Advent Candle Liturgy 4: Love
Number 4... The week beloved of all Two Ronnies Fans and the "Four candles" sketch... Indeed I laughed and reposted this picture earlier in the month... But I am reminded again this morning, as I head down the Ards Peninsula for the rehearsal of a wedding in my former church at Glastry, that the love we mark with the lighting of this candle is not a "candlelit dinner, chocolates and roses" type of romantic love, but a sacrificial, messy, vulnerable love, that was reflected first in a baby born in a byre, swaddled in cloths to cover his newborn nakedness, and ultimately revealed in the brutal death of an innocent young man, stripped naked and nailed to a cross...
Over the past three weeks we have lit three candles—for hope, for peace, and for joy. Today we light the fourth candle - the candle of love.
With this flame we signify the love of God that reaches out to embrace us and all the world. A love that is stronger than kings and empires, stronger than grief or despair, stronger even than death. We love, because God first loved us.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote in the Book of Lamentations:
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
Lamentations 3:22-24 (ANIV)
(Four candles are lit as the congregation sings the following verse and chorus of "O Come, O come Emmanuel")
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who once appeared on Sinai's height,
end down your blessings from above,
Surround us always by your love.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Latin 13th century translated by John M Neale (1818-1866) adapted
Loving God, while we wait for you this advent season and as these candles are lit,
May your illuminate our imaginations with a glimpse of your glory.
We pray that you may reveal to us the healing power of hope,
Embed within us that peace that is much more than the absence of conflict
Fill us to overflowing with that joy that cannot be contained,
And implant within us your life-giving love.
Place your heart within us,
That we may love you with our all, love our neighbours as we love ourselves,
and love one another as sacrificially as you have loved us.
Our hope is in you alone O Lord,
Benediction (for the end of the service)
We began this service reflecting on the unfailing love of the Lord:
May we go from this place to live in the light of that love,
Knowing the hope, peace and joy that it brings.
God so loved the world that he gave his only son,
That whoever believed in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And the good news of Advent is this:
The Son of God is coming.
AMEN. Come Lord Jesus