Advent and Christmas
What's New for Christmas
The youth minister Shane, who blogs at nailscars.com, describes a series of Christmas worship stations he set up for his youth group; the same or similar setup would also work well for adults.
Anglicans around the world share their Advent and Christmas worship ideas and resources in the Anglicans Online A-Z Resource Area. Lessons and Carols is a favorite at Christmas; some suggestions are offered here. Outside the Box offers another Lessons and Carols script. Other worship aids for this season are included here, including help for preaching on Christmas. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has a helpful website that offers Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany worship resources. This Roman Catholic resource collection for the season may also be helpful; another available here is specifically about families living into the spirit of the season in their homes.
Barbara Laufersweiler's Faith at Home blog is always a helpful source for family worship; she currently has resources for Advent and Christmas activities for the family.
Jennifer Phillips, vicar of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Kingston, Rhode Island, shares several Christmas resources she has created: a Eucharistic prayer, a Song of Praise, and two post-communion prayers. Another liturgy to consider is the Advent/Christmas Liturgy of the Hours created by the Sisters at St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota.
Christmas is a season of beautiful art, and we offer several resources here for assistance in your worship preparation. Art to Heart is an online effort by Jeff Duggan to connect worship and visual art; a special section features artwork related to Advent and Christmas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also features beautiful images and narration in its multimedia online presentation of the Christmas Story; this is certainly a resource worth recommending to your congregation. To use the images in a worship service will require looking at the information for each painting (readily available on each page), searching the museum archives for that painting, and then saving it as a .jpg file, but those extra steps will be worth it for some of the stunning artwork that the museum has made available. The resource "rejesus" offers three short meditations about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, all based on an eastern Christmas icon.
St. Gregory's of Nyssa, San Francisco, known for its innovative liturgies, has posted three years' worth of Christmas pageant scripts for use by other parishes. Katherine Hawker provides another pageant script here. Check out a script for a Latin American Las Posadas pageant, including music.
Advent and Christmas resources developed particularly in an African American context are available from the United Methodist 21st-century Africana Liturgy Resources.
Christmas is a time in which some unchurched people will seek out a worship service; a collection of Seeker services for many seasons may help your parish respond. An Episcopalian service of Epiphany welcome, developed by Stephanie Spellers, is also a helpful resource.
This may be the season in which parishes contemplate adding something new to the worship experience. The UCC provides a helpful resource for getting started with multimedia in worship this Advent and Christmas.
The Christmas season, of course, lasts a full twelve days, until the Epiphany, January 6, as Bruce T. Morrill, S.J., reminds us. Dennis Bratcher offers a discussion of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as Christian catechism.
Halfway through the season of Christmas, we have the important January 1 feast day, the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Many parishes hold liturgies on either New Year's Eve or New Year's Day; one New Year's Eve liturgy to consider is a Watch Night Service. Lutheran pastor Thomas L. Weitzel offers a liturgy for New Year's Eve. The United Methodists offer preaching helps for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
What's New for Advent
As for Advent and Christmas resources, there is simply too much that's new on the site to fit easily on one page. Here are some highlights, however:
Steve Taylor, known online as "emergent kiwi," suggests a simple but potentially nourishing and community-building exercise of shared Advent journals to encourage personal preparation and reflection in the midst of all of the hectic busyness in our culture during the season.
The Iona Community's Wild Goose Worship Group has a helpful collection of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany worship resources in Cloth for the Cradle. TextWeek also has many fine resources for Advent, including images of visitation and annunciation.
