Dunsford United Church Worship Service – December 20, 2020

Welcome to our community of faith family.

Mission Statement: We are a diverse, intentional, inclusive, compassionate, hope-filled Christian family of faith, seeking to respect everyone’s individuality and dignity as Jesus modelled, creating safe space, to demonstrate the spirit of God’s love through worship, work, growth, and respect for all creation. We celebrate and value people of every age, health, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, family configuration, background, ability, interest, culture, economic circumstance and faith journey. All are encouraged to be in full participation in the life and work of all ministries. We endeavor to be aware of, and responsive to, the needs in our community and beyond.       

* GATHERING MUSIC: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” VU #60 (verse 1) (Words: Frederick Oakeley) Brenda

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem:

Come and behold him, born the King of angels; O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Surely God is in this place. Help me notice. My name is Sharon Ballantyne and I am the minister at Dunsford United Church. We are an affirming ministry of the United Church of Canada. Wherever you are, whoever you are, there is room for all. We warmly welcome everyone and thank-you for joining us wherever you are for this service of worship on December 20, 2020,  this fourth Sunday of Advent, known as the Sunday of love.

In this Advent season it is our custom to light a new candle for each week of Advent, three purple candles and one pink, each week lighting the previous week’s candle and each new week’s candle. We watch as our lights of hope, peace, joy and love draw us ever closer to Christmas Eve as we then add our Christ candle inviting celebration of Christ’s birth, Emmanuel, Christ with us. If you have five candles you can light over the season, you are encouraged to do so. If you have one candle or light source, that is great too! Whether you have physical candles or not, let Christ’s love light shine in you.

I invite Brenda to play some quiet music as Cliff lights four candles.

We light this candle of hope to remind us to experience hope this week as we seek hope in our lives, in our neighbourhoods and in our world. We light this candle of peace to remind us to experience peace this week as we seek peace in our lives, in our neighbourhoods and in our world. We light this candle of joy to remind us to experience joy this week as we seek joy in our lives, in our neighbourhoods and in our world. Today’s fourth candle is our final purple candle, the candle of love. We invite love in our own life, love in our church, love in our family, workplace, neighbourhoods and through all creation.

Let love be reborn anew this Advent season. Shine love on us today loving God.

I invite Brenda to share “A Candle Is Burning” VU #6 (Words: Sandra Dean)

A candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,

a candle of hope in December’s dark night.

While angels sing blessings from heaven’s starry sky,

our hearts we prepare now for Jesus is nigh.

A candle is burning, a candle of peace, a candle to signal that conflict must cease:

for Jesus is coming to show us the way; a message of peace humbly laid in the hay.

A candle is burning, a candle of joy, a candle to welcome brave Mary’s new boy.

Our hearts fill with wonder, and eyes light and glow

as joy brightens winter like sunshine on snow.

A candle is burning, a candle of love, a candle to point us to heaven above.

A baby for Christmas, a wonderful birth, for Jesus is bringing God’s love to our earth.

We honour Messiah with Christ-candle’s flame,

our Christmas Eve candles glad tidings proclaim.

O come, all you faithful, rejoice in this night,

as God comes among us, the Christian’s true light.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE LANDS: 

We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishnabeg/Mississauga peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty, was signed, on the lands where we are and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect, reconciliation and right relations.

CALL TO WORSHIP:

We gather, anticipating the miracle of God’s love born in Bethlehem.

Our journey, following this light is familiar yet new, and life changing.

God’s light and love brings comfort and strength.

We come, like Mary, responding in faith and love.

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Mary Did You Know?” Solo by Brenda

OPENING PRAYER/ASSURANCE/WORDS OF HOPE:

I invite Brenda to keep playing as we open ourselves to prayer. Be comfortable where you are, perhaps closing your eyes and opening your hands in a posture of receiving, or sitting in some way that helps you connect with the divine. Feel the comfort and presence of love and light — in you, surrounding you, through you.

As we take a deep breath in, we welcome that light and love.

As we release our breath, we let go of all that pulls us away from God.

Let’s breathe it in together and let it out into silence.

