Advent -- Candlelighting - Entire Season

A Hawaiian Liturgy for Lighting the Candles of Advent and Christmas [PDF]

In the tradition of the early Christian Church, Advent was observed as a time of penitence and as a preparatory period for the joyful celebration of Christmas. Today, Advent is that time when our sense of expectation builds up. It is a joyous anticipation and hopeful waiting for the celebration of Christmas. In the season, many focus on families gathering together, a sense of  reconnectedness to the larger community, a time for “one anothering.” Thus, the liturgy for the lighting of the Advent candles for the year C is based on the Hawaiian concept of “Aloha.” The word encompasses many different feelings: love, affection, gratitude, compassion,  welcome, hospitality. In modern times, “Aloha” has become a common salutation for meeting and parting.

This liturgy is a distinctive gift to the UCC from our congregations in Hawaii. It may also be used along with other candlelighting liturgies found in Book of Worship: United Church of Christ (page 169) or those in past issues of Worship Ways that may be found online.

A Hawaiian woman noted for her wisdom, Pilahi Paki, best interpreted ALOHA by using each
letter of the word to describe the values espoused by the expression:
A – is akahai (ah-kah-high), which means gentleness, kindness, caring.
L – is lokahi (loh-kah-hee), meaning unity, harmony, oneness, being of one mind.
O – is ‘olu’olu (oh-luh-oh-luh), an expression of cheerfulness brought about by a feeling of
pleasantness, kindness, comfort and a positive attitude.
H – is ha’aha’a (hah-ah hah-ah), a word expressing humility and meekness.
A – is ahonui (ah-ho-nuh-wee), which expresses patience, endurance, perseverance

Aloha is best practiced within the context of community where people interact closely with one another. In the Hawaiian culture, the ‘ohana (oh-hah-nah) or family, is the arena where aloha can be initially experienced by the younger members of the family. The ‘ohana (oh-hah-nah) is not only the typical nuclear family, but includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, sons and daughters, as well as hanai (hanh-nigh) or adopted children. The nurturing qualities of aloha are strong bonds that connect each member of the ohana (oh-hah-nah) to the other.

The following litanies suggested for the lighting of the advent candles during the four Sundays in Advent and Christmas Eve focus on the above values that describe aloha. A suggested scripture from the lectionary readings for each particular Sunday is woven into the focus. The main thing to lift up is that the Christlike qualities of aloha connect us closer to God, our Creator. and to all of God’s creation.

Some of the suggested songs may not be familiar. Find time, before or during worship, to go over the words and melody with the congregation. This may be especially helpful in singing “Nu Oli (Glad Tidings)” where the first verse is sung in Hawaiian.

First Sunday of Advent

Christ Connects Us to Each Other in the Spirit of Akahai (ah-kah-high)

Scripture focus

(Reader One reads 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13.)

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).


(The congregation, led by the choir or a musician, hums the melody of “Gentle Joseph, Joseph Dear,” TNCH 105.)


Reader Two: Christ, Light of the World, connects the whole creation to God’s aloha.

(Reader Two lights the first Advent candle.)

Reader One: Today we light the first Advent candle symbolizing the spirit of akahai (ah-kahhigh), a Hawaiian word that expresses caring, kindness, tenderness, and gentleness.

People: Gracious God, help us increase and abound in love for one another and for all.

Reader Two: In our homes or outside at work, at school, and at play may the light of caring shine through our words, actions, and attitudes. May we reflect your Christ-light in us.

Reader One: God’s unconditional love for the family of all humankind, of ohana (oh-hah-nah), was manifested in the God’s gift of Jesus Christ. Through him we saw God’s caring, kindness, and tenderness lived out.

People: Holy God, help us increase and abound in love for one another and for all.

Carol “Gentle Joseph, Joseph Dear” TNCH 105

(Women sing verse 1. Men sing verse 2. All sing verse 3.)

Second Sunday of Advent

Christ Connects Us to the Church in the Spirit of Lokahi (loh-kah-hee)

Scripture focus

(Reader One reads Luke 3:1-5.)


(Organist or pianist plays the melody of “Of the Parent’s Heart Begotten,” TNCH 118.)


Reader Two: Christ, Light of the world, connects the church to God’s Aloha.

(Reader Two relights the first Advent candle and lights the second candle.)

Reader One: Today we light the second Advent candle symbolizing the spirit of lokahi (loh-kahhee), the Hawaiian word for unity. It expresses a feeling of harmony, oneness, and being of one mind.

People: Holy One, Connect us to your Church so that through us “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Reader One: We are reminded of John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Christ by calling people to repentance. We are challenged today to journey in Christ’s ways preparing ourselves for his coming into our lives.

Reader Two: The spirit of lokahi (loh-kah-hee) or harmony will lead our church towards a stronger connection between the members of the Body of Christ when we follow Christ’s ways of loving God and forgiving one another.

People: Holy One, connect us to your Church so that through us “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Plainsong “Of the Parent’s Heart Begotten” TNCH 118

(To be sung antiphonally: the music leader may sing the first line of each stanza, the congregation sings the second, and all sing the third and fourth line.)