Perhaps because Advent is a season of mystery and waiting in the darkness, it is also a season that has appealed to poets throughout the ages. Poetry can be an extraordinary liturgical and pastoral tool for worship and study as we anticipate the coming of Christ. L. William Countryman has edited a fine collection called Run, Shepherds, Run: Poems for Advent and Christmas, and online resources include the University of Dayton's collection of Advent poems about Mary. The program from Luther College's 2002 Advent Chapel Poetry Series illustrates how one community made use of Advent poems, ranging from the anonymous Medieval "I syng of a maiden" through Christina Rossetti's "In the Bleak Midwinter" and e.e. cummings' "from spiraling ecstatically this." For those parishes that want to read Advent and world politics in relation to each other, there are Advent poems written during periods of war, such as Eva Dobell's "Advent 1916" and Denise Levertov's "Advent 1966" (the latter includes some brutal imagery, as one would expect during the Vietnam War, and both are challenging poems).
The tradition of the Advent wreath provides a tangible reminder of the season, and can be a particularly valuable liturgical tool for worship at home and with children. Although not explicitly Christian, this pair of blog posts (from Australian illustrator and toy maker Claire Robertson) provide another interesting suggestion for creating an Advent wreath that helps an entire family practice intentional waiting in recognition — not just as the time before something important happens, but a time in which every day is important. Customs such as the preparation and liturgical lighting of an Advent wreath remind us that Advent is to be a season of prayer, of quiet times, and of seeking light in the darkness.
Another way in which many individuals and parishes enter into special prayer is through an Advent labyrinth or prayer walk. Descriptions of several different versions are available online, including a star-shaped prayer path and a twelve-station wise men's journey. Another interesting version of an Advent prayer walk is a cyber prayer labyrinth that provides worshipers a time of Advent reflection at their computer screens (scroll to halfway down the page in order to enter the Advent Labyrinth).
Finally, during Advent, as during all seasons of the church year, it is crucial that we remember those who suffer, the hungry we must feed, and the prisoner and sick we must comfort. December 1, World AIDS Day, falls just before the first Sunday of Advent, as this liturgy (available for download on the webpage) has done. And for those suffering in spirits during Advent, the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa's "Blue Christmas" or New Zealander Steve Taylor's worship services here can be a compassionate gift.
More Advent Resources
The BBC hosts an excellent page with information and programs for Advent and Christmas. This is a good place for a generalist to start.
If you use the O Antiphons in your services in the octave before Christmas, you'll want to see The Great O Antiphons of Advent. It has texts in both Latin and English, some interesting illuminations, and a good bit on Julian of Norwich's use of the chants.
See scripts for past Christmas pageants and Christmas candlelight liturgies at St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Straight from the Anglican Church of Canada, "Monsignor" James Irvine's site is chock full of articles, creative ideas, songs, sermons, games, and more. Tool around his Festivals of Light page, and be sure to check out "Carols and Hymns," "Advent," "Episcopal Church" (various sermons are tucked away here), "Stuff for Fun," "The Wreathin' for the Season," "Jesse Tree," "Sermons," and "Carol Services for the Season."
The United Church of Christ's Worship Ways project offers up worship resources for every season, including an archive of great resources for Advent and Christmas (simply scroll down the left-hand sidebar for a detailed list of resources, organized by season).
The BBC Religion and Ethics website has surprising resources for Advent and Christmas, including a multimedia Advent Calendar featuring an image and scripture, poetry or music for each day of the season.
For resources related to drama, the visual arts and more, check out the Reformed Church in America's Advent/Christmas/Epiphany page.
Catholic priest Victor Hoagland developed the Children Learn to Pray website, which includes special prayers and rituals for children during Advent and Christmas.He also collects and creates prayers for use in the home and congregation throughout the season.
The Virgin of Guadalupe
December 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Sara Miles, a deacon at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco, shares a Eucharist service they have done in the past.
If you are serving a Spanish-speaking congregation and scripts or ideas to offer for this occasion (or others that are culturally significant), please share them.
If you're crafting services in a Spanish-speaking or bilingual congregation, these seasonal prefaces in Spanish from El Libro de Oración Común will prove useful.
Getting a Jump on Epiphany
The British tradition of chalking the doors of homes at Epiphany could be an interesting tradition to begin in your parish; it is a service of inviting the Magi — and thus God's blessing — into homes. Anne O. Weatherholt has written an Epiphany house blessing.