I love the way we celebrate Advent at my school. Every Monday the entire school—all 515 students and their teachers—gather in the auditorium to pray and sing traditional Advent carols.
Our tradition is simple and beautiful. In the center of the auditorium is a table, upon which sits an Advent wreath with a purple bow. The wreath cradles four pillar candles—three purple and one pink. A group of cantors stand off to one side, and a piano quietly plays an Advent carol that sets a prayerful mood. The students silently file into the auditorium by grade. The kindergartners walk in first and sit on the floor around the table. Each grade forms a concentric circle around the Advent wreath. The oldest students, our eighth graders, are the farthest away, but they have a good view of the Advent wreath.
Three students from our student council stand at the Advent wreath. The prayer service on the first Monday is a little longer than the others, because the Advent wreath needs to be blessed. Our pastor or assistant pastor will say the prayers of blessing and use an aspergillum to sprinkle holy water on the Advent wreath. Once that is accomplished, the students take over. They read a short passage from the Bible. As a response, we sing one of our Advent carols. Everyone has a song sheet, because some of these songs are not as familiar as the other songs we sing in church. Some of the songs we may sing include:
- “Let the Valleys Be Raised”
- “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
- “Creator of the Stars of Night”
- “People, Look East”
- “Prepare the Way”
- “On That Holy Mountain”
- “God of All People”
- “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”
After singing an Advent carol, we light the first candle. A kindergartener will hold the pillar candle and an older student will light it. We pray a simple prayer after lighting the candle:
Lord, our God, you bring light and joy to the darkness of this world. Let us carry your light in our hearts this day. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly!
We then pray the prayers of petition, responding with the traditional, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
After the prayers, we sing another Advent carol. This carol is usually a longer song, and our student cantors lead us by singing the verses while we sing the refrain.
Our school focuses on helping others during Advent, so before we leave, our principal reminds us of the service projects that we are participating in as a school. We have a “Baby Shower for Jesus” in which our students bring in diapers for a local pregnancy crisis center; we also have a hat and mitten drive for those who are materially poor in our area.
To close out our prayer service, we sing a resounding round of our favorite Advent song, “Stay Awake!” Every student from kindergarten to eighth grade sings this song with great joy!
This year, I noticed that we will be able to celebrate all four weeks of Advent with our students before they are released for Christmas break. I’m looking forward to this comforting, familiar prayer service, and I cherish hearing the sweet voices of the students from my school every Monday.
How do you bring your classrooms together to celebrate Advent?