Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to print the words to the songs.  However, our musicians have chosen music to fit the scriptures.  We invite you to look up the words in your worship book and ponder them.  If you do not have a worship book, ponder the words to one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.


It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises – but only performance is reality.

~Harold S. Geneen


In today’s gospel story no one knows yet what Jesus looks like. Unborn, his features, as with all babies still in the womb, are a mystery. Jesus looks like none of us, and hence, we can imagine him looking like all of us. In his article “Searching for a Jesus Who Looks More Like Me,” New York Times reporter and editor Eric V. Copage explores depictions of Jesus from cultures around the world, reflecting the longings of all people for a Savior who looks “like me.” An online search of the title will take the reader to the story, which includes a variety of beautiful and inclusive representations of Jesus.

LIGHTING OF THE LOVE ADVENT CANDLE – Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries

Sometimes when we are trying something new, or when we are facing a difficult decision, or when we want to celebrate something, or when we just feel lost and alone and uncertain about life, the universe and everything, we need a blessing. We don’t always think of it that way, or word it like that. We say we need advice, or support, or companions, or someone to come along beside and lift us up again so we can see more than the tops of our shoes. We seek a blessing.

For many of us, we go home; we ask mom; we talk to dad, or brothers and sisters, close friends, those we grew up with, those who know us best. We want them alongside; we want to be in their presence. Somehow, we know that being there, being home, will make all things better. Maybe it won’t be fixed, or solved, or wished away, but at least we won’t be alone. We seek a blessing.

Mary, faced with an incomprehensible burden and gift, ran to Cousin Elizabeth’s house, looking for someone who knew a little of what she was going through, looking for a place to hide until the reality of her condition could become something real. And she received a blessing. The prophet Micah spoke of a blessing coming to an unexpected place, an unassuming town. Yet by God’s grace would become the means through which God would bless the whole world. Bethlehem, the little town of blessing. We seek a blessing.

We light the candle of love as a sign that we know blessing and we know waiting for blessing to be felt and lived. We light this candle as a sign that we still seek a blessing. It’s time to go home.

Light the candle of love – VU 29 vs. 1-4

CALL TO WORSHIP – Sun Ai Park, Korea

All the broken hearts shall rejoice;

all those who are heavy laden,

whose eyes are tired and do not see,

shall be lifted up to meet with the motherly healer.

The battered souls and bodies shall be healed;

the hungry shall be fed;

the imprisoned shall be free;

all her earthly children shall regain joy in the reign of the just and loving one

coming for you, coming for me,

in this time, in this world.

CHILDREN’S SONG   WOV 627   My Lord, What A Morning!


O come, O come, Emmanuel, to the empty-handed and the heavy-hearted, to the despairing and the despised.  Enter this world, giving love to the lowly and hope to the downcast.  Dwell among us, and teach us your ways, saving the lost and strengthening the weak.  Be made incarnate within us, that we might cast away fear and live boldly by faith.  With gratitude that you come to be with us, we worship joyfully this day.  Amen.



We are not alone; we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:  who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:  to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.  We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.


     I have here the December menu for the Morris & Area Senior Services Congregate Meal program.  This menu has two functions.  The first is to let everyone know what meals are being served on what day.  The second function is to help the cook prepare for each meal.  If one knows ahead of time what one is serving, then one can make certain the ingredients are in the kitchen.  It is a daily “to do” list.  You know what a “to do” list is – that long list of chores your parents want you to get finished before bedtime!  Good luck with that!

     Believe it or not, Jesus has a “to do” list!  In our gospel reading for today, Jesus isn’t even born, and he has a “to do” list because he is the Messiah, the anointed one of God.  Here is Jesus’ list:

            Rule in Israel

            Feed the people with food and faith

            Teach people to live peacefully

            Make people holy

            Protect the people

            Scatter the proud in their thoughts

            Hold the rich accountable

            Raise up the poor

            Help the people to be faithful to God.

