Home Worship Planning Seasons & Holidays Advent/Christmas Liturgies, Year C

Advent/Christmas Liturgies, Year C

First Sunday of Advent
"Keep Awake

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36


Greeting or Call to Worship

One: We come from a world of darkness
All: Into Christ’s world of light.
One: We come from a world of weariness
All: Into God’s strength and hope.
One: We come from a slumbering world.
All: Strengthened by the Spirit, we come to awaken our souls and watch for the coming of Christ.

Opening Prayer

Creator God, you have molded us into your people. As we gather for worship, let us settle into your bosom of love. We wish to be made into your image. We worship to experience your brightness. We gather to become your Body of Believers. Restore us, O God of the heavens; let your face shine upon us, so that we may worship and know you. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

We confess, Gracious God, that we have not always turned to you for guidance. At times, we have allowed the world’s time to dominate your time. Forgive us for our sins of hurriedness and impatience. Forgive us when we have slumbered instead of remaining alert, waiting and watching for you. Forgive us for allowing the world’s fears to become our fears. Shine upon us this Advent season so that we may be restored unto you. Guide us into your time. As we call upon your name, hear our prayers and give us life. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Words of Assurance

And now may our God make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. Christ promises to strengthen our hears in holiness that we may be blameless before our God and creator at the coming of te Lord. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are all forgiven. Alleluia! Amen. (Based on 1 Thess. 3:12-13, NRSV)

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" 211
"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" 216
"My Lord, What a Morning" 719
"I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" 206
"Emmanuel, Emmanuel" 204
"There’s Something About That Name" 171
"Soon and Very Soon" 706


As we move deeper into this new millennium, we can focus on the season of Advent as a time to prepare ourselves to wait upon the Lord, focus on Christ's presence not just in the hereafter, but in the here and now. We can allow God to guide our lives, rather than the hopes and fears of a world. Christ's coming a couple of thousand years ago invites us to a new way of looking at those numbers . . . God's way, God's time, love unconditional and everlasting.


  1. Create humorous drama with puppets or a youth team to emphasize the "be alert" theme.
  2. Images: branch, Jesse tree, open Bible, praying hands, sun, moon, earth, clouds, fig tree.

Second Sunday of Advent
"Comfort and Cleansing in the Midst of Change"


Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6


Call to Worship
One: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!
All: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
One: For God is with us, smiling upon us with love.
All: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
One: For Christ has saved us from our enemies, our sins, and our fears.
All: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
One: For God's Spirit shines upon us, giving light for our darkness.
All: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!
One: Let us worship God together.

Call to Confession
Malachi 3:1-2

Prayer of Confession

We come before you, Mighty God, asking forgiveness and cleansing for our lives that are rough and unfinished. Cleanse us, purify us, give us your gentle love, your pure peace, and your shining hope. Let the offering of our lives be beautiful and unhindered. Let our hearts be steadfast and sure as we face the future, knowing that the future is yours and held in your kind and loving hands. Amen.

Words of Assurance

The Psalmist proclaims: "Blessed be the God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us."
"Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more."
"Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more."

Prayer Litany

You have sent many messengers into our world.
Help us recognize the messengers that are proclaiming your Word.
Voices cry out for our attention.
Help us hear the voices that speak your wisdom.
Paths are open in every direction.
Help us make a straight path toward your love.

"Heralds of Christ" 567
"Blessed Be the God of Israel" 209
"Toda la Tierra" ("All Earth Is Waiting") 210
"People, Look East" 202
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" 211
"He Who Began a Good Work in You" UMS 2163


Facing and entering a new period in life has always brought fear and trepidation to human beings. In Christ's name, many have encouraged apocolyptic despair and guilt. The twenty-first century seems particularly challenging for people as we deal with the increasing speed of change and transition in our lives and our world. However, the challenging and cleansing imagery from Malachi — coupled with the Canticle from Luke — provides hope, even to people in the wilderness, even to people who have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Taking those words of comfort to heart today can help Christians face the new year with anticipation and hope, with trust that God can use this dramatic time as a time for righteousness and faithfulness to spring forth and blossom anew. Examples of inspiration from the Social Gospel movement of the early twentieth century or the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's could be used to exemplify how God's people march forward even in tumultuous times to further God's purpose. Writings by Walter Rauschenbusch (Social Gospel) or Martin Luther King (Civil Rights) are particularly effective.


A dramatic reading of excerpts from Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech could be intertwined with this morning's message as it lifts examples of ways in which the dream has come true and is coming true.

