Worship Service for December 3, 2023

Worship Service for December 3, 2023

A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, December 3, at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. A video recording of the live stream will be available on our YouTube channel from 6:00 PM EST on Sunday, December 3.

Previous livestreams and other worship and musical content is available on our YouTube channel. You can also check out our entire worship services archive. Our SoundCloud channel has yet more music and worship content.

This week we welcome guest accompanist Jennifer Pos.



First Sunday in Advent: HOPE

Voice 1: The prophets call and the psalmist sings to announce that hope comes from God.

Voice 2: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.” (Isaiah 64:1) “We shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

Voice 1: The world cries for justice and transformation. Advent summons us to watch, to wait and to hope. In the destruction of the current order is the promise of a new order beyond our imagination. Signs of hope are all around us if we have the patience to wait and to see them.

Voice 2: Holy are you, source of all new life among us.

All: Jesus Christ comes as the hope of the world.

Voice 2: We join with all creation and lift our hearts in joyful praise.

All: We light this candle to bear witness to hope.

Opening Hymn

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 122). Verses 1, 2, 3, 7. Original Latin text as early as the 12th century. English translation (1851) by English Anglican priest, scholar and hymnwriter John Mason Neale (1818–1866). Music (tune: “Veni Emmanuel”) traceable to the 15th century. This arrangement by Anglo-Canadian organist and composer Healey Willan (1880–1968). Words, translation, music and arrangement public domain.

Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)

Creator God,
You made the heavens and the earth. You set the planets in their courses, lit the sun with fire, caused the stars to shine and the world to turn. Life springs up wherever your breath moves. In Jesus Christ, you brought hope into a world full of fear and despair. You sent your Spirit to enliven our hope and guide us on the way. Now we wait in anxious times for the world to be made new. Move in us and in all your creation to bring forth new life, while we wait with hope in your grace and goodness.

Redeeming God,
We confess that waiting is difficult when the world around us is on edge. We are impatient with each other, waiting for someone to make a difference. We are impatient with you, O God, waiting for a sign that things will improve. Forgive us, O God. Turn our hearts to you again and again, and show us how to act in hope for Jesus’ sake.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.

Declaration of Pardon

Hear the Good News! There is nothing we have done, nothing we will ever do, that can separate us from the love of God made known in Jesus Christ. Take hope in this love, and live as forgiven and forgiving people.

Thanks be to God!

The Peace

One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.

The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)

Bruce Morrison, Clerk of Session

Guildwood Choir Presents

Mary did you know”. Words (1984) by American minister and songwriter Mark Lowry (1958–). Music (1991) by American singer / songwriter Buddy Greene (1953–). This arrangement by American arranger, composer, and organist/pianist Jack Schrader (1942–). Words and music © 1991 and this arrangement © 2000 by Word Music; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.

Fun with the Young at Heart (children’s story)

We sing verse 1 of “Jesus loves me this I know”

Jesus loves me, this I know” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 373). Words (1859 or 1860) by American writer Anna Bartlett Warner (1827–1915). Revisions to v2 and v3 by Canadian Anglican priest David Rutherford McGuire (1929–1971). Music (1862; tune: “Jesus loves me”) by American musician William Batchelder Bradbury (1816–1868). Words, revisions and music in the public domain.

Scripture Reading

Mark 13:24–37 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible

Reading by Bonnie Horton

Click here for additional scripture readings from today’s lectionary. Links courtesy of the Revised Common Lectionary, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Mark 13:24–37

24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

26 “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels and gather the elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight or at cockcrow or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

The scripture reading is followed by:

One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.


William Barclay, a Scottish scholar, who wrote a popular set of Bible commentaries on the New Testament that sold 1.5 million copies, suggests that the passage we have read from the Gospel of Mark today is considered one of the most challenging chapters in the New Testament, if not the entire Bible. This is probably because Chapter 13 talks about destruction, disaster, persecution, and darkness that the people of God will experience in their faith journey.