I’m thinking that Jesus will not get this list finished by bedtime!    

     What is important about Jesus’ “to do” list is that these tasks all get done during his life, just not the way we expect them to get done.  Today, Jesus uses us, God’s people, to help teach the faith, feed people, teach others to live peacefully…you get the idea.  When the Spirit of Jesus is in us, and everyone works together for God, good things happen faster!  Perhaps that is part of the reason Mary is so happy.  The Messiah is to make God’s world a better place.  With God’s help, and our hands, it can be.



     Accumulating debt. Rising tuition. Pressure to succeed academically. Uncertainty about the labour market after graduation. These are just some of the reasons that, in a 2016 survey of post-secondary students in Ontario, 65 percent reported feeling exhausting anxiety and 46 percent reported feeling too depressed to fully function. And that was before COVID-19 forced students into lockdown.

     Your generosity through Mission & Service supports students across the country through critical campus ministries, including the Rev. Tim Nethercott’s.

     Nethercott is the United Church’s campus minister at Mount Royal University, the University of Calgary, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. “We know that community is essential to mental health. There is a mental health crisis among young adults, partly because they aren’t coming from community. Many are lonely. They don’t realize that you need to find yourself with others, love and be loved in community in order to have mental health. Campus ministry supports mental health by building communities of belonging.”

     The model of campus ministry Nethercott leads is unique. With grant support, he has hired and trained a team of six young adults to offer ministry as part of a ministry team. The peer-to-peer model means the ministry is always fresh and relatable. Together, Nethercott and his staff team host events that have drawing power, offer a free meal, and encourage participants to attend sharing circles to help build community, which in turn supports mental health. One of these events has been a wildly successful drumming program. Each year the drumming program was a focus, 2,500 people participated.

     “Campus ministry serves the population that is least present in our churches. We don’t see a lot of people in their 20s, but that’s the age when people set the pattern for their adult life. If the church isn’t there saying ‘Consider membership in a spiritual community,’ it might never occur to them,” he says, adding that it doesn’t cost much to have a big impact. “It’s just salaries and food. The buildings, computers, etc. are paid for by the institution and government. It’s not a great expense for a huge public witness of caring. Also, the United Church has a brand that means something in academia. It often opens doors to support students even more.”

     Exam pressure means December is a particularly stressful time for students. Let’s hold them and the campus ministers who support them in prayer. Let us pray together:  Compassionate God, grant students energy, wisdom, and clarity of mind as they write their exams. May they know your calm presence during anxious, overwhelming moments. Lead them toward balance and wellness so they can be at their best. Rest your grace upon all campus ministers, too. May they feel the gratitude of the whole of the church so they know their ministry is valued and feel supported in offering it. Energize them as they continue to make a profound difference in the lives they serve. In Christ’s way and name we pray, amen.


Holy God, help us to give voice to the wonderful news:  you, yourself are coming to dwell among us!  Quicken our imaginations to find new and creative ways to proclaim Christ’s coming.  Amen.


Readings and Psalm

First Reading: Micah 5:2-5a

The prophet Micah, having pronounced judgment upon Judah, speaks of a future shepherd-king who, like David, will come from the small town of Bethlehem. (Ephrathah refers to the area around Bethlehem.) This king will restore Israel and bring peace. New Testament writers understood this passage to be referring to Jesus.

2But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
  who are one of the little clans of Judah,
 from you shall come forth for me
  one who is to rule in Israel,
 whose origin is from of old,
  from ancient days.
3Therefore he shall give them up until the time
  when she who is in labor has brought forth;
 then the rest of his kindred shall return
  to the people of Israel.
4And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
  in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
 And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
  to the ends of the earth;
5aand he shall be the one of peace.

