An all-age service for Advent
The service is in four parts. Starting with creation, it moves to the Old Testament promise of justice, the coming of the Saviour and finally the expression of hope in Revelation.
You will need: a very large box that opens out to create a cross; paper or a large piece of fabric in which to wrap the box; baby things (a packet of nappies, etc.) to go inside the box; a large candle and matches to go inside the box, underneath the baby things for accessibility; tea lights for every member of the congregation; tapers; readers and two actors.
The box should be made well in advance of the service, for the actors to practise with. The person making it should see the drama outlines so that they understand what is required. The box is going to be opened out to form a cross as part of the final drama, so the faces have to be attached to each other flexibly, but strongly enough to withstand handling. Tape is good for this. On each of the six exposed surfaces of the box draw one of the continents. The inside surfaces are purple. The box should be wrapped in paper or a large piece of fabric that can be easily taken off.
Prepare the space
Arranging chairs in a circle around the box would enhance participation. Prepare the building for Advent. Be colourful, especially with purple, the colour used in many churches during Advent. Readers and actors could dress in purple.
1 Light at creation
O come, O come, Emmanuel
Voice 1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
Voice 2 the earth was a formless void
Voice 3 and darkness covered the face of the deep,
Voice 4 while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Voice 1 Then God said, 'Let there be light';
Voice 2 and there was light.
Voice 3 And God saw that the light was good;
Voice 4 and God separated the light from the darkness.
Voice 1 God called the light Day,
Voice 2 and the darkness he called Night.
Voice 3 And there was evening
Voice 4 and there was morning, the first day.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus
Two actors meet up. One of them sees the box, is immediately wary and treats it like a suspicious package. Then s/he tentatively tries to knock it with a broom and runs away from it. This catches the eye of the other actor, who suggests it is a present. Eventually, they unwrap the box, which they perceive to be the world (ensure the congregation can see what is on the box). Both look puzzled.
We are waiting to welcome Jesus
A prayer of thanksgiving
Ask the congregation if they remember what they were given for Christmas last year. What was their best present? What made it special? Then ask what are the most valuable things? (Life itself, love, friends, home, water, etc.) These are things we often take for granted, but which are not available to many people around the world. Creation is fruitful and if we would learn to share there would be enough for everyone.
For the most essential things we have, which we take for granted,
food, shelter, warmth, clothing,
Creator God, we thank you.
For the most precious things that make us who we are,
friends, relatives, neighbours, memories,
Creator God, we thank you.
For the most valuable things we receive,
your love, your forgiveness, your grace,
Creator God, we thank you.
For this world we live in, for all we have and are and can be,
Creator God, we thank you.
2 Christ, the light of the world
Voice 1 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.
Voice 2 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Voice 3 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.
Voice 4 He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Hark, the glad sound, the Saviour comes
The lid of the box is opened (taking care not to unfold the rest of it), revealing the baby gear, which is handed out to different members of the congregation by the perplexed actors. Then they go back to have a look inside the box. One of them reaches in and carefully mimes picking up an imaginary baby and comforting it (both go 'ahh') … and then gives it to a member of the congregation, who takes it back and gives it to someone else (if you pick on the right person to begin with, you'll find that other members of the congregation will mime holding a baby too!), then pretends the baby is waking up, mimes calming it down and puts it to sleep back in the box, turning to hush the congregation.
Long ago, prophets knew
Prayer of confession and the Lord's Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Forgive us for those times when we have done wrong,
and not glorified you by our actions.
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Forgive us for those times when we have acted according to our own desires,
and done what is wrong in your sight.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us for those times when we have acquired
the things we need at the expense of others,
who strive for a fair wage.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
that there might be peace in the world.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
that there might be justice in the world.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours now and for ever.
3 The peace of the world
Voice 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Voice 2 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Voice 3 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
Voice 4 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
O little town of Bethlehem (Try the new version by Wendy Ross-Barker)
The actors open out the box reverently to form a cross, while discreetly lighting the large candle. They remove their shoes and (silently) encourage members of the congregation to join them around the cross and start singing the next hymn.
Hail to the Lord's anointed
4 Going out in hope
Revelation 21.1-2, 22-23
Voice 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Voice 2 I saw no temple in the city,
Voice 3 for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
Voice 4 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it,
Voice 3 for the glory of God is its light,
Voice 2 and its lamp is the Lamb.
Christ be our light
Prayers of intercession
Invite people to light a tealight and, in silent prayer, place it around the opened-out box so that the light creates a cross shape (there could be some music playing softly in the background).
Joy to the world
God be in our worship, and in our celebrations.
God be in our feasting, and in our giving.
God be in our loving, and in our living,
this Advent and into the future.