The prophet Isaiah lived in a time when his people worried about their future, their families, and their relationship with God. In the midst of uncertainty and fear, Isaiah proclaimed hope, peace, love, and light.
The four candles on the Advent wreath represent hope, peace, joy, and love. The fifth candle, placed in the center of the wreath, represents the light of Christ come into the world. Light a candle each Sunday during Advent, until all five candles are lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Whether you share these litanies with family or friends or ponder them alone, let this be a time to prepare for Christ’s coming.
First Sunday of Advent: Hope for God’s Presence
Speak: “O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isa. 64:8, nrsv).
Light the first candle, the candle of hope.
Read: Isaiah 64:1-9
Reflect: With great excitement, Isaiah, speaking on behalf of his people, anticipates the coming of the Lord. Along with anticipation comes a renewed awareness of sin — that which separates the people from God. In an attitude of confession, Isaiah calls the people to remember who they are — the created, and who God is — the Creator.
Do: Confessing prepares us for Christ’s coming and opens us up to a holy Advent. What keeps you from fully celebrating Christ’s birth? What are your words of confession today?
Pray: Holy God, you prove your love for us time and time again. We are the work of your hand. Continue to shape us into your image. Together, we look for the coming Christ, our hope. Amen.
Second Sunday of Advent: Peace through Promised Comfort
Speak: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God” (Isa. 40:1).
Light the second candle, the candle of peace.
Read: Isaiah 40:1-11
Reflect: It is a blessing to receive comfort during times of trouble. An encouraging word, a hug from a friend, a shared meal — each of these actions can sustain us during difficult times. Isaiah reminds us that the source of our peace and comfort is God’s love and care for us. Even in times of hardship, God holds us close.
Do: Think of ways you have received comfort. What experience stands out to you the most? This week, look for opportunities to offer comfort to others. Check in with someone who is going through a difficult time. Plan a visit, make a phone call, send a text, or write a note to someone. If you are part of a faith community, consider asking your pastors if they know someone who could benefit from a visit.
Pray: Speak to us again your comforting words, O God, that we may know once more your deep peace. Use us as instruments of your peace so that we may comfort others in the name of your Son, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent: Joy and Good News
Speak: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isa. 61:1-2).
Light the third candle, the candle of joy.
Read: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Reflect: Joy is bigger, deeper, brighter, and more sustained than happiness. Today’s scripture speaks about this experience. For many Christians, these words from Isaiah are familiar because Jesus quoted them at the beginning of his ministry. (See Luke 4:14-21.) What are some examples of joy from the life and ministry of Jesus? What in your life brings you joy? How is being a follower of Jesus a joyful experience for you?
Do: In the coming week, look for ways that God is bringing good news to the oppressed, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and releasing prisoners. When you encounter God’s work in the world this week, pray a prayer of thanksgiving and praise.
Pray: Open us to joy this Advent season, O Lord. Help us to see your love as it springs up around us. Amen.
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Love for the Lowly
Speak: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
Light the fourth candle, the candle of love.
Read: Luke 1:46-55
Reflect: Mary, excited to be pregnant with Jesus, rejoices in God and gives thanks for God’s having chosen her. Mary’s praise expands from personal to universal. Her words describe God’s love for the lowly, the powerless, and the hungry. Mary will bear a child whose name shall be Emmanuel — God with us. This is love.
Do: Who are the lowly, powerless, and hungry people in your community? Consider calling a local homeless shelter or food pantry to ask what they need. How can you offer assistance during this Advent season as a way of welcoming Christ?
Pray: Our spirits rejoice in you, O God. Thank you for the love you continually show us. May your love work through us as we strive to show your love to others. Amen.
Christmas Eve/Day: Light in the Darkness
Speak: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined” (Isa. 9:2).
Light the white candle, the candle of Christ’s light.
Read: Isaiah 9:2-7
Reflect: Christ, our Light, has come! Hope, peace, love, and joy are here! According to Isaiah, with the coming of this child, the time of war and oppression is over; the instruments of war will be re-purposed for good, and light will shine into the dark places of people’s lives.
Do: This Christmas, whether you experience happiness or sadness — or both — be gentle with yourself and others, and let the Light of Christ shine on your spirit. Give thanks to God for all that has been, all that is, and all that will be, knowing that God has promised endless peace through the gift of Jesus Christ.
Pray: O God, thank you for the light of your continuing presence, through the gift of your son Jesus. May the light of Christ shine through us today and always. Amen.
“I praise God for the ministry of The Upper Room. After publishing a daily devotional, I received a message from a 16-year old in South Africa thanking me for lifting her out of depression.” Read Tony’s devotional here.