A time of silence …

Welcoming God we need the peace, hope, love and joy that this season represents. We need to listen again with wonder at the magnificent words of Mary as she proclaims her faithful participation in God’s most miraculous gift. Open our hearts this day, Lord, to receive the words and the blessings, and to have courage like Mary to share our faith and love. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN

FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART:

In a lot of the songs of Christmas we hear the word rejoice, the angels rejoice as the news of Jesus’ birth is shared to the shepherds. It is a feeling of great joy. A warm feeling in your heart. It is a feeling that makes you smile. We think of things that make us feel so happy. Take a few minutes and hold in your heart or share with someone you are with. What are some favourite things that make you feel happy and your heart is filled with love.

Something I have always loved is all the lights of Christmas. They are twinkly, bright, and usually bring a smile. Some of our lights are silly and fun, like my necklace. Even though I cannot see them anymore, I can imagine them in my mind. Some of us might be feeling sad because we won’t be visiting some people this holiday. Maybe you can find fun ways to connect on-line, sending cards or pictures, phone calls, looking at photos from other holidays or like me with my lights. Imagine them and remember them in your mind.

Dear God,

There are so many special things that make us happy and feel like rejoicing. We might want to sing and dance and laugh and play. That joy just makes us want to smile. Thank-you for all of our favourite things and special people. Help us find ways to connect even if we cannot visit together this year. Thank-you for our imaginations and memories. Thank-you that you always love us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Today’s scripture reading comes from the gospel of Luke chapter 1. In this passage, the angel Gabriel has appeared to Mary, a young teenager in Nazareth.  We hear part of Gabriel’s message to Mary letting her know she is going to have God’s son Jesus. I am reading from verses 35 to 37 in the New Revised Standard Version 

1:35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

1:36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

I am also reading part of Mary’s response, which is called the Magnificat. We can imagine Mary has just been visited by the angel Gabriel and heard this news. I am reading verses 46b to 49.

1:46b “My soul magnifies the Lord,

1:47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

1:48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

1:49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “I Am the Light of the World” VU #87 (Words: Jim Strathdee)

Solo by Brenda

R:  ‘I am the light of the world! You people come and follow me!’

      If you follow and love you’ll learn the mystery of what you were meant to do and be.

When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and the shepherds have found their way home,

the work of Christmas is begun:  R

To find the lost and lonely one, to heal the broken soul with love,

to feed the hungry children with warmth and good food,

to feel the earth below, the sky above!  R

To free the prisoner from all chains, to make the powerful care,

to rebuild the nations with strength of good will, to see God’s children everywhere! R

To bring hope to every task you do, to dance at a baby’s new birth,

to make music in an old person’s heart and sing to the colours of the earth!  R

MESSAGE:  Rev. Dr. Sharon Ballantyne

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts and meditations of all of our hearts bring praise to you O God, Help us rejoice and follow your light and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

REJOICE!

The prophet Isaiah tells us that a young woman shall have a son and shall call Him Jesus, Emmanuel–God with us.


God is no longer a distant God but is in the here and now. Now is the time for rejoicing. Now is the time for light and love to be experienced!


As Joseph trusted in the message of God’s angel, so we can trust in God’s message of redemption and love.

Rejoice! God is lavishing us with God’s love and peace.
Come, see the lights. Let their brightness fill you.

Come experience God’s love, let it fill your heart.


Come, feel the warmth of the lights. Let them give you comfort

Come, feel the warmth of God’s love, let it give you peace. .

Come, draw near to the lights, for God is breaking through to you.

Come draw near to God’s love, for God freely gives it to each one of us and all creation.

Recall when you have most recently felt embraced in love, where you have been filled with a sense of gratitude and thanks. Even with chaos and storms all around in the moment, you know you are okay. As we worship together recall whatever you noticed and felt in those moments of sacred love. Breathe deep and recapture its essence as love is poured out on us.

Come, rejoice in the lights and in God’s love. God is with us!


The light of God’s love shines upon each of us in the gift of God’s love, Jesus Christ. This is given for you. Rejoice! You are loved by God, now and forever.

Our Advent story is one of transformation.

A new world birthed out of chaos and confusion.

A new way arising out of compassion and justice.

We dwell in liminal space. We wait on the edge. We hear the words of Gabriel telling Mary she is to have a son and we imagine her surprise, her shock at this unexpected news. Mary responds in faith. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid and Mary’s heart is so filled with love for God that she rejoices. In verse 46, she says her soul magnifies the Lord. She feels so much love from God receiving God’s love and she feels so much love for God giving and sharing that love. Many artists have shown her with images of light.  Mary has complete faith and trust in God. In verse 47, she says “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary knows there is nothing more important than her love for God. She understands “holy is his name.”