  1. Images: Fire, soap, silver gold refinery, cleansing fire, a messenger, straight highway, level ground.

Third Sunday of Advent
"Again I Say, Rejoice"


Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18


Greeting or Call to Worship
One: Rejoice in the Lord always.
All: We come to worship and rejoice.
One: Again, I say "rejoice!"
All: We come to worship and rejoice!
One: Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
All: We come to worship and rejoice.
One: The Lord is near!
All: We come to worship and rejoice the One who is with us!

Litany of Reflection and Remembering

As we reflect on the past, we remember times of hope and despair.
In despair, we saw the Great Depression, the economic suffering of millions and the emotional despair of people who had invested their lives in storing earthly treasures.
In hope, we saw the Great Depression, as communities gathered together to share with and support one another, as people invested their lives in relationships and found satisfaction in basic necessities fulfilled.
In despair, we saw two World Wars, death and destruction of lives and of countries.
In hope, we saw the end of two World Wars, new life and freedom arising from the midst of smoke and rubble.
In despair, we witnessed the Holocaust, the cruel and unjust torture and mass murder of millions of people.
In hope, we witnessed the Holocaust survivors and their descendants, who remind us "never again" and help us remember that blind complicity is a sin in and of itself.
In despair, we lived with racism, sexism, and separatism, part of a world that punished those who objected to such divisions.
In hope, we lived with the Civil Rights Movement and other movements of liberation, bringing new visions and dreams for a world of opportunity and freedom for all people.
In despair, we fought the Cold War, where hatred and fear were nurtured as money was poured into weapons of destruction while people suffered for want of food and clothing.
In hope, we survived the Cold War and saw a new generation of peace and harmony as enemies became friends and colleagues, and swords were actually sold to buy plowshares.
In despair, we experienced violence in ways never imagined, in our schoolyards and neighborhoods, our highways, our vacation homes.
In hope, we worked together to protect our children and teach values of kindness and mercy, to create a world where such violence need never rule our lives.
In hope and despair, we look to the future, dreaming of hopes fulfilled and despair overcome. May God walk into that future with us, turning our tears of despair into laughter of hope and joy!

Benediction or Blessing

Surely God is our salvation, we will trust in God and not be afraid, for the Lord God is our Strength and Might. Shout aloud and sing for joy . . . for great in our midst is the Holy One of Zion. (Is.12)

"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" 196
"Hail to the Lord's Anointed" 203
"Rejoice, the Lord is King" 715, 716
"Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart" 160, 161
"Tell Out, My Soul" 200
"Shine, Jesus, Shine" CCE81 or UMS 2173
"Good Christian Friends, Rejoice" 224


As we reflect on the past year, we see ayear flooded in tears and disappointment. Peace initiatives often failed; and poverty, hunger, oppression, and violence continue to haunt us. Yet, God offers us the promise that our fortunes will be restored. Using the Hebrew Scripture texts as primary, today’s message can reflect onthe despair while searching for the signs of hope. In the midst of the "information age," we are more aware of our world and its happenings than ever before in history. If we can learn from our past, we can help God create a world where shouts of joy overcome tears of despair, where we can again say, "Rejoice!"


  1. Dance, songs of praise, or the Sunday school echo song "Rejoice in the Lord Always" come to mind as wonderful ways to illustrate or respond to the text from Isaiah 12.
  2. Images: rejoicing, singing, festival, shouting, joyful images.

Fourth Sunday of Advent
"Do Not Be Afraid"


Micah 5:2-5a
Luke 1:47-55
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45


Call to Worship Luke 1:46b-55

Opening Prayer

God of the now and the yet to be, we come to this worship service in anticipation and breathlessness. We are breathless from last-minute Christmas shopping and family dinner preparations. We are on the edge of time between the barrenness of autumn and the bright white of winter. We are on the edge of expectant pregnancy and new birth. We are on the edge of the joy of anticipation and the fear of facing the unknown. We are at the edge of the seriousness of Advent and the joy of Christmas. Help us not to fear being on the edge of newness and change; help us to hear your words of blessing and hope, comfort, and peace, so that we may worship you in this time together. Amen.

Litany of Response

One: You are favored ones of God!
All: How can this be, for we have never seen the face of God?
One: The Lord is with you!
All: How can this be, when we feel so alone?
One: Be not afraid, for you have found favor with God.
All: Be not afraid, for you have found favor with God!
One: Be not afraid, for you have found favor with God!
ALL: We need not be afraid, for we have found favor with God!

