First Sunday in Advent
The Advent devotionals in this series were created for use by families, but they could also be adapted for use with youth or adults, in a group, or for individual reflection.
Music, art, and quotes from other materials will accompany each week’s devotional. Reflection questions will be a part of every program. You may use these questions in a discussion group, in your family (including young children), or possibly a youth group.
Each reflection time consists of the following:
- Candle Lighting and an excerpt from a hymn. It is recommended that you use a hymnal and sing the whole verse!
- Recitation, a short expression. If you are doing this as a family or in a group, it’s recommended that you split the expression into parts and have each group speak out different parts of the sentence. This is especially important for children.
- Reflection on the Scripture and/or topic for the week.
- Discussion questions to help you explore what you think and feel. No one knows the mind of God and therefore the thoughts that come to mine are worthy of entertaining. Those meeting in a group should ask questions of one another. Think about what each one says. Ask questions like, “Why do you think that?” This will help get a bigger picture of each other’s thoughts
- Prayer that can be a quiet prayer, a walking prayer, a movement prayer, an art prayer, a musical prayer.
The themes for each week are Light, Love, Joy, and Peace.
Optional: Do you have a movement (from yoga, etc.) that can help embody these “concepts” deeper into our bodies? Do that every night! (i.e., Sun Salutation for Light or Warrior for Love)
Advent Week 1: Light
by Kathleen Stone
If you would like to paint your own light in the darkness painting or drawing, gather art supplies so that each group member can make their own interpretation of this concept.
Sing “Away in a Manger,” The United Methodist Hymnal #217, verse 1, as you light the first candle.
If you have more than one person reflecting together, read the following as a call and response. If there’s only one person, read it three or four times until it comes into your heart.
Voice 1: We remember that in the darkness,
Voice 2: God lights the candle, and we bring light.
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.”
What does it feel like to walk in the darkness? Move your body in a way that embodies this feeling of walking in darkness and then as a second action, perform a movement where you are walking in darkness and then you see a great light! This movement is encouraged even if you are doing this reflection on your own.
Finding Light in the Darkness
Look at this painting “Awake my Soul” by Mike Moyers.
Is your favorite color in the painting? Would you consider it to be a dark or light color? Why do you like this particular color? How does it make you feel?
What happens to a dark color when a light color is put next to it?
Do you think this painting helps us understand what a great light in the darkness looks like? Why or why not?
How would you paint a great light in the darkness?
If you have paints, go ahead, and try! If not, just describe the artwork you would like to make.
Light and Dark
Traditional interpretation of Scripture has often privileged God’s presence as light, yet some very special moments with God happened in the darkness.
Many very special moments in the Christmas story happened in the darkness!
For example: The angel came to Joseph in a dream during the night (Matthew 1:18–24), the Angel Gabriel visited Mary at night (Luke 1:26–39a), Jesus was born in a dark stable (Luke 2:1–7), the angels shone in the darkness to the shepherds (Luke 2:8–20), and the guiding star sparkled in the dark night to the wisemen (Matthew 2:1–12). If we keep moving forward, even Jesus’ resurrection happened before daylight arrived (Matthew 28:1–6).
How do these instances affect your thoughts on darkness? If you’re alone, go ahead and journal what you’re thinking. If you are in a group or a family, explore your thoughts.
A Remaining Question
There are many stories in the Bible. “The people who have walked in the darkness have seen a great light,” is traditionally read during the Advent season. It was written in the book of Isaiah, long before Jesus was born
Why do you think people decide that it is read every year near the celebration of Jesus’ birth?
Help us remember that dark and light go together. Even when we experience darkness, it is a time of holy things.
Kathleen Stone is former staff of United Women in Faith and a retired elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. She is lead writer for the 2023 United Women in Faith children’s curriculum, We are the Kin-dom!