First Sunday of Advent (Hope)
Anticipate Sacred Presence
Jeremiah 33:14–16, Psalm 25:1–10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13, Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d
Worship Setting Preparations for Advent Sundays
Create an arrangement of five candles: one white candle to represent Christ to be lit Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and four purple candles for the four Sundays of Advent, or three purple candles and one pink candle representing joy to be lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Each Sunday the previous weeks’ candles should be lit prior to the service.
Focus Moment Preparations for Advent Sundays
Option 1: Christians often display a Christmas tree in their homes and in their sanctuaries during the Advent season as a reminder or a symbol of Christ’s birth. Many symbols of Christianity were used by the early Christians as a way to connect with fellow disciples. The use of Chrismons to decorate Christmas trees is popular in many denominations today. The word Chrismon was devised by combining two other words: Christ and monogram to help us celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ. Traditionally, the ornaments are gold and white and can be found in pattern books both online and at Christian bookstores. This Advent season, one symbol will be used each Sunday as part of the Focus Moment and Advent candle lighting. If using a small fir tree, prepare one symbol. If using a larger tree, prepare several symbols and have various ages add them to the tree. —based on www.chrismon.org/chrismons-ministry.html
Option 2: Use a wreath of evergreens. For Christians, the shape represents eternity, the unending circle of life which has no beginning and no end. Evergreens symbolize growth and everlasting life. Each week add a Chrismon symbol to the wreath.
An expansion of this Focus Moment could include the opportunity to decorate paper or wooden Chrismons each week during the service. These could be added to the congregational tree or taken home.
A Hebrew scripture reading (Old Testament) is included each Sunday of Advent. Have a person dress in costume and read from a “scroll” or memorize, if possible.
Gathering with Hymns of the Season
“The First Noël” (stanzas 1–3) CCS 424
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” CCS 394
Jeremiah Speaks: Jeremiah 33:14–16
Ask an older person to read from a scroll or tell this scripture from memory with dramatic feeling.
Hymn of Nativity
“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” CCS 400
OR “On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry” CCS 391
Prayer for Guidance and Assurance
Responsive Reading: “Wait for the Lord”
Leader: O Lord, I lift up my soul.
People: O God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame;
Leader: Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
People: Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your pathway.
Leader: Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
People: for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day.
All: May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
—Psalm 25:1–5, adapted
Focus Moment and Lighting the Advent Candle of Hope
Chrismon symbol: open Bible or Christmas rose
Reader: Scriptures provide divine guidance and inspired insight for life. The word of God is represented by the symbol of an open Bible. Scriptures help us prepare for God’s sacred presence and bring us words of hope. As this symbol is hung on our tree, the first Advent candle is lit—the candle of hope.
OR Reader: A Christmas rose is a winter-blooming flower in the mountains of Central Europe. It symbolizes the gift of hope given to the Christ child by one of the young shepherds. As this symbol is hung on our tree, the first Advent candle is lit—and we proclaim God’s hope.
—based on www.chrismon.org/chrismons-ministry.html
Hang the symbol on the tree or wreath and light the first purple Advent candle.
Advent Hymn of Hope
“Hope Is a Light” (stanza 1) CCS 398
OR “We Would See Jesus” (stanza 1) CCS 35
Sung by congregation, soloist, or ensemble.
Disciples’ Generous Response
The first Sunday of each month focuses on Abolish Poverty, End Suffering which includes Oblation and World Hunger ministry.
Ask someone who volunteers in the community by helping at a food bank or serving meals to share a testimony as an example of living out the Mission Initiative Abolish Poverty.
Doctrine and Covenants 162:7c affirms: “You have been given the principles of generosity, rightly interpreted for a new time. These principles call every disciple to tithe faithfully in accordance with means and capacity. Those values, deeply rooted in the Restoration faith, affirm that stewardship and discipleship cannot be divided and are dependent upon each other.”
Stewardship, as whole-life response to God’s grace and generosity, is an indispensable element of true discipleship. In fact, stewardship and discipleship are essentially the same.
Doctrine and Covenants 165:6 sustains: Whole-life stewardship is fundamental to our mutual call to “live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ.”
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
“Peace Child” CCS 402
OR “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” CCS 407
Spoken as a prayer or sung as solo or ensemble.
