A Modern Resource Guide for Advent Worship Planning

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Advent.

A time of waiting, watching, listening.
A time of remembering, anticipating.
A time of renewal and wonder.

The beginning of a new year.

Each year, we celebrate the season of Advent in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We read the words of the prophets, we tell the stories of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the magi.

We put ourselves back in that time and place of watching and waiting for the Savior of the world, expectant and hopeful. And then, we find ourselves here, in the 21st century, watching and waiting for the return of our Savior, expectant and hopeful.

Often times, our worship services during Advent have a particular sequence to them: We begin with the prophetic words of hope and faith; then, the promise of peace in the world; the joy of God’s fulfilled promises; and the gift of love into the world.

It’s a story we never tire of telling and hearing, but sometimes, doing worship the same way year after year can start to feel a bit stale.

Feeling stuck? Today, I’m sharing a modern resource guide for your Advent worship planning - a collection of liturgies, Advent Wreath readings, reflections, prayers, and service guides to help you craft meaningful worship services and tell this old, familiar story in new and creative ways.


A Modern Resource Guide for Advent

Themes

First, let’s talk about worship themes. As I mentioned before, many churches often use a series of themes in Advent, one for each of the four Sundays in the season. These are often tied to the lectionary readings (if your church uses a lectionary). 

Here are a few of the more common themes:

  • Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, Light
  • Faith, Hope, Joy, Love, Light
  • Prophecy, Promise, Fulfillment, Faith
  • Expectation, Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment
  • The Patriarchs, The Prophets, John the Baptist, The Virgin Mary
  • The Prophets, The Shepherds, The Virgin Mary, The Magi

(source and source)

And here are a few more modern approaches:

  • Coming Home (source)
  • Watch, Turn, See, Dream, Peace (source)
  • Waiting, Preparing, Singing, Laboring (source) (tied to the RCL’s Old Testament readings)
  • Places in the Nativity Story & Our Faith (source) (non-lectionary)
  • Where Justice Gets Done (source) (this one is tied to the Narrative Lectionary)
  • Signs, Saviors, Serpents, Songs (source) (tied to the RCL’s Gospel readings)
  • Object Lessons (source) (non-lectionary)

Feeling inspired? Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas for themes for your Advent services. Now you’re ready to begin planning readings, music, and liturgy and other spoken elements. 

Here are some useful Advent resources to help get you started:

Liturgies

Opening Liturgy: Isaiah 40:1-11 (includes a processional drama, Call to Worship, and prayer)
Liturgy of Expectation & Hope
Liturgy of the Prophets
Responsive Reading: John the Baptist
Responsive Reading: Mary

Creeds

Isaiah 11: A Creed
An Advent Creed (based on Isaiah 40)

Advent Wreath Liturgies

Advent Wreath Liturgy: Hope
Advent Candle Litany (RCL, Year C)
Advent Candle Liturgy: Isaiah (RCL, Year A)
Advent Candle Liturgy (Narrative Lectionary, Year 3)
Advent Candle Liturgy (Narrative Lectionary, Year 4)

Reflections

Do Not Be Afraid: A Reflection
Look for the Light: An Advent Reflection
[Video Series]: Advent Painting

Prayers

Prayers for Advent by John Birch
Advent Prayer (Holy One, Prepare Your Way in Me) by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Advent Prayer (O Coming One) by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Music

5 Ideas for Creating Meaningful Advent Services
Fifteen Church Choir Anthems for Advent
O Little Town of Bethlehem (for SATB Choir, Organ, String Quartet, and Opt. Congregation)
Music Planning Guide (RCL, Year B)
Hymns & Songs for Advent (RCL, Year B) - Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

Lessons and Carols

Angels From the Realms of Glory (2016)
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus (2015)
Isaiah’s Vision of a Peaceable Kingdom (2013)
How to Write Your Own Christmas Program


For those of you who might be looking for the Advent-in-a-box kit, these worship planning resources are for you!

All-in-One Worship Planning Resources

Coming Home (2017)
Watch, Turn, See, Dream, Peace (2016)
Come, Emmanuel
Themes & Liturgies for Advent (Faith and Worship)
Advent Season Materials and Resource Guide (Church of England)
Advent Worship Resource Index (re:Worship)


What are you planning for Advent this year? What are your go-to resources?