Psalm 80:1-7

R:  Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved. (Ps. 80:7)

1Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;
  shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
2In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
  stir up your strength and come to help us. R
3Restore us, O God; let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved.
4O Lord God of hosts, how long will your anger fume when your people pray?
5You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
6You have made us the derision of our neighbors, and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved. R

Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10

The author of Hebrews uses the image of religious sacrifice to convey the significance of Christ’s coming. Through obedient acceptance of God’s will, Christ allows his own body to become the greatest sacrifice of all, one through which we are made a holy people.

5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
7Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
8When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Gospel: Luke 1:39-55

Elizabeth, John’s mother, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, are two women filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. In Elizabeth’s inspired greeting and Mary’s song of praise we hear of a saving God who remembers, scatters, lifts up, and fulfills all things.

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

 Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

SONG  VU 341   Fairest Lord Jesus


In spite of Covid, the winter cold, summer heat and rain, these folks remain faithful.  They come, not just to receive something to eat, they come because every week there is a devotion in their bag of food, written by Pastor Barry.  Pastor Barry tells it like it is.  Pastor Barry reminds the people they are loved, embraced by God, forgiven by Christ, a community empowered by the Holy Spirit.

These dedicated souls come from various walks of life.  They are the poor, disenfranchised, addicted; some are ill in body, others live with hidden scars, struggling with mental health issues.  Others are living well enough and come for the sense of community and connection. 

I would venture to say that a large number have experienced being shamed, labeled, judged, disregarded.  And yet, they are still standing, still happy to see their friends, receive a meal and a devotion, a kind word, a prayer if requested.  They are the Mary’s of this world.  Strong in their faith, remarkable in their fortitude, looking out for each other with their presence, with prayer, acts of kindness, the love of Christ.  These are the ones who have experienced blessing and strive to be a blessing in return. No, these folks are not perfect.  They are loved, embraced by God, forgiven by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I have spent the better part of a week reading commentaries on this text from Luke.  Some see Mary as a child, 12 – 14 years of age, timid, obedient, scared.  Other commentators focus on Mary’s lack of status in her society, her poverty, her innocence, her oppression.  Still others kicked those interpretations to the curb claiming Mary was strong, inquisitive, faithful; she had a backbone and grit.  It was because of these qualities, strengths that would carry her through society’s disapproval with her head held up, that God chose her.

My head hurt.

I put the commentaries aside and brought to the fore my theatre skills.  If I was playing the role of Mary, and as I read the text, what stood out to me as to her character?  What is her backstory?  Her social milieu? What was in her awareness?  Now I was getting somewhere!

If I am a young Jewish woman raised by dedicated Jewish parents, I have been raised to accept and obey the laws of Moses.  I have been trained by my mother to be a good wife one day, manage the home, respect and defer to my husband.  I would observe my parents’ relationship.  Thoughts of being poor, oppressed, having no status would not enter into my head.  I would be the best daughter I could be, faithful to Yahweh, hoping my father chose a good husband for me and that God would bless me with many children, especially sons.  For most of my childhood and youth, other than my father choosing my husband, girls of my generation were guided down a similar path as Mary.  With the privilege of a formal education came the realization that I did not need a husband, that I could choose what I wanted to do with my life; that I had a whole lot of options for my future.  Mary did not.  So, her focus would have been learning from her mother, trusting her father and having faith in Yahweh.

I do concur that Mary had grit.  What God expected of her was not for the faint of heart!  Her visit to Elizabeth confirms Mary’s inner strength.  God has blessed Elizabeth with a pregnancy, a son, no less!  As Gabriel said, nothing is impossible for God!  Suddenly, Mary knows that she will get through this experience.  We know this because she bursts into song of revolutionary proportions!  The Holy Spirit fills Mary with the knowledge that these radical acts of change by God have already begun, and will be fulfilled through Mary with her birthing of the Messiah. 

My theatre skills have taught me that people are people, no matter their country of origin, colour of their skin, faith tradition, gender or orientation.  People have been known to endure incredibly harsh, even brutal, circumstances and emerge stronger with greater compassion and wisdom.  People surprise us!  The human will to survive is often underestimated. 

