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Advent Readings

by Tim Isbell

This webpage contains links to Advent Readings designed to fit into a worship service. This year I've also published a set of Advent Season Meditations that are for personal devotional use. These are part of my larger Responsive Prayer Meditations project in which I'll subsequently publish meditations for all the rest of the Christian year. I hope you'll take a look at these, too.


Why celebrate Advent? 

We live as citizens of God's Kingdom, and his Kingdom has a calendar. Advent marks the first day of each Christian year. If we want parishioners to “live” in the Kingdom, it makes sense to acquaint them with the Christian calendar.

Advent candle lighting and public reading of Advent liturgy add something special to Christmas season worship, in small and large churches.

Celebrating Advent provides a comfortable bridge for any parishioners who grew up in formal Christian traditions.

The writing of Advent readings offers parishioners a fresh way to express their gift in the worship setting. (Indeed, all of the Advent readings provided in the links below were written by parishioners at New Life.)

Even if you don't have someone to write the Advent readings, the process of lighting the candles and reading the liturgy offers a low-threat opportunity to involve a variety of people in the worship experience.

Free Advent Readings for you

Below you'll find the links to several sets of Advent Readings. Each set includes five readings: one for each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, and a fifth for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Click on any link below to view a reading set. Once you are viewing the file, you can download a version to your computer by clicking on the File pull-down menu >> Download as... and choose the file type you want. Once it's on your computer you can edit it all you want.

All these readings are offered with the permission of the writers. 

Don't Be Afraid by Sharon Rauenzan. New for 2020.

Advent Grace by Sharon Rauenzan. New for 2020. Written in 2019 but too late to publish that year. So for all but our home church, it's new for 2020.

Emmanuel, God with Us by Sharon Rauenzahn. A set of four readings on the presence of God With Us during difficult seasons, using year C scriptures.

Hope, Faith, Joy, Peace by Sharon Rauenzahn. Five very short Advent readings from Romans, plus an optional longer reading of the core Christmas story.

Call to Faith, Call to Action by Sharon Rauenzahn. Includes five readings from the year A scriptures, suitable to use with teens or kids, with optional visual aids.

Symbols of Faith by Sharon Rauenzahn. This one is specially designed to include a child each week, with simpler wording and visual aids. Based on year C scriptures, including two Christmas Eve/Day options.

Preparing for Perfection by Sharon Rauenzahn. Five readings from year B scriptures, emphasizing hope, love, joy, and peace.

Surprises by Sharon Rauenzahn. Five readings telling the stories of key people from the Christmas narratives.

Candles, version 1999 by Erin Metcalf. Five readings from year C scriptures, tying together the prophecy and poetry of the season.

Candles, version 2000 by Erin Metcalf. Five readings emphasizing the people and places of Christmas.

The Promised King by Sharon Rauenzahn. Five readings from year B scriptures focused on Jesus as our arriving (and returning) king.

Advent details

There are 5 Advent candles, available from various Christian supply stores. If you purchase them in a Christian supply store, they are a bit expensive, but you can also get the right colors from other places. Three of the candles are purple, 1 is pink, and 1 is white. The usual arrangement is in a circle of four candles surrounding the white one, which is called the “Christ candle.” 

On the 1st Sunday of Advent, have some parishioners light one purple candle and read/recite the liturgy. On the 2nd Sunday, light the previous purple candle and a second purple candle,  and do the reading. On the 3rd Sunday, light re-light the two purple candles and then the pink one. On the 4th Sunday re-light the first three candles and then the last purple candle. On Christmas Eve/Day, re-light all the surrounding candles, in the same order as used through Advent, and finally light the white “Christ-candle." 

In our setting, the readers enter the worship area from the back, carrying a lit candle-lighter, such as you might see at a wedding. If you don't have a fancy candle-lighter, just use a cigarette lighter. It's best to avoid using ordinary matches, as they emit a bad smell. The Advent team walks to the front, light(s) the right candle(s), and then reads the reading. This Advent element can occur in any part of the service. Once lit, let them burn throughout the rest of the service.

There are a few things written about the meaning of each candle, but there is no strong consensus. So just take the liberty to give them meaning yourself from year to year.


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