"Ye Who Claim the Faith of Jesus" 197
"My Soul Gives Glory to My God" 198
"To a Maid Engaged to Joseph" 215
"Sing of Mary, Pure and Lowly" 272
"It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" 218
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" 230
"Give Thanks" CCE 92 or UMS 2036
"Breath of Heaven"Amy Grant Solo Songbooks (Waco, TX: Word)


Using Mary’s story of courage in the face of angels and an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock, today’s message can help people realize that God’s people have always faced the unknown and have survived because of God’s support. "My soul magnifies the Lord," says Mary in the face of her great challenge. "Blessed are you," says Elizabeth in the face of Mary's greatest embarrassment. "Be not afraid," God says to us, as we face the new century. Naming the many fears that may be haunting your congregation and community will help people hear God's words of comfort in the here and now. Naming the many fears that a very ordinary girl named Mary faced will help people realize that even ordinary, frightened believers can find the extraordinary courage and hope of Christ Jesus to follow God.


  1. Invite people to print their fears on small pieces of paper, to be turned over to God symbolically by nailing them to a wooden cross or burning them in a metal bowl during or following today’s worship service.
  2. Dancing the Magnificat expresses Mary’s hope and joy beautifully.
  3. Images: food, hungry being fed, Bethlehem, Christ feeding sheep, Mary, sisterhood of women (Mary and Elizabeth), pregnant women.

December 24/25
Christmas Eve/Day
"Darkness Turns to Light"


Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-20


See UMBOW pp. 269ff for a number of marvelous prayers and orders of worship emphasizing this theme (light into darkness) as it relates to both Christmas and the New Year.

Call to Worship

One: We are a people who have walked in deep darkness.
All: We come this night, seeking to be a people who have seen a great light.
One: Light comes to us on this holiest of nights.
All: The light of a small babe, the light of a bright star
One: The light of God’s love
All: Shining for all the earth.
One: Come and see... the child has been born! Lights are shining!

Opening Prayer

Holy God, we pray for your brightness to shine upon our hearts this evening. May we know your grace as it appears for us in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Help us to live lives that are joyous and just, godly and righteous. As we await the blessed hope of your glory to shine on our world forever, we come this night to rejoice in the blessed hope of your glory that already shines in our lives. Shine on us, dear Child, that we may see you not only in the manger but in our hearts as well! Amen.

Litany of Hope

Psalm 96 (See UMH 815)


In the midst of darkness, candles have shone.
Glory to God in the highest!
In the midst of darkness, we have seen the light of Christ.
Glory to God in the highest!
In the midst of darkness, we have been promised peace and good will.
Glory to God in the highest!
In the midst of darkness, we go forth to be the light of Christ.
Glory to God in the highest! Alleluia! Amen.

"O Come, All Ye Faithful" 234
"It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" 218
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" 230
"Love Came Down at Christmas" 242
"Good Christian Friends, Rejoice" 224
"For Unto Us a Child Is Born" From Handel’s "Messiah"
" O Holy Night"
Vocal Solo Collections (songbooks such as
Everything for the Church Soloist [Carol Stream, IL: Hope])
"Majesty" 176
"Great Is the Lord" CCB 60


In these Christmas readings, Isaiah and Titus proclaim the Lord’s reign on this earth, the day of salvation already come. The Psalmist, however, reminds us that the ultimate day of justice and righteousness is yet to come. Living with the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ as part of our Christian lives has never been easy, in any of these 2000+ years. Sometimes the feeling that we are always living in the "middle ages," a time of darkness and confusion, can overwhelm us. But Christmas comes in the Christian year to remind us that light has already overcome darkness in the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That same light promises to one day overcome the darkness of sin and sorrow by making this earth into God’s world, God’s realm of justice and righteousness. Allow this Christmas message to turn the darkness into light; create a worship service that moves from the somber message of a dark world in need of light into the thrilling message that Christians already live in that light.


  1. Lights and candles are central to this Christmas theme.
  2. To correspond to the message idea, begin the service in dark, dim lighting, gradually adding light from candles or overhead lights as the service progresses. End the service in bright lights with joyous music, adding dance and movement as space permits.
  3. Images: Christ child, angels, stars, candles, light, Mary with baby.
-- Mary J. Scrifes is an ordained United Methodist pastor in Gig Harbor, Washington. She also works as a consultant in evangelism and worship. She is co-author of The United Methodist Music and Worship Planner and author of Searching for Seekers (Abingdon, 1998). This article was created in 2000 as part of a millenium worship resource.

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