Christian Prayers and Worship Resources

Prayers & Resources for Advent



Prayers for Advent and Christmas

nativity

Advent Themes - Advent Liturgies - Advent Wreath & Colours - Advent Quotes
Advent Bible Study - Celtic Advent Liturgy themes -Prayers for Advent -  Christmas prayers

 

celtic preayers Advent and Christmas - Reason for the Season

Advent and ChristmasAdvent (from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming") is considered to be the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.

The season is for most Christians one of anticipation and hope (if one looks beyond the commercialisation!), although at its beginnings the emphasis was much more on penitence, fasting and sin. For most Christians it is not just a celebration of a moment in time when a baby was born, but also looks beyond to a time when the Bible tells us that Jesus will come again, not as a weak and vulnerable baby but in power and with authority. The traditional Scripture readings for this time emphasise both the First and Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and our accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin and the hope of eternal life.

Advent is also a spiritual journey that Christians take, through the truths of Scripture that point to the birth of Messiah, to a reaffirmation that he has come, is present in the world today and will come again in glory. It mirrors the journey of faith that Christians make after that moment of realisation and acceptance of who Jesus is, in that we take that first step of faith in commitment, continue hopefully to walk the road of faith and increasing understanding, and look forward to our destination, which is to be in his presence forever!

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.

celtic preayers Origins

As with many Christian festivals, the dates may not accurately reflect the event, but were chosen possibly as an alternate to pagan festivals which they eventually replaced. For example, it's widely accepted that the date of Christmas Day is not thought to be Jesus' actual date of birth, and may have been chosen to coincide with ancient Roman solar festivals that were held on December 25.

Because the Roman emperor Aurelian fixed December 25th for the winter solstice holiday in AD 274, it is thought that the early Christians adopted this day for their Christ-mass so that they would be less conspicuous in the observance of their holiday.

A winter festival was traditionally the most popular festival of the year in many cultures. Reasons included less agricultural work needing to be done during the winter, as well as people expecting longer days and shorter nights after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.
(for more discussion see Wikipaedia and a good article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia and the Bible Tools website)

 

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celtic preayers Colours of Advent

Traditionally, and certainly within the Catholic church the primary colour of Lent is purple, which reflects the Lenten-style fasting that formed part of the build-up to Christmas in earlier centuries. The colour forms a link between the birth and death of Jesus. On the third Sunday of Advent this changed to pink or rose in anticipation of the end of fasting and the start of rejoicing for the birth of the Saviour (the Sunday is sometimes celebrated as Gaudete Sunday – from the Latin word for ‘rejoice’)

In many Protestant churches the purple has been replaced by blue to distinguish it from Lent (blue being a colour of royalty) and often the fourth Sunday is celebrated with a change to pink to mark the climax of the Advent season.


celtic preayers The Advent Wreath

Most churches have at the heart of their worship an Advent wreath. The origins of the evergreen wreath are ancient and probably pagan, but there is a symbolism with the wreath and its five candles that is useful in retelling the Christmas story.

The circle of greenery reminds us that God is eternal, the Alpha and Omega without beginning or end, and also of the hope we have in God, of newness, renewal and eternal life.

The candles symbolise the light of God entering the world through the birth of Jesus, and the four outer candles represent a period of waiting, perhaps the four centuries between the prophet Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament) and the birth of Jesus. Whilst the light from the candles reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our it also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's love and grace to others.

The centre candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve or Day where there is a service on these days.

 

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celtic preayers Advent Themes

Depending upon the tradition to which you belong, the shape of Advent services might follow a similar route year by year or, with liturgical series such as that used by the Anglican Church, follow a three year cycle of readings.

The themes most often used for the four weeks of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love; or God’s people, the Old Testament Prophets, John the Baptist and Mary. However, the choice of themes is not limited to the usual or comfortable, and with a little forward planning there are many ways in which the approach to Christmas can be tackled imaginatively, and bring out different truths about God's amazing love and Grace.

Below are some of the themes that others have used in their worship during the Advent season, and although you might not feel that some of these readings or weekly themes are appropriate for your own fellowship I would encourage you to be adventurous, not just for the sake of change but because it enables fellowships and congregations to engage in the enfolding story in new ways. Remember, these are only suggestions!