She will leave her family and travel a long distance with Joseph, even though she is ready to have her baby, and probably not very comfortable. Joseph and Mary have no idea where they will stay but they keep trusting God. There will be no family around her and Joseph as baby Jesus is born.

In this pandemic, our sense of uncertainty and life being so different right now, the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey, in the uncertainty, like a wilderness desert may resonate in new ways. Amid the storms there is great appreciation for little things that are so big. So many of us have had COVID scares, while others have lived with its reality in themselves or loved ones. Feeling healthy and well should never be taken for granted but for most of us, I think it has been our habit to assume. Perhaps 2020 is our wake-up call to not take things for granted. We empathize with those waiting for test results, whether good news possibilities like a desired pregnancy or prayers that tests will show a growth is not cancerous or has been contained. We yearn for health. We are excited about possibilities of rapid tests for COVID that would allow us to know more quickly our situation and we anticipate vaccines that will allow our world to function without over-arching green, yellow, orange, red or gray zones. We want healthy and healing perspective.

We know all the basics of the familiar story, many of us reciting it since childhood, while it is new to others. The star over Bethlehem shines bright. The angels come. The shepherds come. Animals are there and later the wise ones will come with gifts, all to behold this baby laying in a manger.

Hear this love story as it is revealed in your heart this year. Amid all our own fears, frustrations, brokenness and pain, our impatience, and struggles. This unimaginable love, this all-encompassing love that can shine even through the ravages of pandemic and every matter of tragedy still shines. Feel its embrace. Lean into its grace. Hold tight to it and believe with the awe and wonder of a child.

I have been blessed to hear so many stories of different family traditions this season. Perhaps we’ve been taking time to reminisce more. Whatever gets us to Christmas we will embrace the baby Jesus with our hearts filled with sentiments of “welcome baby Jesus, we’ve been waiting for you. We are glad you are here.”

With waiting there is worry and wonder often both taking place in our hearts.

This could not have been what Mary and Joseph thought would happen, not where they thought the baby would be born …not in a stable but they were safe, dry and warm enough. They used what they had. Over COVID we have found ourselves more resourceful. We might have used the opportunity to use up food in our house, so we did not have to shop as much. We might have made porch drops or had deliveries come to our house. We might have helped some neighbours we did not connect with before the pandemic. We have done work and school differently. We have shopped differently, learned to be at home more and not been able to do all the things we wanted. We have had to wear masks, keep distance, not visit people but we have all tried our best to be safe and well.

Even though our Christmas is so different, it is sacred, and we rejoice at the light of God and the love of God.

Find moments to laugh and reminisce! Some families hide baby Jesus until Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. The symbolic act of placing the baby Jesus into the manger reminds us we truly have found Jesus! Now one family shared that they could not recall where they put the figure of Jesus and at the appointed time, Jesus was nowhere to be found! I am sure there must have been stress and frustration, perhaps even tears, but also laughter! Months later the figure was found! Even I know where the figure in that house is in safe keeping this season and I will likely text the family a wee reminder! We all know Jesus is not lost to us and is in the centre of all love, forever in our hearts! 

Sometimes all is calm, all is bright.

Sometimes it … is …not.

In the Now of this Time, we will try our best and do our best. We will be our best as we prepare for Christmas and in a few days celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Now is the time. Rejoice! Praise be to God and Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Eternal God, You watched in stillness,
   until you spoke in dreams,
   sang through angels,
   and cried a newborn’s lusty wails.

You were born for us.

You met us in our darkness, in our loneliness, when we were bullied and afraid. 
in places where people feel vulnerable, on the outside and in the margins;
   but You offer words of justice, hope and possibilities.

You birth in us ways to seek and follow your love and light
      with songs for hope for the grieving.
 You come, like the cold wind of winter,
or a warm breeze in the spring,
   to feed hungry souls
      with the bread of heaven;
   to share peace with those
      filled with bitterness and fear.

We pray for all who are hurting and in need of love.

We pray for all those sick from the pandemic, for families who have had loved ones die, for all the workers who do so much to help keep us safe and well, who care for others, who make sure we have what we need.

We pray for all leaders and for peace in our hearts and in our world.

Receive our concerns and our joys …


You came in love to us, for us, to be with us, to teach us and to love us.

We pray together:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever! Amen.