Verses 24 and 25 summarize the whole chapter 13, 24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

According to Jesus, we, as people of faith and God, will confront this profound and complete darkness. He doesn’t assure us that our faith or belief in God will spare us from facing such darkness. He doesn’t promise that attending church every Sunday will spare us from this darkness. In fact, he reminds us that our faith cannot shield us from facing darkness in our lives.

However, according to Jesus, that’s precisely when God reveals Himself to us. Verses 26 and 27, “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels and gather the elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

In the midst of experiencing this profound and complete darkness, we begin to witness the light of God breaking through. It’s in those moments when we no longer know what to do, when we’re unsure of where to turn, that God chooses to intervene and manifest.

This captures the mystery and paradox of faith. If someone were to ask why? why would God emerge during our darkest times, or why we must grapple with darkness in the first place. I doubt there will ever be a fully satisfying answer to such questions. Whether or not it makes logical sense, however we feel about our own life and situations…. We are loved and accepted completely by God. That truth is not up for negotiation, debate, or argument.

Jesus doesn’t waste time in a debate on why or why not God will come to us; instead, he extends an invitation to accept that God will come, urging us to be prepared for God’s coming. Our responsibility of faith lies in preparing for God’s coming.

According to Jesus, this is what it means to prepare ourselves for God.

Verse 28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.”

Just like Jesus has invited us to “look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26), “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin… (Matthew 6:28).  Here in this chapter, Jesus invites us to look at the fig tree and learn from it.

Instead of surrendering to our fears and endless worries, Jesus invites the people of God to pay attention to the fig tree — what is and perhaps who is alive right front of us, doing everything in her place, in his place to be alive, trying to bear its fruits, fulfilling its purpose given by God.

There is a deeper layer to this lesson. Jesus gives this specific teaching in Jerusalem as he prepares himself for his final journey to Golgotha. Just a couple of days before, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey, welcomed with praise from the crowd. Upon entering the city, he proceeds to the temple courts, but then quickly goes to Bethany. Here is what unfolds in Bethany.

Mark 11:11–14
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

When Jesus invites his disciples to pay attention to the fig tree, I am sure the disciples cannot help but recall what they witnessed and heard from Jesus previously: The cursed fig tree.

Jesus displays profound wisdom here; purposefully employing the image of the cursed fig tree to direct our attention to the aspects of our lives that may feel cursed, abandoned, unproductive, and rejected—and see for ourselves what they are doing.

According to Jesus when we have to courage to open our eyes and embrace the cursed, unaccepted, and weakened parts of our life journey, we will see they are not so cursed and abandoned. They reveal God’s grace to us and to others.

This lesson doesn’t dismiss or overlook the darkness confronting us today; this doesn’t ignore disappointment and pain we endure in our life, but Jesus does invites us to acknowledge that we are still alive here and now. Perhaps we are the fig tree Jesus is referring to, we are the light of the world that will reveal God’s light.

Mark 13:28, “From the fig tree learn its lesson.”


Morning Has Broken” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 814). Words (1931) by English author Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965). Music is a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune, “Bunessan”. Words and music in the public domain.


May we present our gifts to God in response to what we have received from God?

Invitation (Musical Reflection)

We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.

Dedication of our Gifts

Our offering will now be received.

Doxology 306

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 306). Based on the tune “Old 100th” with words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–). Words copyright © 1989 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God all creatures high and low;
praise God in Jesus fully known,
Creator Word and Spirit One.

Prayer of dedication

God of hope, we offer you our gifts, knowing you can do with them more than we can ask or imagine. Bless what we offer as tangible signs of your love at work in a world on edge, and as symbols of the hope we share in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Friend. Amen.

The Sacrament of Communion


The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

Fraction and Distribution


Closing Hymn

“Put Peace into each other’s hands” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 560). Words (1989) by Anglo-Dutch clergyman Fred Kaan (1929–2009). Music (tune: “St. Colomba”) ancient Irish hymn melody. Harmony by English composer and organist Eric Harding Thiman (1900–1975). Words copyright © 1989 Oxford University Press from “Planting Trees and Sowing Seeds”. Music public domain. Harmony copyright © United Reformed Church in the UK / Oxford University Press. Words and harmony used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (the risen Christ), the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you always. AMEN.

Choral Amen

“Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.


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