A LITURGY FOR ADVENT DURING A DARK WINTER
Advent Hymn (tune: In the Bleak Mid-Winter)
- Back in the beginning, darkness held her sway
Nothing else existed, neither night nor day.
God in all God’s wisdom, looked upon the Earth
And from the midst of shadow, brought the light to birth.
2. Deep within the heavens, stars began to shine
Guiding all God’s people, through the mists of time;
Blessing in the darkness, promise seen at night
Leading to a manger, womb of hope and light.
3. While the world is longing, something stirs within,
Gentle, like the flutter of an angel’s wing;
Slowly life emerges, love in pain is born
Day awaits the night and night expects the dawn.
4. Called to journey inwards, find ourselves anew
Treasure in the darkness, shines upon the truth.
Buried deep within the night-time of our fear
All that God has gifted, now in Christ is clear.
5. Glory Alleluia, Christ the light has come
Spreading wide His shadow, shelter from the sun.
All that dwells in chaos, finds a stable place
Earth regains her balance – light and shade and grace.
Week 1 Creation
Reading: Genesis 1:1-5
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
The First Candle is lit
Voice: As we light the first candle, we remember that God drew light from darkness and created a balanced world. In time, humankind unsettled that balance and the prophets of old spoke of One who would come to restore it.
Verse 1 of the Advent Hymn
Week 2 Promise
Genesis 15: 1,5-5
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’
The Second Candle is lit
Voice: As we light the second candle we are reminded of the stars of heaven. Too numerous to count or name and which we can only see at night, they connect us with God’s people throughout history, and unite us in a common heritage with those who the world would cast as our enemies. The same stars which shone on Abraham and which still shine on us today, lead us to Bethlehem, and remind us of God’s promise and blessing.
Verses 1 and 2 of the Advent Hymn
Week 3 Nurture
Luke 1:26-31, 46-55
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
The Third Candle is lit
Voice: As we light this candle we remember Mary, nurturing the Christ child in the darkness of her womb. As the wax drips down we think of the yearning and waiting time involved in growing wonderful things which will change the world.
Verses 1,2 and 3 of the Advent Hymn
Week 4 Fear
Reading: John 3:1-3
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’
As we light the fourth candle we think about the fear involved in following Jesus. We give thanks for dark and silent spaces which draw us into the safety of relationship and give us confidence to face our fears. We give thanks for dark and silent spaces in which, like Nicodemus, we can really think about the cost of discipleship and of what it means to be born anew into the world as blessed people who are ready to join in God’s work of filling the hungry with good things.
Verses 1-4 of the Advent Hymn
Christmas Day Balance
Reading Luke 2:8-11
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
The four candles are extinguished and the Christ Candle is lit.
As we light the Christ Candle and blow out the other candles we celebrate the coming of Christ as light, shade and balance into an unsteady world.
Verses 1- 5 of the Advent Hymn
In January 2018 I led a retreat on the theme of darkness at the wonderful Othona Community in Dorset. The Warden, Tony Jaques wrote this lovely hymn in response. You can sing it to the tune of ‘There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy’ (J.L.Steiner “Gott will’s machen”)
There’s a Darkness in Creation
There’s a darkness in creation
Like the darkness of the womb
Full of promise and potential
Not the haunt of fear and gloom
Though so many myths and stories
Sing the praises of white and light
We depend for health and wisdom
On the respite of the night
When God parted light from darkness
Neither one was worst or best
Let us treasure shade and shadow
Black, brown, indigo – all are blessed
In the yin and yang of living
Few decisions are black and white
Spirit of both dawn and darkness
Help us love and serve what’s right
(c) Tony Jaques 2018 (Othona Community)