Here then are some suggested themes and readings (if you have other suggestions then email me and I'll add them to the resource:

 

Suggested Advent themes

Hope
Isaiah 9:2

Peace
Isaiah 9:6-7
John 14:27

Joy
Isaiah 65:18
Galatians 5:22-25

Love
Deuteronomy 10:17-19a
John 13:34-35

God’s People
Isaiah 64:1-9

OT Prophets
Jeremiah 33:12-16

John the Baptist
Matthew 3:1-12

Mary
Luke 1:26-38

Waiting
Isaiah 52:7-10

Accepting
Luke 1:26-38

Journeying
Isaiah 55:6-13

Birthing
Luke 2:1-7

(A traditional Carmelite theme)

Expectation
Luke 1:5-17

Bethlehem
Micah 5:2

Angels
Luke 1:26-38

Shepherds
Luke 2:8-20

Expectation
Luke 21: 25-36

Preparation
Luke 1: 68-79

Repentance
Luke 3: 7-18

Rejoice
Luke 1: 39-55

The prophets
Jeremiah 33:12-16

John the Baptist
Matthew 3:1-12

Mary
Luke 1:26-38

Three Kings
Matthew 2:1-12

Expectation
Isaiah 42: 1-9

Annunciation
Luke 1:26-38

Proclamation
Luke 3:7-18

Fulfilment
Luke 21: 25-36

The People with
a Song

Psalm 147:1-3,
12-14

The Song of a Brother and a Sister
Exodus 15:1-21

The Two Songs
of the Big Night

Luke 2:8-10

The Song of Mary Luke 1:46-55

Here Comes God!
Micah 1:2-3

Like a Plowed Field
Micah 3:12

The Poor Man's Ruler
Micah 5:2

The Strong Shepherd Micah 5:4

Anticipation
Isaiah 25:6-26:6

Patience
Romans 8:25

Hope
1 Peter 1:3

Revelation
Hebrews 1:1-4

He Reveals Himself Exodus 3:1-15

He Calls Us for Life
1 Samuel 3:1-10

He Stretches Us Jonah (selected verses)

He Accomplishes Great Things
Luke 1:26-38

Comfort My People! Isaiah 40:1-2

The Straight Highway Isaiah 40:3-5

The Breath of God
Isaiah 40:6-8

God's Good Tidings Isaiah 40:9

Mary's song
Luke 1:46-55

Zechariah's song
Luke 1:67-79

John the Baptist's song
Luke 3:1-18

Angels' song
Luke 2:14

Simeon's song
Luke 2:28-32

Elizabeth
Luke 1:23-25; 39-45; 57-66

Joseph
Matthew 1:18-25

Herod
Matthew 2:1-18

Jesus
John 1:1-18

Coming to Execute Justice,
Isaiah 25:6-26:6

Coming to Forgive Sins,

Ephesians 1:3-14


Coming to Renew Love,
1 John 4:13-16


Coming to Feed the Hungry
John 6:50-51

 

celtic preayers Some Common Advent Themes with Liturgies

Short liturgies that can be used as part of an act of worship, on a variety of Advent themes.

God's People
(words of encouragement from Isaiah 64)

Angels
(The angel visits Zechariah)

The Prophets
(Isaiah 40)

John the Baptist
(John pointing the way to the Saviour)

Hope and Expectation
(1 Cor 1:8,9 & Mark 13:26-27)

Mary
(Following the story in Luke's Gospel)

A 'Celtic' Advent - A slightly different feel to the Advent season, with a distinctive Celtic feel

See also Prayers for Advent, Prayers for Christmas

 

 

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celtic preayers An Advent Journey - Practical Praying

 

I had an email from Jane James who had used some of the prayers from this site along with others to produce a Prayer Journey for her church to use, and as they found it helpful I have included it below as 4 downloads (pdfs)
Aim: to give people a quiet space to reflect on Christmas and its meaning for them and allow them to take something of this into their daily lives.
Advent Journey 1 | Advent Journey 2 | Advent Journey 3 | Advent Journey 4

 

celtic preayers Advent related quotes


The very purpose of Christ's coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.
--Rev. Billy Graham


It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you...yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.
--Mother Teresa


Were earth a thousand times as fair
Beset with gold and jewels rare
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle,
Lord, for Thee.
--Martin Luther


"The purpose and cause of the incarnation was that He might illuminate the world by His wisdom and excite it to the love of Himself." -- Peter Abelard

"Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect."
-- Oren Arnold

"The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung."
-- Phillips Brooks

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References: Calvin Theological Seminary

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