My wife and I love to travel. Last year we went to Europe for a riverboat cruise on the Danube. For months we were overcome with anticipation. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but we knew something good awaited us on the other side of our journey.
This Advent, I invite you on a journey where I hope we can discover new insights and become a community united by God’s love for us. Hope, peace, joy, and love will guide us. I pray that by the end of our Advent journey we will have experienced some awe-inspiring moments and noticed all the beauty along the way. I am confident that something good awaits us on the other side.
Invite family and friends to join you in lighting the candles and reading the liturgies. Take time to discuss the scriptures and reflections, knowing that these acts of devotion invite the presence of the Promised One into your life.
First Sunday of Advent: Hope
Speak: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (Ps. 25:4-5, NRSV).
Light the first candle of the Advent wreath, the candle of hope.
Read: Jeremiah 33:14-15 and 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Reflect: In the midst of uncertainty, Jeremiah directed Israel’s attention to an anticipated time when God would set things right. Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church, both day and night, to fulfill a longing to see and support them so that they would “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”
Engage: Read or sing the words of verse 1 of the hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Sometimes we must wait for the fulfillment of a promise. What are you anticipating this season? What promises are you waiting to have fulfilled?
Pray: All-Present One, may we find a sense of hope and anticipation in the midst of our current realities. May we not lose faith. In this season of Advent encourage and strengthen our faith, and give us eyes to see you! Amen.
Second Sunday of Advent: Peace
Speak: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Light the second candle of the Advent wreath, the candle of peace.
Read: Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 1:76-79
Reflect: Malachi spoke of a messenger coming to prepare a path of change and restoration. Zechariah offers a prophecy after the circumcision of John the Baptist. John’s destiny was to give light and witness to the path of peace.
Engage: Where can you shine light on those who sit in darkness? This week, take notice of places where you hear messages of peace.
Pray: Emanating Light, show us your path of peace. Still our hearts long enough to hear your promise of fulfillment. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent: Joy
Speak: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near” (Phil. 4:4-5).
Light the third candle of the Advent wreath, the candle of joy.
Read: Isaiah 12:2-6 and Luke 3:7-18
Reflect: Praise is acknowledging and celebrating the nature of God. Worship is our response to God through our actions and witness. Joy comes when we live out our faith in tangible ways.
Engage: What words, phrases, or images from these scriptures resonate with you? What good work do you feel called to do?
Pray: O God, may we praise and worship you not only in words but in deeds. Amen.
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Love
Speak: “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Ps. 80:3).
Light the fourth candle of the Advent wreath, the candle of love.
Read: Luke 1:39-55
Reflect: Mary and Elizabeth prepared themselves for the miracle of God’s gift of love. Elizabeth exclaims her joy and Mary sings with exuberance. Both trusted God’s hope-filled promise.
Engage: What song fills your heart as you contemplate God’s great love? What captures your imagination in Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55)?
Pray: O God of hosts, shine your love on us. Give us a song to sing that declares your love for all creation, and use us to do your work in the world! Amen.
Christmas Eve/Christmas Day
Speak: “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Ps. 96:1-2).
Light the Christ candle.
Read: Luke 2:1-20
Reflect: The birth of the child lying in the manger brought great joy to his parents and the angels. The shepherds praised and glorified God for the Messiah’s birth.
Engage: Imagine yourself in Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. What do you see and feel? For what do you give God praise?
Pray: Holy and loving God, as you invited the shepherds to share in the moment, so invite us. May we join the heavenly hosts in shouts of praise! Amen.
— Evan Young
Executive Director, Stakeholder Relations
Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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