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The Christian education community of Rotation.org is interested in ideas for the lighting of Advent Candles for a number of good reasons:

  • They are often lit by children
  • They are usually discussed with children in worship
  • They are a popular at-home tradition!
  • And we are always looking for creative ways to reinvigorate meaning and practice.

We welcome your creative Advent Candle Lighting projects and practices!

Creative Ideas for Lighting Advent Candles



Advent Candle Background and Questions to Stoke Our Creativity

a resource first posted by Neil MacQueen

The annual lighting of the Advent Candles is one of the most treasured worship traditions across the Church. Usually combined with the tradition and symbol of evergreen wreaths, they are both literally and figuratively a glowing reminder of the themes and meanings of Christ's birth.

Because the Lighting of the Advent Candle has its roots in Church and biblical history, the story of its "advent" in our services can be a source of creative inspiration!

The first recorded use of "Advent Candles" dates to 1839 when a German Lutheran pastor created a wreath with candles at a home for delinquent boys to help them mark the days of Advent. The practice quickly spread throughout Germany and across denominational lines and eventually across oceans due to waves of 19th Century German emigration.  At one time, the lighting of candles during Advent was widely practiced as home by those of German descent.

  • Advent Candle QuestionsHow are we "delinquent" and in need of help to better mark the time and season?

  • What confessions do we bring and what answers do we seek this Advent?

  • How can we encourage the spread of this tradition—rather than keeping it locked up in our church services?

  • How can we better teach the surrounding culture about the meaning of our candles and evergreens?

  • How does the lighting of the Advent Candle bring together Christians of diverse backgrounds and histories, (including delinquents!)? How can YOUR lighting of the candles and its liturgical language reflect this inclusive sharing?

Tabernacle LampstandFor our purposes, it is important to note that the ritual lighting of candles in the worship of God dates back to the Exodus Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem. A large 7-branched gold lampstand ("Menorah") is described and prescribed in Exodus 25:31–39.

The Temple Menorah became the source and symbol of the Hannukah miracle and celebration that first occurred in 164 B.C. when oil for the lamps, which should have run out in one day, lasted eight days during the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabean revolt restored Jewish control over Jerusalem.

  • Isaiah-Advent-Candle-Rotation.orgHow can our first Advent Candle better celebrate the light that was present in the Old Testament and the Hannukah ritual of rededication founded by the Maccabeans?

  • What do we not want to "run out of" this season?

  • What needs in your life are not dependent on how prepared, good, worthy, or faithful you are? (How is God working in spite of our problems?)


What do the four traditional candles of Advent symbolize?

Advent Candle colorsThe four candles of Advent represent the four Sundays of Advent. Traditionally they respectively symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love, but there's nothing sacred about those namings. In many churches, the color of the candles follows a specific pattern, purple, pink, and white at the center, but that is "made up" too. Depending on who you ask or which source you consult, Purple symbolizes repentance and fasting, Pink symbolizes joy and rejoicing, and White symbolizes purity and light. But some churches use Blue instead of purple, and why can't a Green candle represent hope?

As Jesus might say, "We were not made for Advent, Advent was made for us."

There's a fine line between meaningful tradition and meaningless ritual. A pastor I once worked for pulled the same Advent liturgy out of his files every year for nearly his entire ministry—and he was proud of that

  • What four NEW "candle themes" and scriptures could bring freshness to our liturgies and add life application to the weeks of Advent?   (Do we need to read the traditional Advent scriptures during the candle lighting since they can be read or sung about in the rest of the service?)

    For example, what if we picked up on these themes from the scriptures for the four candles: Longing: what do we long for? Messengers: to whom and when are we listening? Room at the Inn: who are we ignoring/excluding? Shepherds returning: where do we go from here?

    What do other scriptures tell us the light represents? What about...The woman who lights her lamp to find the lost coin. The bridesmaid prepared with plenty of oil. The light that shouldn't go under a basket. Become children of light (John 12).
    1 John 1: "Walking in the light." And what is the "darkness" that each candle is lit to dispel? (that Jesus was sent to overcome).