WE ARE SENT OUT IN FAITH TO SERVE

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Angels, from the Realms of Glory” VU #36 (Words: James Montgomery) Solo by Brenda

Angels, from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth;

Ye who sang creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

R: Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King.

Shepherds in the field abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night,

God with us is now residing, yonder shines the infant Light:  R

Sages, leave your contemplations; brighter visions beam afar;

seek the great desire of nations; ye have seen his natal star:  R

Saints before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear,

suddenly the Lord, descending, in his temple shall appear:  R

COMMISSIONING AND BLESSING:

Go now in peace. In the light of Christ, we go to proclaim God’s joy, sharing the carols of the season, the message of love and to be open to allow God’s light to shine through.

Rejoice and share God’s light and love now and always.

Stay safe and stay well. Amen.

* CHORAL RESPONSE:

With thanks to Brenda, please enjoy this music video called “Love Came Down”.

POSTLUDE

References

Opening Prayer, adapted, Nancy C Townley, From Darkness to Light

Service Prayers for the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2017 from ministry Matters: Worship Connections United Methodists USA

Prayers of the People, adapted from Thom M. Shuman.  Prayer of the day Advent 4 2016. Lectionary Liturgies.

Rejoice, adapted, Nancy C Townley, From Candle Lighting Rejoice

Service Prayers for the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2016 from ministry Matters: Worship Connections United Methodists USA

Advent Now Is the Time Small Group for some message content, Adapted. Janice MacLeod.

Now Is the Time Breath reflection is adapted from: A Prayer Bench Small Group Study | Advent 2020 www.prayerbench.ca | Janice MacLean | Janice@prayerbench.ca, used with permission.

Reflection Questions:

1. What word, phrase or verse speaks to you in the gospel passage?

2. How can Mary’s response help you through this season?

3. What makes you rejoice?

4. What is most stressful for you this Advent? How are you inviting God’s presence into these challenges?

5. How does light and love speak to you?

6. What Christmas carol comes to mind that speaks to you of God’s love that is heart-warming and helps you find a deeper sense of the sacred?

Continue to hold the life and work of Dunsford United in your prayers and in your commitments of action and support.

A Few Announcements:

Sharon’s final day as Dunsford United Church’s Minister is December 31, 2020.

A reminder to watch email for the YouTube link to the worship services, to be sent out when available each week, for your anytime virtual participation.

Christmas Eve in-person service will be an outdoor service. Join us at the manger as we gather at the stable beside the church building. Our outdoor service will take place at 4:00 P.M. This is dependent on weather and public health protocols. Watch for updates. A separate Christmas Eve service will be recorded from the sanctuary for anytime viewing on YouTube.

Please remember in your prayersthose dealing with physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual difficulties, their care providers, those at home, in nursing homes and in hospital who are facing illness, bereavement and other life challenges.

Please let us know if someone is ill, in hospital or going through a challenging time.

PAR is a direct debit program through an automatic monthly withdrawal from your bank account. It is a convenient way to provide consistent, year-round financial support to our church. Completed forms may be sealed in an envelope, attention: Kathy

If you are already on PAR (pre-authorized remittance), THANK YOU! We encourage you to continue to make your financial offerings to the church. Offerings can be made by cheque, attention Kathy.  Please do what you can to continue to support our ongoing mission and ministry together. 

Please bring all personal belongings such as coats, sweaters, hats, umbrellas, boots or other outerwear to your pew. The pew in front of you and behind you will be empty, so you can place outerwear if you would like. We are entering at the narthex but exiting at the front of the sanctuary).

Cliff and I wish to thank-you for four and a half years of prayers, support and encouragement in the time we have shared together. May God guide and direct your paths, as you discern the next steps in calling or appointing your next minister. God has not brought us this far to leave us, not yesterday, today or in all of our tomorrows.

Love, Prayers and tail wags,

Stay safe and stay well!

Sabbath Blessings, Sharon

DUNSFORD UNITED CHURCH

Church Office Hours: Wed. 9-5 and by appointment 705-793-2511 dunsfordunitedchurch@bellnet.ca   www.dunsfordunitedchurch.com

Minister: Rev. Dr. Sharon Ballantyne 705-875-8837    

Email: sharon.ballantyne@gmail.com

Music Director: Brenda

Envelope Steward: Kathy

http://dunsfordunitedchurch.com   Visit our website. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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