Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgy 2013

(Year A)

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, adapt.)

Hope! Joy! Peace! Advent is the season in the Christian year when we hear and participate in the time of waiting for the birth of the Messiah. We look with hope for the second coming of Christ. We pray for the light of Christ to fill "us with joy and peace in believing." 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 joy and peace of Christ's love to warm the hearts and lives of all humankind.

We use the colors of purple and blue in worship as visual reminders of the season. One of the primary symbols of the season has become the Advent Wreath. A quick search on the Internet will find several articles on the history and tradition of 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 2013, Advent begins on December 1 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 flame of the candles. 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 a wide variety of ways the litany can be led within 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 or lighting the candles? One person can lead the entire devotion or one person could read the scripture, another read the devotion, and a third person lead the closing litany and song. In Advent 2010, the lectionary focus is the Book of Matthew. 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

The sung response for each of the Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies 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 sings the first phrase, "I've got the light of God in me," inviting the congregation to repeat the phrase. Each phrase of the song would be taught in the same manner. The song leader could also "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.

"I've Got the Light of God in Me" should be sung with minimal accompaniment. There is a separate full vocal/piano version available for the church keyboardist as a pdf download. Consider adding a light tambourine tap (or hand clap) on beat three of each measure. The accompaniment can build over the four weeks of Advent by adding guitar, simple drum patterns, or a light shaker. A light flute stop or patch on the keyboard could be used to double the melody.

Consider using this several times during worship. For instance, it could also be sung as a response to the reading of the scripture lesson. If you prefer a celebrative end to worship on Christmas Eve/Day, sing all of the stanzas "out into the world" as a response to the benediction.

A handbell or hand chime accompaniment is easily created by asking the bells to ring the chords as noted on the music in any octave. You can do this with just an octave of bells and a few ringers from your choir/praise team--no bell tables needed! You could also create a simple chart of the chords that is small enough to be held by each ringer (e.g., 4" X 6"). Holding the chart, the bell ringers can be spaced around the worship space and ring confidently. Add visual impact by stapling lengths of gold and white ribbon or strips of shiny fabric through the handles of the handbells.

Don't have handbells? No problem! Randomly ring any jingly sounding bells or wind chimes that you may have. 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, benediction, pardon of sin, or any time of joy in worship.

Other options for a sung response to this liturgy on Christmas Eve include seasonal hymns of light.  Consider using these songs as a part of the liturgy or part of your Christmas worship services.

Single stanzas

“O Come, All Ye Faithful, stanza 2, “True God of True God” (#234, United Methodist Hymnal)

“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light”, stanza 1 (#206, United Methodist Hymnal)

“God’s Own Light Came to Earth” stanza 1 with refrains (#131, Global Praise 3, Sri Lanka)

All stanzas

“Jesus, the Light of the World” (#3056, Worship and Song, Abingdon Press)

Epiphany Sunday is January 5, 2014. Ask everyone to bring a jingle bell, small brass bell, or a small wind chime to worship. Use the different stanzas at various points in worship such as call to worship, response to the scripture, the prayer, and of course at the close of the service. Everyone should ring their bells as they sing!

-          by Rev. Debi Tyree

                   Executive Secretary for Global Praise                                                                                                                                        

Advent Devotion 2013

Four Sundays in Advent and Christmas Eve pdf

Download the pdf for use in your local church or for home worship.

2013-2014 Dates for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany:

  • 1st Sunday of Advent    December 1, 2013
  • 2nd Sunday of Advent    December 8, 2013
  • 3rd Sunday of Advent    December 15, 2013
  • 4th Sunday of Advent    December 22, 2013
  • Christmas Eve    Tuesday, December 24, 2013
  • Christmas Day    December 25, 2013
  • Epiphany January 6, 2014
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2013-2014 Dates for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

  • 1st Sunday of Advent  December 1, 2013

  • 2nd Sunday of Advent  December 8, 2013

  • 3rd Sunday of Advent  December 15, 2013

  • 4th Sunday of Advent  December 22, 2013

  • Christmas Eve  Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • Christmas Day  December 25, 2013

  • Epiphany January 6, 2014

Additional Advent and Christmas resources