In some homes and parishes, people will also light a fifth candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to represent the birth of Jesus; this candle, when added to the Advent wreath, is typically white and larger than the other candles and is placed in the center of the wreath.

  • How can we equip our members to light a fifth candle at home?

  • How long should that fifth candle burn or be relit? (Liturgically, there are 12 days of Christmas.)

  • How well have we connected the traditional holding and raising of candles during Christmas Eve services to this fifth candle?

In the next post are some links to creative Advent lighting liturgies and ideas.

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Some Creative Ways to Light Advent Candles with Children

Sunday School is a ministry, not just a schedule of classes. Especially these days when attendance may be lower and less frequent, we need to look for MORE opportunities to teach God's Word, help our students become disciples, and help them participate in worship and important traditions.

Rather than "doing things the same old way," it's time to breathe some fresh air into stale but still traditions to involve more kids and teach in more memorable ways -- and the lighting of the Advent Candle is a great place to start.

Here are some ideas we've collected and some we've created to inspire your own.

IN A WORSHIP SERVICE...

  1. Invite your children's friends to help them light the Advent Candle at church or at home.  (And who knows, you might even get their parents to show up too!)  If you're at home, invite them to join you for a sit-down meal. If you're lighting at church, hit the pancake house on the way home.

  2. Where is it written that ONLY ONE candle can be lit each week?  Most kids (and many adults) want to get to light the Advent candle, but few rarely get the opportunity. This idea solves that! Create a table in the front of the Sanctuary or use the Communion table to host a plethora of small wax votive candles. Invite families to come forward just before worship begins, light a candle, and offer a prayer connected to that Sunday's Advent theme (see suggested prompt).  Note: The aluminum casing for these types of candles can be decorated or painted purple by the kids during the "hanging of the greens" event prior to Advent.  Invite kids to help light any extras during the children's message, or light a very special candle with you. These types of tea candles are very inexpensive in bulk.

    wax-tea-candles
    Each week, invite them to approach lighting the candle with a different prayer, such as, Who do I know who needs the light of Christ with them this Christmas?  Who do I miss and remember? What part of my life do I need the warmth and light of Christ to shine in? Or, have these themed prompts copied onto slips of paper they can pull out of a basket to take back to their seats.

  3. Ahead of time, have children make enough paper candles with flames to give to each worshipper. Have the children distribute their "take-home candles during the lighting of the Advent Candle or at the end of worship as you invite people to "take the light" to others after worship through specific acts of kindness and service opportunities that you might suggest or provide.

    Here's a really neat "springy" candle that kids can quickly make, will find interesting and fun, and should hold interest with the adults who receive them. Write a "do" message or question on the back of the flame before distributing.




Comment: The Lighting of the Advent Candle has grown stale in many churches. Many pastors use the lighting of the Advent Candle as a way of recognizing certain families and elders in the congregation, rather than do teachimg or as a way to expand participation. Many simply use the same liturgy year-after-year-after-year. This staleness is in stark contrast to the surprise and wonder of the First Christmas. Shouldn't some things in our "tradition" be as anticipatory as opening a gift on Christmas morning?  If you get resistance to change, ask for just one week of the lighting as an experiment, and make sure it's both memorable and deep to encourage future permission.

IN THE CLASSROOM...

  1. Set up Advent Candle Wreaths in each classroom so that all your children can get closer to and participate in lighting the candles. (If church rules don't allow open flames in the classroom, use tea candles).

  2. Make a take-home wreath using battery-powered tea lights. This type of tea light is quite inexpensive when purchased in bulk and they can be decorated. Have students write two or three key Advent Candle teaching words on the bottom of the tea light (words like Isaiah/Great Light, Shepherds/Don't Be Afraid, etc).  There are zillions of "craft Advent wreath" ideas on the web. Pick one that can be done quickly and go on the family's dinner table. Include verse snippets or a message on the wreath for further contemplation.

