Christian Prayers and Worship Resources

Celtic Advent Liturgies



Jesse TreeI cannot find an ancient liturgy which follows the Advent season through, although these might exist (let me know if you find one!)

As mentioned elsewhere according to the Catholic encyclopaedia the celebration of Christmas (or the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord) is not known before the end of the fourth century when, according to Duchesne it was celebrated throughout the whole Church - by some on 25 December, by others on 6 January.

There are hints of a period of preparation prior to the celebration of Jesus’ birth – in a ruling in 380 that no one should be allowed to absent themselves from church from the 17th December until the feast of Epiphany – but it is not until the end of the sixth century that a prescribed period of time was set aside as preparation for Christmas. This was from 11th November, being the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, (the fast became known as "St. Martin's Fast," "St. Martin's Lent" or "the forty days of St. Martin") until Christmas Day. This observance of a period of fasting was later relaxed in Anglican, Lutheran and later the Roman Catholic Church – although still kept as a season of penitence by some.

The pattern of liturgy which I have used below is simply 'Celtic' in feel and pattern, and might form part of a slightly different way of looking at the coming of our Saviour. There are different visual aids which you might want to try. The traditional candles and wreath would fit nicely into the Celtic theme, connecting as it does with the natural world and the light of the flame.

Jesse TreeYou might also consider a Jesse tree (click here for details of how to make one!) What is a Jesse Tree? It is a tree branch decorated with symbols representing the stories of people in Jesus' family tree. In Isaiah 11:1 we read, "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Jesse was the father of David, Israel's greatest king. And it was from David's lineage that Jesus came. That's where the idea of using a Jesse Tree to celebrate Advent came from. Before a symbol is hung on the branch, a Bible passage or a story from a story Bible is read.

 

The liturgies below contain both new prayers and those of the early church, a mix which is good in that it joins us in our worship with the fellowship of Saints who have gone before us.

Let me know if you use them, and where (it's good to know!)


Advent 1 - The Creative Breath

 

Responses are in bold print

Symbols: A large Candle and beneath it a bowl of water

The candle is lit

(A few moments of silence)

'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.'
'... And the Spirit (the breath) of God was hovering over the waters.'

(John 1:1-3, Genesis 1:2)

Lord of the morning
of dawn chorus
rising sun
mist on water

Lord of the noontime
of chattering voices
laughter and fun
sparkling water
everyone

Lord of the evening
of quiet breeze
setting sun
gentle waters
day that’s done

 

O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is your name in all the earth
You have set your glory above the heavens
And from the lips of children ordained praise
O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is your name in all the earth

 

Creative God, breath of all life
Through whom all things
are created and sustained;
all sons and daughters
flocks and herds,
all birds of the air
and fish of the sea
You walked this earth
as child and Creator
You touched the soil
quenched your thirst
embraced this world
brought life and light
love and laughter
into dark and death-filled lives
Creative God, breath of all life
Through whom all things
are created and sustained
We bring to you our sacrifice
of a contrite and willing heart



O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orders all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again and with us ever dwell

 


(A space for music to be played or sung - a Taizé chant would be most appropriate)

 


'Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
'They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.'

(Psalm 20:6-8)

 

(A moment of silence - During the silence, you may like to read and reflect on the words that have been read, gaze at the candle - or simply enjoy the peace and calm)

May this eternal truth be always on our hearts
That the God who breathed this world into being
Placed stars into the heavens
And designed a butterfly's wing
Is the God who entrusted his life
to the care of ordinary people
became vulnerable that we might know
how strong is the power of Love
A mystery so deep it is impossible to grasp
A mystery so beautiful it is impossible to ignore

 

(Scripture reading - possibly the Gospel reading for the day)

 

(A space for a hymn or song to be sung/said)

(Intercessions - A circle prayer.
Imagine throwing a pebble into the centre of a pond, and the circles of ripples that move out from the centre.)

We pray firstly for those closest to us, our immediate family and closest friends - for their health, needs, joys and fears.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

We pray for our extended family and friends who we might not see each week - for their love and concern, for their wellbeing.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

As the ripples reach out toward the land we pray for those who we only have contact with annually or less - for a blessing this Advent-time
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

And as the ripples reach their furthest point we pray for this world and its people - for the needs of this week and the future.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Who speaks to us through thunder and whisper
Who loves us as if there were but one of us to love
Hear the prayers of our hearts

 

Lord, thou hast given us thy Word for a light to shine upon our path;
grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Jerome, c 342 - 420)

 

Advent 2 - Light and Darkness

Responses are in bold print

Symbol: An outside lantern with small candle

The lantern is lit

(A few moments of silence)

'Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.'