In ancient Jewish tradition, the father taught a son the commandments, introduced the Torah, taught the son skills for future employment, while the mother taught her son how to be Jewish.  Devotion, the living out of one’s faith, strength of character, that is what a son discerned from his mother.  In Mary, the human will bowed to divine will and was rewarded.  In Jesus, human will and divine will combined to create a dynamic human being who was also the son of God.  While she may not have been mentioned often in Jesus’ adult years, there are enough references to indicate that Mary, a woman of faith and grit, followed her son’s ministry until his last breath.  How long she lived after Jesus’ ascension we do not know.  One hopes that she lived long enough to see the Spirit inspire the disciples and others to create The Way that promoted a radical new path to live Christ’s love in the world, Mary’s song given human expression.

It is easy for us, on the outside looking backwards and in, to make assumptions about Mary’s character, feelings, inner strength.  My hunch is that we would be way off on most points.  We don’t have enough personal facts or accounts of what she experienced on a daily basis to make any statements and certainly not any judgments.  What we do know is that she showed herself to be a faithful servant of God, a woman of strength and devoted to her son.

This is a lesson for all of us when we look at our neighbour in Christ.  Those faithful people in the food line, like Mary, can surprise us.  We can make assumptions, yet the Spirit of Christ will remind us that we cannot dismiss a single child of God, because with God, who is full of surprises, all things are possible.


HYMN OF THE MONTH:  VU 25   Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending


This prayer draws upon and references imagery from Maya Angelou’s poem “Amazing Peace”.

O God of great promise and mystery, we thank you for continuing to walk compassionately beside us as we await the birth of the Christ child, and we thank you for receiving our prayers along the long, and sometimes lonely journey. We admit, God, that we sometimes question you. We wonder if the covenant you made with us—the same covenant you made with our ancestor David—still holds true. God of faithfulness, we thank you for strengthening us, providing us with fearlessness to approach the season of Advent with great hope, hope amidst chaos and pain.

God of promise,

We give you thanks.  

Into a climate of fear and apprehension, you, God, draw the anticipation of Christmas near, streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope and singing carols of forgiveness. In our joy, you whisper us strength. Your whispers grow louder, quietly shouting hope and peace, spreading and flowing from one to the other, just as waves circle from endings back to new beginnings.

God of promise,

We give you thanks.

And so, God, we pray for your world… for places where violence is all encompassing, for those who struggle for liberation and justice, and for those who are sustaining regimes of violence.  We pray for the earth and all of your creatures, God, we pray for those of us struggling with economic despair.  We pray for this country, God, for our leaders and those making decisions on our behalf, for educators and community builders, for those who speak truth. Grant them strength and courage to follow your call.

God of promise,

We give you thanks.

We pray for all those in our lives…siblings, teachers, coaches, parents, best friends, not-so-best friends, classmates, rivals, bosses, those whose faces we meet across screens, and those we quickly pass by on the street. Everyone has a story.  Everyone has pain.  Grant us grace to remember this.  We pray for our family, friends and community members who are in need of your healing touch:  Tracy Skoglund, Dwayne, Kathryn Schmidt, Brooke Alexiuk, Mike Froese.

God of promise,

We give you thanks.

We gather all of our prayers, those spoken aloud and those too deep for words, and offer them to you in peace and in hope, remembering that you are always as close to us as the breath that we breathe.


SENDING SONG  WOV 730   My Soul Proclaims Your Greatness


Return now to our world with its pain and wonder, remembering the words of the prophets, the faithfulness of Mary, and the longing of all who yearn for a sign of hope.

And may the blessing of God who is ever faithful, the blessing of Christ who still comes to us, + and the blessing of the Holy Spirit who moves within us and throughout our world, rest upon us and abide with us, this day and forevermore.  Amen.


Go in peace. Christ is near.

Thanks be to God.

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