    Advent Candle Game

    CANDLE GAME: Before everyone goes home, place all the lights on the table "words down," mix them up, and arrange them in a grid. Play a quick game of "find the matching candle" by giving each student a turn to turn up two candles at a time. If they don't match, place them back down.

  3. See the "It's Me, I'm the Advent Candle, It's Me" art project in a post below!



Note to editors: Some graphics attached to this post are used in the litanies post below. Do not delete.

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Some Creative Advent Candle Lighting Litanies...


I wouldn't use any of these completely verbatim. Rather, I find their language and POV makes me think outside of the traditional "same old liturgy" box. Feel free to add your own links! ~Neil

An Advent Candle Lighting Litany from Jerusalem

2016 from The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, Israel
Written by Rev. Carrie Ballenger Smith, it's expression has special significance given its context.

How is YOUR COMMUNITY'S CONTEXT reflected in your Advent hopes and actions?

https://knitpurlpraypreach.blo...litanies-year-a.html  Here's a photo from their church during the use of the litany.

Advent Candle Lighting Litany from Jerusalem



Faithforward's Advent Candle Lighting Script

Creative language, poetic.

Feels like a reader's theater script.
https://www.faithward.org/adve...e-lighting-readings/

Speaker 1: Lighting a candle in the darkness helps us find our way. In darkness we lose direction. We cannot see where we have been or where we are going. A single candle, flickering brightly, helps us find our way again.

Speaker 2: “Stir up your might, and come to save us. Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:2b-3).

Speaker 3: Light one candle; see it glow
Brightly, so that all may know
How one candle shows the way
Making our darkness bright as God’s day.



ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING CEREMONY

by Steven Brown, Author of “Lifestyle Worship”
https://sjbrown58.wordpress.co...ighting-ceremony-ii/

Attached is a copy of Steven's litany DOC file.
It's wordy and long, but it uses more than the traditional scriptures -- which is interesting, and it invites the congregation to express their needs/confessions.

Pastor: Jesus, be the light in our darkness.
As we light the candle of hope,
we pray for those feeling hopeless.



An Advent Candle Liturgy from the Salt Project

Here's another "readers" liturgy for lighting the Advent Candles with the language of social justice.

https://www.saltproject.org/pr...le-lighting-litanies

Week One: Hope

Reader One:  When I look around, I see shadows of hunger. So many neighbors, nearby and around the world, will go to bed hungry tonight…

Reader Two:  When I look around, I see shadows of injustice, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer — and someone somewhere will fall asleep under a bridge tonight…

Reader One:  In the face of hunger, we light a candle of hope…

Reader Two:  In the face of injustice, in the face of despair, we light a candle of hope… (Light the first candle in your Advent wreath.)

Reader One: May the light from this candle overwhelm the world.

Reader Two:  May the light from this candle say to all that God’s hope is coming, on earth as it already is in heaven.

Reader One:  Friends, be not afraid, God’s hope is at hand!

Advent Candle Lighting Litany for Justice

"It's Me, Hi, I'm the Advent Candle, It's Me" **

What if the "Advent Candle" that needed lit this season was YOU?
An Art Project

Oil Pastel "crayons" create a vibrant image when used on dark paper. In this lesson idea, the kids look at an image of "Lumiere" the man-dlestick from Disney's Beauty and the Beast to catch the inspiration as they experiment on paper (several if needed) drawing themselves as the Advent Candle the world needs lit.

This oil crayon candle drawing is not anthropomorphic, just a little bit. When I saw it, it got me thinking about what I would look like as an Advent Candle, and where would my little light shine?

Light-of-the-WorldLumiere-Template

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16

"The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." John 1:9  So Jesus is the source but he himself said we could shine. Kinda reminds me of how one candle lights another (definitely would want to demonstrate that).

**Yes, I'm messing with the ear-worm lyric from "Anti Hero" -- that Taylor Swift song title that the kids will undoubtedly notice if you use the phrasing (and why not). Discuss how NOT being lit, i.e. being part of the darkness, makes you part of the problem. Discuss how being lit by Christ's light makes you part of the solution.

