Each December, our church holds a Service of Advent Longing. This service acknowledges the tension and struggle of living in this time in-between. In the midst of being merry and bright during the Christmas season, the truth is that many of us are feeling anything but that. This service provides sacred space for the stress, anxiety, family, health problems, politics, financial pressures, or the other weighty matters of our lives as we prepare to celebrate the Word becoming flesh even as we look forward to the final redemption of Creation.
This is an excerpt from last night’s service.The refrain of Advent is “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” thinking back to Jesus’ birth or ahead to Jesus’ return. But this is not just a refrain for Advent but our daily prayer, our daily longing. #Advent Click To Tweet
Words of Preparation
The refrain of Advent is “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” thinking back to Jesus’ birth or ahead to Jesus’ return. But this is not just a refrain for Advent but our daily prayer, our daily longing. In these days of increasing darkness, we may also feel an increasing weight of holiday commitments, the struggle of our family relationships, disquiet over the events of the world, or something we can’t quite name that makes peace elusive. It may seem as if we are running a race with an undetermined end rather than a pondering of all these things and a treasuring of them in our hearts.
In our Advent prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” we hear the words of Jesus:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29, NRSV)
We come to Advent with many expectations: expectations of ourselves and others; expectations that our current circumstances can’t live up to. Too often, we exit the Christmas season with a few extra pounds and a large credit card bill along with unmet expectations and a sense that we somehow missed out on Immanuel.
We come tonight, setting expectations aside to just be.
We come tonight, escaping the dark and the cold for the shared light and warmth of this gathering.
While we might want to escape from stress, anxiety, family, health problems, politics, financial pressures, or the other weighty matters of our lives, the truth is that we cannot simply leave them at the door. Instead, we bring them along with us into this holy space. We acknowledge that we carry them and they journey with us through this Christmas season. While we are here, we offer them to Jesus to hold on to for a while with the expectation that when we make our way out, our burdens may be a little easier to bear. That in the light of Jesus, we may be able to see them a little differently.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Candle of Choice Colossians 3:12 (NRSV)
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.
Holy God, the choices before you are as vast as everything that has been created and even that which has not. How amazing it is, then, that you would not only choose to speak the world into being but that the very Word would be made flesh. You yourself are clothed in compassion, kindness, meekness, and patience.
We light this candle as our choice to clothe ourselves with the same. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Candle of Forbearance Colossians 3:13 (NRSV)
Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Faithful God, your capacity for forgiveness knows no bounds. We come before you again and again, confessing the same sins we do again and again. But you do not turn us away. You do not tell us it is too much. Instead, you allow us to rest our head on your lap and cry our tears of frustration, shame, and hurt.
We light this candle in thanksgiving and with the strength and commitment to forgive others. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Candle of Love Colossians 3:14 (NRSV)
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Jesus Immanuel, humanity is rarely the clothing of love. But you showed us how love is our coat of many colors. Each of us your favored child, you have named us as your own. You have wrapped your love around us. It is both our protection and our call. Lord, may this be the Advent of a life of love. May the Incarnation be born in us, and us in your love.
We light this candle in the name of love, which has the power to overcome all else. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Candle of Peace Colossians 3:15 (NRSV)
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Jesus, Prince of Peace, we want you to rule in our hearts and in our world. But peace seems elusive in both. When our eyes are drawn to the raging waters and blustering winds, help us to keep our eyes on you. Speak your words of peace in our hearts. And let us believe them.
We light this candle trusting that peace exists even when we can’t see it. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
If you are interested in more prayers like this, consider checking out my book:
Prayers for the People: Scripturally Based Prayers for Worship Prayers for the People is a collection of prayers for worship or personal devotion. These prayers offer the worshipping community fresh perspectives for praying the words of Scripture, using current language and references. Cross-referenced to the Revised Common Lectionary, pastors seeking to lead their people in prayer have found a relevant and beautiful source for worship planning.