Third Sunday of Advent

Christ Connects Us to Nature in the Spirit of ‘Olu’olu (oh-luh-oh-luh)

Scripture focus

(Reader One reads Isaiah 12:2-6.)


(Instrumental music—as flute, oboe, recorder, drums, rain stick, wind chimes—is played that depicts sounds of nature.)


Reader Two: Christ, Light of the World, connects nature to God’s Aloha.

(Reader Two relights the first two Advent candles and lights the third.)

Reader One: Today we light the third Advent candle symbolizing the spirit of ‘olu’olu (oh-luh-ohluh), the Hawaiian word that demonstrates a kindly cheerfulness that praises a pleasant environment.

People: Glorious God, let your praises be heard all over creation and our songs proclaim the wonderful works of your hands!

Reader One: Hawaiians often sing of the beauty of the ‘aina (I-nah), the land, a very important gift from God. This was borne from the knowledge that whatever is in the earth was enough to sustain life. There would be more for everyone if the earth is preserved and cared for properly.

Reader Two: The spirit of ‘olu’olu encourages us to treat God’s creation with kindness and caring— bringing us unto a stronger connectedness to the world of nature.

People: Creator God, connect us to the wonders of your works so with cheerful voices so we can shout aloud and sing for joy . . . !

Song “Nu Oli (Glad Tidings)” TNCH 146

(Before the service begins, teach the refrain in the Hawaiian language. If possible check, with someone who knows the Hawaiian pronunciation or consult a Hawaiian dictionary.)

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Christ Connects Us to the Poor and the Oppressed in the Spirit of Ha’aha’a (hah-ah hah-ah)

Scripture focus

(Reader One reads Luke 1:47-55.)


(Invite a young or older woman in the congregation to sing verses one and two of “My Soul Gives Glory to My God,” TNCH 119.)


Reader Two: Christ, Light of the World, connects the poor and the oppressed to God’s Aloha.

(Reader Two relights the Advent candles of three previous Sundays and lights the fourth.)

Reader One: Today we light the fourth Advent candle, symbolizing the spirit of ha’aha’a (hah-ah hah-ah), the Hawaiian word for humility. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” Jesus said, as he taught his followers on the mountainside. People: God of justice and righteousness, make us instruments to connect the meek and the lowly to your divine aloha.

Reader Two: We have been made aware of the suffering and injustice in our communities and in the world at large. May our sensitivity increase to the needs of our sisters and brothers— to those who experience pangs of hunger on a regular basis; who walk the streets without a place to call home; and who feel rejected by society.

Reader One: Like Mary, mother of Jesus, may the spirit of ha’aha‘a (hah-ah hah-ah), humility intertwined with firm determination, inspire us to take our place among the lowly and oppressed and to work for the day when God’s reign of aloha will prevail in the world.

People: Merciful God, help us to get up from our places of comfort and safety and to go where you can use us to demonstrate the inclusiveness of your divine aloha.

Canticle “My Soul Gives Glory to My God” TNCH 119

(The female soloist sings verse 3. The entire congregation sings verses 4 and 5.)

Christmas Eve

Jesus Christ Connects Us to God in the Spirit of Ahonui (ah-ho-nuh-wee)

Scripture focus

(Reader One reads Luke 2:1–20.)


(Have pianist or organist play variations of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” TNCH 153.)


Reader Two: Christ, Light of the World, connects generations through time and space to God’s unchanging, enduring aloha.

(Reader Two relights the four Advent candles and then lights the Christ candle.)

Reader One: God’s love endures forever—this we know! At this time we light the Christ candle. It reminds us that God’s love never fails. God keeps God’s promises. God’s promise of a coming reign that has no end will be fulfilled. God’s promise of a Savior has been fulfilled this night in the birth of that babe in Bethlehem’s manger.

People: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those who God favors!

Reader One: God’s ahonui (ah-ho-nuh-wee), characterized by perseverance, has been manifested through the history of God’s people who lived in expectation that the promise of the Messiah would be fulfilled in their day.

Reader Two: May we have the same patience and perseverance to be faithful as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s great promise to humankind that Christ will return to us again.

People: Glorious God, your faithfulness endures forever! Let the angelic songs ring in our hearts and inspire us to bring the good news of God‘s aloha to all people.

Spiritual “Go Tell It on the Mountain” TNCH 154

(Invite the children to sing refrain and first verse and the entire congregation to join
in on the refrain and following two verses).

TNCH refers to hymns or resources from The New Century Hymnal (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1995). Similar resources may be found in other hymnals. This litany for lighting of the candles of Advent and Christmas was written by Fe Nebres, Associate Conference Minister, Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ, deployed to the Tri-Isle Association (Aha O Na Mokuipuni Maui, Moloka‘I, A Me Lana‘i). She serves as the program associate for educational ministries and leadership training.

Copyright 2003 Worship and Education Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, Cleveland. Permission is granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved. Designed and printed by United Church Resources, Local Church Ministries.


Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115