So how do you "get lit" by Christ this Christmas?

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Re-lighting a Candle by Lighting its Smoke

Did you know that you can relight an extinguished candle simply by placing a flame into the smoke of the extinguished candle? It's a great metaphor for how God's presence coming near to us can reignite us.

Here are Rotation.org we're always interested in eye-catching demonstrations that can be used to teach ideas to kids. Such demonstrations are often done in children's sermons and perhaps that's where you can use this one especially when they are seeing the lighting if Advent candles. The Workshop Rotation Model's "workshops" often use such visuals to get discussion started. Many can be found in our "Science" (Demonstration) Workshop lesson topics throughout our Bible story forums. Learn more about the Science Workshop in the Rotation Model.

You can find this "lighting the smoke" trick around the web and in numerous online videos. Here's one that shows it in slow motion. Below it is a suggested "explanation" of what it can be said to demonstrate to children during Advent.

Possible Connections for Children

Mix and match to create your own!

  • Advent is a time to reignite our celebration of Jesus' birth.
  • Advent is a time to reignite our hope for God's light to enter the world, the light of goodness and compassion that sometimes feels like it has been blown out, extinguished by sin and despair.
  • Advent is a time to bring light -- help others see the true nature of God who chooses to be with us rather than against us. Who comes as a baby not an avenger.
  • Advent is a time to help people whose light has blown out -- who are having a hard time in life, who doubt God cares about them, whose problems surround them like darkness.
  • Notice how even when the flame is extinguished, its smoke seems to reach out. People are like that, reaching out for God when they feel extinguished, burnt out.
  • Notice how if we create some wind by waving our hands, it becomes very difficult to reignite the candle. Being too busy during the Christmas season can be like air turbulence that makes it hard for our faith to feel reignited. Let's surround the candle to block any turbulence -- to make the air peaceful. Advent should be a time of calm, of peace so that spirits can reach out for God and feel his presence in the season.
  • Notice how if we are too far from the extinguished candle (people) we can't reignite it. During Advent, we draw close to each other. We reach out to others who are far away or feel alone.
  • Use one lit Advent candle to relight the extinguished one. We are the candles God lights. We not only shine, our Advent preparations and celebrations are intended to reignite the reason for the season in others.
  • (Can't help but think of that old camp song "Pass it On," "It only takes a spark to get the fire glowing... that's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it, ...you want to pass it on."
  • What else?

Why the smoke ignites:

When a candle's light is extinguished, a small bit of vaporized wax floats in the smoke that rises up from the extinguished wick. If the air is still and you don't wait too long, you can reignite the vaporized wax and watch that flame travel back down to the candle's wick.

Tips:

  • The air around the extinguished candle needs to be still.
  • The distance of the flame to the dense part of the smoke needs to be close.
  • The longer you wait, the less likely the smoke will ignite because it disipates. (Note: God is not subject to that limitation!  God can reignite even the coldest candle )
  • Experiment with different types of candles. Some types and shapes will produce more vaporized wax in the smoke column than others.
  • If teaching in a class setting, show a slow motion video that shows the flame reigniting the smoke.

Dema Kohen's WeAreKidmin resource ministry is offering a free set of "Hope, Peace, Joy, Love" coloring pages that include things to do and think about.

Below are samples of those four 11x17 pages. Hope/Peace/Joy/Love are the traditional topical themes for Advent candles.

The Download Link is located at the bottom of Kidmin's "What's for Dinner" Advent magazine issue (which is another good resource but not free).  Here's what it looks like on Dema's page:

 

The download link on their page will take you to their Google Drive where you can click the download arrow to bring them to your computer.

Rotation.org does not profit from recommending these resources.
We just like telling people about the good stuff!

Click the images to slightly enlarge them. They are samples only.
You have to go to Dema's website to get the download!

Joy-SampleHope-SampleLove-SamplePeace-SamplePeace-Closeup2Peace-closeup

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