Peace is something that is hard to grasp in our hurried world. No time for rest. No time for balance, wholeness, well-being when our to-do lists are jam packed, when our cups are overflowing. I hope this advent service is a time when you can stop and rest and focus on him for a few moments this week.
A few helpful tips:
When we do it in our home, it is not a perfectly smooth devotional time. It is like any family time with kids: a bit unpredictable, sometimes loud, sometimes crazy, never perfect. The idea isn’t to create a “perfect” service, but to give families, couples, or individuals something to do at home. You can adapt it to fit your family. Our daughter does most of the candle lighting and Blessing Box instructions and even reads part of the scripture. Usually my husband and I read the in between narration and the rest of the scripture.
What age is this service best for?
My daughter is eight and does pretty well reading and participating in this service. That being said, I think she is the youngest age group I would recommend for this family worship. I would not have attempted this service when my children were young–I kept things very simple back then. Some of the text is challenging, so it may be hard for children. So many family resources are geared for children but offer little challenge for the adults. Those resources are great tools to use as well! However, I put together this family service as one geared towards the grown-ups but allows the younger audience to grasp ideas and truth throughout.
White candle in holder on table
Blessing box filled with the following:
Sheet of paper
Pencils (enough for everyone)
Baby Jesus from a Nativity set
Lamb figurine, stuffed animal, or ornament
A “dangerous animal” figurine, toy, or stuffed animal (tiger, lion, bear or whatever you have! Or print out this picture.
The lion, lamb, and Baby Jesus become a focal point of peace on our table. Use a white tablecloth or place mats to represent peace (even a bed sheet would work!)
Ripping up the paper with our worries is another visual element for getting rid of those things that cause us anxiety, so that we can have peace.
Family Service Week 2: Peace
Download the pdf for the service Week 2 Peace.
Begin by having someone light two purple Advent candles on the Advent wreath.
During this second week of Advent we celebrate peace or “shalom.” Shalom conveys the idea of wholeness or well-being. It is something we long for in this broken world where things are not whole. In Israel, Shalom is a greeting. In some churches they “pass the peace,” by saying: Peace be with you!
And everyone replies:
And also with you!
Go around the table and do this together.
Today we worship our Prince of Peace as we long for shalom here on earth.
Open the box and take out the baby Jesus and the animal figurines.
Set them in the middle of the table as this is read:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:1-9)
Only Jesus can bring us shalom. This peace will cause animals and man to live together without hurting each other.
Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be. [i]
Sing the Advent Song, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” (To the tune of “Come Thou Fount”)
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let they goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for they courts above!
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee…(Repeat)
Read this prayer together:
Laboring God, you clear a holy space in our hearts where hurt and destruction have no place, and a little child holds power. Clear our lives of hatred and despair, sow seeds of joy and peace, that shoots of hope may spring forth and we may live in harmony with one another. Amen.[ii]
Light the white candle and set next to the baby Jesus as someone reads Luke 1:78-80:
Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Oh Lord, guide our feet on the path of peace. Help us to put all worry and anxiety away so that we can have your wholeness.
Take out a small sheet of paper. Everyone rips a strip of paper off and writes down any anxiety or worry they have on the paper. Next take out the paper bag. Pass this around the table and rip up the strips of paper and put in the bag. The paper bag should be burned or thrown away.
As the bag is thrown away or burned, read:
Lord we give you our anxieties and worries. They are gone. Help us to accept your peace in our hearts. Because you promise us:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do no let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
In peace I will lie down and sleep for you alone, Lord make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)
May your promises fill us with comfort, rest, and wholeness. May this shalom fill our hearts.
[i]Plantinga, Cornelius. Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin
[ii] Adapted from the Revised Common Lectionary