For more ideas, the Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
First Sunday of Advent Homily
Based on Luke 21:25–36
Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Confession and Assurance
Scripture Reading of Covenant: Psalm 25:6–10
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. —1 Corinthians 11:23–26
Based on the sacrament of Communion
Hymn of Preparation and Preparation of the Emblems
“Coming Together for Wine and for Bread” CCS 516
OR “Wait for the Lord” (sing several times) CCS 399
Invitation to the Table
In Community of Christ the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament in which we remember the life, death, and living presence of Jesus Christ. Through partaking of the emblems, we renew the covenant we made through baptism, reconcile and strengthen relationships, and commit ourselves to Christ’s mission in the world (Doctrine and Covenants 164:4). Others may have different or added understandings within their faith traditions. We invite all who participate in the Lord’s Supper to do so as an expression of the love and peace of Jesus Christ, in whose name we worship. All are welcome at Christ’s table.
Blessing and Serving of the Bread and Wine
Hymn of Sending Forth
“Blessed Be the God of Israel” CCS 396
OR “We Wait in Hope for the Lord” CCS 267
OR “All Earth Is Hopeful/Toda la tierra” CCS 392/393 OR “God Almighty, We Are Waiting” CCS 397
Beloved children of the Restoration, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely-led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.
When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.
Expand the church’s restoring ministries, especially those devoted to asserting the worth of persons, protecting the sacredness of creation, and relieving physical and spiritual suffering.
Embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.
Now may our God make you to increase in love to one another and to all people and establish your hearts blameless in holiness. In the name of Emmanuel, God-with-us, amen.
—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d and Thessalonians 3:12–13, adapted
First Sunday of Advent
Exploring the Scripture
Advent is the season of expectation in the liturgical calendar when we prepare for the light of the Savior to enter a darkened world. Advent means “coming” and the scripture text for today speaks to the coming of God’s reign through faith and hope in Jesus Christ.
Like Matthew and Mark, Luke closes the narrative on Jesus’ teachings in the temple with prophecies of judgment and proclamations of hope. At first glance, the scripture text seems inconsistent with the festivities that take place today during the Christmas season. Looking deeper we find this scripture text describes the prophetic fulfillment Jewish-Christian hearers of the gospel were expecting. It also speaks to the hope we have in Jesus Christ, even amid darkness.
The scripture passage begins just after Jesus has told of the temple’s coming destruction, Jerusalem’s occupation, and the Jewish people’s captivity and oppression. Jesus is speaking of the incredible and frightening signs and wonders that will foretell the coming of the Son of Man. Luke uses several images from prophetic writings in the Hebrew Scriptures to describe this event. Signs in the sky, earth, and sea all take place before the Son of Man returns. These signs suggest the coming redemption, meaning liberation from oppression and captivity. Jesus compares the signs to a fig tree. In the same way new growth represents the nearness of summer, these signs symbolize the nearness of God’s reign. This will all happen before the generation passes away.
Luke’s audience lived in the time after the temple’s destruction and Jerusalem’s fall in 70 CE. What were they hearing in this Gospel? They were hearing encouragement and hope. They were keenly aware that the prophecies about the temple and Jerusalem had already taken place. The holy site and the city were in ruin. Luke uses this reality to point out that Jesus had fulfilled the prophetic message of old. Jesus told them what would take place and indeed, it has come to pass. People can place their trust in the teachings of Jesus. And just as Jesus said the temple and the city would fall, so Jesus has said redemption is near. The Jewish people would be liberated, God’s reign is near.
For the early Christians this was hopeful news indeed. The nation would experience liberation as the prophets foretold. More importantly, with the return of Jesus, his followers would be rescued from the persecution and fear they experienced at the hands of nonbelievers. While they expected this would happen in their lifetime it may be helpful to understand the term generation as the extended generations of believers. God’s reign will come before belief in Christ passes from the Earth.
We, like the early hearers of Luke’s Gospel, are cautioned to be faithful. We should be prepared at all times for the coming of Jesus. We should not be weighed down by worry, self-indulgence, and sloth. When we focus on preparing for the coming of Christ, we are reminded of the liberation and redemption that are to come for all people.
- Just as the star of Bethlehem is a sign of the coming of Christ, heavenly signs show the coming of God’s peaceable reign.
- God’s creation is full of signs—like the fig tree—that point to the coming reality of God’s wholeness, healing, and restoration.
- The redemption to take place in the coming reign of God is one of liberation for all people. We prepare by taking part in acts of justice and peacemaking.
Questions to Consider
- In what ways do you or your family expect the light of Christ during Advent?
- How have you been caught up in overindulgence and worry during Advent? What spiritual practices might help you remain focused on the hope and light of Jesus Christ?
- The hope and peace of Christ is for all people. How do you share that hope and peace with others?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
First Sunday of Advent: Hope
Luke 21:25–36 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Advent is a season of waiting for the coming of light into a darkened world in the form of the infant Jesus. Advent is spent anticipating and spiritually preparing for the arrival of the Christ-child. Scriptures, symbols, and hymns help make Advent a time of expectation for Christ’s birth, rather than a frenzy of holiday tasks.