(John 1:3-5)

In the beginning, Lord
I was alone
Like the earth
before your Spirit moved over the waters.
I was formless and empty
and darkness filled the depths of my heart.
Then, it was as if you declared
'Let there be Light'
and out of the darkness
I began to see hope
like a shimmering ray of love
breaking through the parting clouds
at the conclusion of the night.
In the beginning, Lord I was alone
but when I saw you in the light I was no longer afraid.
You held out your hand
and though I had a choice
I had no choice
because to refuse
was to embrace again the darkness.
In the beginning, Lord I was alone
now I am again a part
of your creation
loved, wanted, needed, family.
In the light of your presence
I hold out my heart that others
might glimpse through it your reflection
and be drawn from the darkness that I once embraced
into the light of your sunrise
the brightness of your face

 

Lord Jesus, Son of God, Saviour of the world
All: Be the centre of all that we are, and the life that we lead

Lord Jesus, Light in this dark World, illuminate our hearts and minds
All: Be the centre of all that we are, and the life that we lead


(A space for music to be played or sung - a Taizé chant would be most appropriate)


'There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.'

(John 1:6-9)


(A moment of silence - During the silence, you may like to read and reflect on the words that have been read, gaze at the lantern - or simply enjoy the peace and calm )

 

In the lonely places
The wilderness
Where we stand forlorn
Windswept and alone
Your voice calls out
Prepare a way for the Lord

In the dark places
The shadows
Where we hide our fears
Embrace our tears
Your voice calls out
Prepare a way for the Lord

 

For the desert places in which we walk
The streets we roam
The paths we cross
Guide our feet
Take us to places
Where you would go
Give us words that you would use
That in this Advent season
Of promise and preparation
We might point the way with John the Baptist
To the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

 

O come, Thou Day-spring, from on high,
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again and with us ever dwell

 

(Scripture reading - possibly the Gospel reading for the day)

 

(A space for music to be played or sung)

(Intercessions - A circle prayer)


Circle us, Lord
Circle us with the light of your presence, bright within this dark word
Enable us to be overcomers of fear and temptation
Enable us to be victors over sin and despair
Enable us to become that which you would desire
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle us with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle our family within the shelter of your outstretched arms
Protect them in each moment of their daily lives
Protect them in the decisions that they face
Protect their homes and relationships
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our families with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this nation with Advent love and hope
Create a desire to listen to the Advent message
Create a willingness to understand and respond
Create a need to reach out to the Christ Child
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our nation with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this world with the joy of your Salvation
Where there is sickness and disease bring healing
Where there is hunger and despair bring hope
Where there is torture and oppression bring release
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle this world with the light of your presence

 

Lord, thou hast given us thy Word for a light to shine upon our path;
grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Jerome, c 342 - 420)

 

 

Advent 3 - Obedience

 

 

Responses are in bold print

Symbol: A candle and in front of it a stone (A rock is often used as a symbol for Christ. In the wilderness, Moses struck a rock and it poured forth water to refresh the people. A rock can also symbolize obedience to Christ. St. Peter, whose name means "rock," is sometimes thus represented)

The candle is lit

'You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. '

Luke 1:31-33


There were safer places
more comfortable places
palaces and wealthy places
Yet you chose a daughter of the soil
Who would have otherwise
lived a good and honest life
grown and harvested crops
cooked and washed and cared for others
and been forgotten
to be your temporary home
to be exalted for all time

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed

When does an ordinary life
Become extraordinary
An mundane day
Become revolutionary
A moment in time
Change history?
When God enters in
Forgives sin
Allows us to
Begin again
When we repeat
Those words of Mary
‘May it be to me
As you say’

 

(A spece for music or a song to be sung - a Taizé chant would be most appropriate)

 

'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.'
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered.
"May it be to me as you have said."

