Many Christian churches use an Advent wreath to mark the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each week, another candle is lit, and some Advent wreaths include a fifth candle in the center, lighting the “Christ Candle” on Christmas Eve.
I grew up in a non-liturgical church. We didn’t celebrate the seasons of the church year – at least not the way our mainline sisters and brothers did. Sure, we had Easter and Christmas, but Lent and Advent? Pentecost? Ordinary time? I had no clue.
Coming into a congregation that observed these sacred seasons shifted my perspective. I grew to love the rhythm of the church year: the waiting, the working, the worship. So when, a few years ago, someone asked if we could do a “reverse Advent wreath” for Lent, I took it as an invitation.
What follows here was intended as a children’s message, introducing the Prayer of Confession found in the United Methodist Hymnal’s Service of Word and Table. Using this liturgy throughout Lent helped the children learn what it means to call on God’s mercy and ask forgiveness. (It may have helped a few adults do the same thing!) Each week’s theme is grounded in the gospel reading for that Sunday, taken from the Revised Common Lectionary.
The season of Lent is a time to confess, repent, and be renewed. If you set up an Advent wreath in your home during December, you might want to try creating a similar place in your home during Lent. You will need six candles (I use purple tapers, but pillar candles work, as do other colors), plus maybe a white “Paschal” candle for Easter.
You can arrange them in a circle, or perhaps in the form of a cross. You might add other symbols of Christ’s Passion, such as a crown of thorns, a sponge, nails, a simple cross … you might want to keep your Bible and a journal nearby, for your personal devotion time. The point isn’t to decorate your home, but to create a space where you can meet God during the 40 days of Lent.
Each Thursday, I will post a liturgy for extinguishing candles on the following Sunday in Lent. You will want to start with all the candles lit. After you extinguish one, it will not be lit again. After Palm/Passion Sunday, only the white candle will remain to light your way through Holy Week. May your Lenten journey bring you closer to God, and make you more and more like Christ.
LENT 1A The Candle of Temptation
Each week we will extinguish (put out) one more candle, until only the Christ candle is left. Today’s candle represents temptation.
How do you define temptation? What do you think that word means?
We heard about Adam and Eve being tempted in the Garden, and that didn’t turn out so well, did it? In the gospel reading, we hear about Jesus being tempted, too. How do you think that will turn out?
We all are tempted from time to time. Sometimes we are tempted to do something we know is wrong. Sometimes we are tempted to not do something we know we should. Usually, the temptation has something to do with wanting something we don’t have, or something we have, but we want more.
So, as we extinguish this candle, let’s say the prayer of confession that we will be using throughout the season of Lent.
CONFESSION & ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Let us confess our sins before God and before one another.
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.
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