison melody prior to the reading of the scripture lesson and then sung in canon as the response to the reading. If you prefer a celebrative end to worship on Christmas Eve/Day, sing it "out into the world" as a response to the benediction.
A handbell/hand chime accompaniment is easily created by randomly ringing the C-E-G bells throughout the song (any octave.) The bells could be spaced around the worship space. Add visual impact by stapling lengths of gold and white ribbon through the handles of the handbells.
Don't have handbells? No problem! Randomly ring any bells or wind chimes that you may have. Search your keyboard for a bell patch that is light in sound and add that in as well. The goal is to add in the celebrative sounds of Christmas and Christ's birth! Continue to use this throughout Christmastide as a response to scripture, benedictions, the pardon of sins, or any time of joy in worship.
- by Rev. Debi Tyree