Luke 1:35-38


(A moment of silence - During the silence, you may like to read and reflect on the words that have been read, gaze at the lantern - or simply enjoy the peace and calm )

 

Into the daily cycle of our lives
When all seems well
With us and with the world
When our yoke is easy
And the burden light
You break in
And scatter our complacency

Into the daily cycle of our lives
When we are comfortable
And at our ease
When the fire is lit
But eyes are closed
You break in
And challenge our dependency

You break into
Our daily prayers
Humble hearts
Lay souls bare
You break in
You break in

You break in
When defences are down
With an Angel's shout
Or the quietest sound
You break in
You break in

And we change
And all things change
When you break in


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again and with us ever dwell

 

(Scripture reading - possibly the Gospel reading for the day)

 

(A space for a hymn or song to be sung/said)

(Intercessions - A circle prayer.
Imagine throwing a pebble into the centre of a pond, and the circles of ripples that move out from the centre.)

We pray firstly for those closest to us, our immediate family and closest friends - for their health, needs, joys and fears.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

We pray for our extended family and friends who we might not see each week - for their love and concern, for their wellbeing.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

As the ripples reach out toward the land we pray for those who we only have contact with annually or less - for a blessing this Advent-time
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

And as the ripples reach their furthest point we pray for this world and its people - for the needs of this week and the future.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Who speaks to us through thunder and whisper
Who loves us as if there were but one of us to love
Hear the prayers of our hearts

 

 

May God the Father bless us;
may Christ take care of us;
the Holy Ghost enlighten us all the days of our life.
The Lord be our defender and keeper of body and soul,
both now and for ever, to the ages of ages.

(Æthelwold c 908-984)

 

Advent 4 - Birth and Re-Birth

 

Responses are in bold print

Symbol: A candle and in front of this a rose flower (or similar) The rose, usually shown in stylized form, has been a common Christian symbol since the 1200s. It may be used to represent the Messianic promise, the nativity of Christ, the virgin Mary (her rose is white for purity), or martyrdom (a red rose). It is used often in Gothic architecture.

The candle is lit

'While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.'

(Luke 2:6,7)

 

Beneath the surface of your story
is an inescapable fact
You entered this world
as vulnerable as any one of us
in order to nail that vulnerability to the cross.
Our fears, our insecurities and our sins
all that can separate us from God
exchanged by your Grace for Love.
We cannot comprehend the reasoning
only marvel that Salvation comes to us
through a baby born in a stable,
who reaches out to a world in need.

 


(A space for music to be played or sung - a Taizé chant would be most appropriate)


'Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.'

(John 3:5-8)

 

(A moment of silence - During the silence, you may like to read and reflect on the words that have been read, gaze at the lantern - or simply enjoy the peace and calm )

 

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
Therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in his word I put my hope.

 

There is a transformation that takes place
within the warmth of your embrace
That certain knowledge that you are
refuge, shelter, fortress and stronghold
against which no army can succeed
That you are Brother, Sister, Mother, Father
the love that knows no bounds
That you are God
And I am lost outside of your arms

Create in me a pure heart, O God
And renew a faithful spirit within me
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And an willing spirit to sustain me
O Lord, open our lips
And our mouths will forever declare your praise

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again and with us ever dwell

 

(Scripture reading - possibly the Gospel reading for the day)

 

(A space for a hymn or song to be sung/said)

(Intercessions - A circle prayer)


Circle us, Lord
Circle us with the light of your presence, bright within this dark word
Enable us to be overcomers of fear and temptation
Enable us to be victors over sin and despair
Enable us to become that which you would desire
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle us with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle our family within the shelter of your outstretched arms
Protect them in each moment of their daily lives
Protect them in the decisions that they face
Protect their homes and relationships
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our families with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this nation with Advent love and hope
Create a desire to listen to the Advent message
Create a willingness to understand and respond
Create a need to reach out to the Christ Child
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our nation with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this world with the joy of your Salvation
Where there is sickness and disease bring healing
Where there is hunger and despair bring hope
Where there is torture and oppression bring release
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle this world with the light of your presence

 

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s hand to guard me.

Afar or anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding;

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of Creation

(attr. St. Patrick)

 


 


Acknowledgement is given to John Pritchard's excellent book on prayer 'The Iintercessions Handbook' (SPCK) for ideas for intercessions used above, along with material on the Wellsprings and Taizé website.

 

For main Advent Resource page Click Here

ebooks by John Birch


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