Advent sermon ideas

Advent is the season of the church year that marks the time leading up to Christmas. Comprised of four Sundays, Advent helps us prepare for the celebrations of Christmas.

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What is Advent?

Advent is not itself a biblical word, but it means "a coming." Advent is both a preparatory season for remembering the coming of Christ in Bethlehem and the anticipation of the coming of Christ at the last day. Advent is one of two penitential seasons in the liturgical calendar. For four weeks prior to Christmas, Advent sermons and worship prepare us for the great event of the incarnation and call us to meditate on the three "comings" of Christ:

  1. Christ's birth at Bethlehem
  2. Christ's coming into our lives today
  3. Christ's second and final coming at the end of time

Advent also counteracts the hype of the commercial Christmas culture by inviting us into a deeper and more fruitful spiritual renewal in postures of hope and waiting for the Savior.

While the rest of the world is busy hanging Christmas greenery, we "deck the halls" with purple and blue. The church has the opportunity to beout of step, as usual, unable or perhaps unwilling to catch the spirit of the holidays. The world wants brightly colored lights and jingling bells; the church gets out the dark blue and sings about how lost we are.

Far from what the world expects, Advent begins not on a note of joy, but with a searching inventory of our deep uneasiness and aching need. We dare not rush to Bethlehem and kneel at the manger until we spend some time here, in a purple-hung church, admitting that we do, in fact, need redemption.

How do I plan Advent sermons and worship?

When planning the sermons and worship for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, consider uniting them around a theme, symbol, and/or color.

When is Advent?

The four Sundays leading up to Christmas

What colors can be used for Advent?

Purple, violet, or blue (royal blue, deep blue, or just blue).

What objects or symbols can be used for Advent?

What themes can be used for Advent?

Sermon series ideas for Advent

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Prayer ideas for Advent

  • "In this time of great meaning, in the stillness of Advent, birth new patience, give us grace for the days before us." Dan White Jr. from Global Worship
  • "Speak tenderly to the world, O God our God; come quickly to tell her that her pain has gone on long enough. Prepare the way of the LORD; make way for the peace of God!" Rachel G. Hackenberg
  • "When we reduce our preparation for your coming to reckless expense and trivialities: In your mercy, Lord, forgive us and heal us." Nathan Nettleton from re:Worship

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Bible passage ideas for Advent sermons

Many passages throughout the entirety of the Bible point to the coming of Christ and are appropriate to use during Advent.

Old Testament prophecy

Throughout the Old Testament, particularly in the prophets, there are numerous passages pointing to Christ's coming and the theme of waiting.

Advent provides an opportunity to engage with these prophecies in both their original settings and in how they point to Christ's coming. Some of these passages point to the need for Christ; some point to Christ's sacrifice; some point to the Messiah coming in the lineage of David; and still others foretell the Messiah's coming and his saving work. A broad selection of these passages could be used, or a particular book, such as Isaiah, could be the foundation for an Advent sermon series.

Advent in the Psalms

The psalms reflect themes of forgiveness, of trusting God, of love of God, of King David and his lineage, and the salvation of God. While many of these are less obviously linked to Christ than some of the Old Testament passages listed above, they still point to Christ. These psalms could serve as calls to worship, prayers of confession, or other pieces of the liturgy, including the sermon text.

  • Psalm 25, In you, Lord my God, I put my trust
  • Psalm 40, I waited patiently for the Lord
  • Psalm 42, As the deer pants for streams of water
  • Psalm 72, Endow the king with your justice, O God
  • Psalm 80, Hear us, Shepherd of Israel
  • Psalm 85, You, Lord, showed favor to your land
  • Psalm 89, I will sing of the Lord's great love forever
  • Psalm 126, When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion
  • Psalm 146, Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul

Gospel lessons on Christ

These passages are from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and from John's gospel and provide narratives of Christ's birth.

Second coming

The season of Advent is a season of waiting. The epistles connect to Advent in part because of their call for God's people to live in eager expectation of the second coming of Christ. The passages also examine what Christ did when he came the first time and they look ahead with longing at everything that will be accomplished by Christ's second coming. In advent, we hear hear these prophesies and know that we are a people who still wait for Christ's second coming. It is in advent that we listen again to the old testement promises of when the wolf will lie down with the lamb and when all the tears will be wiped away. Advent highlights for the believer the larger story of God's redemptive plan and reignites in us a longing for the day of Christ's return.

Scripture songs of Advent

While the Magnificat is the most striking song in the Advent season, songs from both the Old and New Testament that speak of God's liberation of Israel, God opening the womb of the barren, and others are also appropriate for this time and can be used to praise God not only as a sermon text but sung in services throughout Advent

Light of Christ

In John 3, we read about how the "light has come into the world" and as readers of the Bible, we know that the image of light coming into the dark is not new in John. In fact, light and dark are themes throughout all of scripture, starting with creation. And so, in Christ, we have the fulfillment: we have the light breaking into the dark world. In Advent, we wait in darkness again for the light.

Call to repentance

In advent, we are called to "prepare the way of the Lord" through confessing our sins and preparing to celebrate the Savior who came into the world as a baby with the mission to save us from our sins. Only Christ can save us. Advent is a time to remind ourselves of this. Purple, the color of penitence, can be used as a way to remind us to humble ourselves before the baby who is coming because the baby has the power to save.