The Advent season begins four Sundays before Christmas and is observed each Sunday until Christmas Day. An Advent wreath with four candles and one Christ candle in the center often is used to observe the weeks of Advent. One candle is lit each week until all are burning brightly Christmas Day.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
To the One who hears all prayers,
We come in gratitude for the gift of Hope you have given us, your Son, Jesus Christ. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we are aware that at times we have forgotten hope is an attitude, not something we can buy off the shelf. As we journey through Advent may we see our sense of hope renewed to better serve those who truly are hopeless. As Jesus is our example of hope, may we be a shining light for those who are struggling to see or sense hope in themselves. Something so simple as being kind, giving compliments freely, and accepting your children as they are—just as you do for us—can change how someone looks at the world.
As we leave this place may our souls be filled to overflowing, having had our attitudes changed and opened to see through the eyes of possibilities, wonder, and hope. May we freely pass this as a gift.
Materials: Advent wreath or ring for four candles and one white candle in the center, paper, and pens or pencils.
Make certain all can see the Advent wreath. You will call attention to the burning candle during today’s spiritual practice.
Light the first candle of Advent and say:
Today we light the first candle of Advent. This candle symbolizes hope in new life. May we have hope in that new life coming forth in us.
Read the following:
The liturgical year begins with a pregnant woman waiting for the birth of her child. Was Mary tired? Was she worn out the last few weeks before the birth? Was she just hoping to get it over with? Much waiting must be done before a child is born. In pregnancy and the spiritual life, waiting can be tiring, frustrating, and worrisome. Advent is about the journey to the birth of Jesus. It’s a time to pause, to wait, to reflect on what things are being birthed within us.
Pass out papers and pens and ask: What new thing is God doing within you and around you to bring hope to the world?
Give the group five minutes to journal and then invite people to share thoughts and feelings that surfaced during their reflection.
Invite the group to focus on the first Advent candle, which is burning brightly. Say the following:
We will spend a few moments in silence. Focus your attention on becoming quiet inside and out.
Allow a period of silence before continuing.
Think of a person or circumstance in need of hope.
Allow several moments for quiet reflection.
Invite the group to share aloud a person or circumstance in need of hope. Keep a list of the names and circumstances so you can read them aloud.
Invite people into prayer that places these specific people and needs in God’s loving, healing care. Read this prayer aloud:
As we focus on the candle’s light, imagine each person and circumstance prayed for being surrounded by God’s light.
I will read each name and circumstance aloud. I will pause for a moment of silence after each one as we silently pray.
(Read each name or circumstance aloud, pausing briefly after each for silent prayer.)
We trust God to know the needs of each person or circumstance, and we compassionately hold them in the restorative, healing light of God.
Offer a brief prayer of thanks to close your prayer experience.
Sharing Around the Table
Luke 21:25–36 NRSV
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Today we celebrate the first Sunday in Advent, when we anticipate the coming of Christ and remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas. This liturgical year, many gospel readings will come from Luke, who speaks to an affluent audience about themes of poverty and those at the margins of society. Luke’s Gospel is unusual for its inclusion of many stories about women, who would have been among the poor of his community.
Jesus was teaching in the temple. As he taught, Jesus used symbols to describe the coming reign of God. He used natural disasters and apocalyptic symbolism to talk about the disruptive power of Zion to challenge our expectations and fear of change. He also used the symbol of budding leaves in spring to talk about the ways God organically grows the goodness of a peaceable community. In this way, we can see Jesus anticipated God’s reign, or Zion, to be both a wonderful arrival and a disruption to society.
Instead of placing the arrival of God’s Reign—God’s Shalom—in a distant time and place, Jesus called his disciples to watch and wait for these changes in their lifetimes. He suggested the disciples should not worry or fear the coming reign of God, but have hope for a better world. Advent calls us to this season of waiting.
- What do you sense Advent is calling us to wait for or anticipate as a community? Where do you sense waiting or anticipation in your own life?
- What do you think of when you consider Zion or the reign of God? How might Zion be both joyful and disruptive?
“Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:9). The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.
The offering prayer for Advent is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
God who is faithful, Be present with us as we plan our spending. May we use our resources in ways that build healthy, happy relationships with you, with others, and with the Earth. May we remember the teachings of Jesus that challenge us to make lifestyle choices that are counter to our culture of accumulation and excess. Amen.
Invitation to Next Meeting
CCS 397, “God Almighty, We Are Waiting”