Worship Service for December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023 – Third Sunday in Advent (Joy)

A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, December 17, 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 17.

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.



Call to Worship for the Third Sunday in Advent: JOY

Voice 1: The prophets call and an apostle writes to announce that joy comes from God.

Voice 2: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me…and has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, …to comfort all who mourn; …to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning…” (Isaiah 61) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4)

Voice 1: Grief, pain and loss are inevitable. But woven into life is the joy of living in a universe that reflects God’s beauty. Advent provides time to nurture joy in our lives and in the world God loves. Advent calls us to share with others the good news that comes into the world with the birth of Christ.

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

All: Jesus Christ comes as joy to the world.

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

All: We light this candle to glow for joy.
(while lighting the candle of joy)

Opening Hymn

“Hope is a Star”. (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 119). Words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–); music (tune “Moon Beams”; 1989) by Joan Collier Fogg (1949–). Words and music © copyright 1989 Hope Publishing Co. Used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.

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

God of Light and Love,
We rejoice in your presence this day, for you look kindly on us, no matter how we came to be here. You bring order from chaos, and call for justice for the vulnerable. You turn weeping into laughter, promising life made new. You redeem all that appears lost, giving each one a path and purpose. And so we come to you in joy, trusting you to bring peace and hope into these uncertain times. Receive our worship this day as we anticipate the difference your gifts will make to us through Christ, your Son and our Saviour.

Generous God,
We confess that our concerns are narrow, focused mostly on our own lives. Opportunities to say thanks or to offer encouragement slip by. Anxiety turns us inward and anger can make us lash out. Forgive us for neglecting the joy at the heart of the Advent season. Turn our hearts back to you, and inspire us with your love made flesh in Jesus Christ.

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

Friends, trust that peace and forgiveness are God’s gift to you this day through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Receive the renewing power of the Holy Spirit and be at peace with God, with yourselves and with each other. 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)

Guildwood Senior Choir Presents

“Where the Stable Light Shines”. Words (2005) by American composer John Parker (1966–). Music (2005) by American composer Joel Raney (1956–). Words and music copyright © 2005 Hope Publishing Company; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.

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

Scripture Reading

Luke 1:46–55  <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible

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

Luke 1:46–55

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name; 50 indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has come to the aid of his child Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

The scripture reading is followed by:

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


Unlike the gospels of Matthew and Mark, the gospel of Luke invites us to focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus. We are invited to listen to her song, prayer, poem, or hymn of praise.

I don’t believe our task is to analyze the text but rather to deepen our listening to the song.

I would like us to pause and listen to another beautiful song, which I believe will deepen our appreciation for Mary’s song.

This beautiful song was written during the darkest moment of the singer’s life. It was written as a tribute to his four-year-old son, Connor, who accidently fell from the 53rd floor window of a New York City apartment building and died on the 20th of March 1991. The song is the sound of grief, expressing both love and sadness, understanding, and guilt. This is what our grief sounds like. I often find myself asking, how can the song of grief sound so beautiful? That is the irony and paradox encapsulate the essence of our human existence.  How can a song born out of pain and darkness bring peace and joy to our human hearts? The beauty of this song is something I can’t help but ponder. Why does the song conceived in pain aid others in finding healing? Perhaps it’s the artist’s courage to lay bare his broken heart and his willingness to pose questions without expecting answers.

We understand that the pain and suffering of losing a loved one are undeniably real, and there’s nothing pleasant about such experiences. Yet, something beautiful can emerge from these painful encounters. The very fact that we grieve when our loved ones are no longer with us is what makes us beautifully human and the children of God.

It’s not only during moments when we claim everything is okay, but also when we find the courage to admit that we are going through a difficult time, that we see the fingerprints of God in our human lives.  Isn’t it true? At times, we encounter the courage, resilience, acceptance, healing, patience, and power of God when we find ourselves with nothing left within.

May we go back to the song of Mary? Mary’s beautiful song of praise is commonly called the Magnificat, from the Latin for ‘magnify.’ This song also emerges from a deeply dark period.’

Rev Judith Jones writes: The blessedness that Mary celebrates stands in stark contrast to our culture’s attitude. By our standards she does not look at all blessed. God has chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah, but in practical terms what does that mean for her?  She is not from a family that can afford expensive food or clothing. She is a nobody, a peasant girl from a small village. Her friends and neighbors see her as a disgrace because she is unmarried and pregnant (see Joseph’s initial reaction to her pregnancy in Matthew 1:19).

Can you imagine what it was like for Mary, a pregnant woman without a husband in ancient Palestine and Israel? She would be despised, ignored, ridiculed, and deemed as unholy. I cannot imagine the voices of condemnation, accusation, and disapproval she had to endure. Some people might not have said anything, yet their looks of condemnation were undeniable. No wonder Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. No wonder Joseph and Mary from Nazareth ended up traveling alone to Bethlehem, giving birth in a stable as if they sought refuge from everyone else.

Yet, despite their circumstances, Mary offers a song of thanksgiving upon hearing that she would give birth to a child.

‘My soul (Psyche-breath, the soul) magnifies (megalunei-to make or declare great) the Lord,
47 and my spirit (pneuma, wind or spirit) rejoices (egaliasen-to exult, to rejoice greatly) in God my Savior (soteri, savior or deliver),
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
Surely from now (nun-now, the present) on all (pasai, all, every) generations (geneai-race, family, generation) will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name;

How do we make sense of the song praising God, expressing Mary’s gratitude and joy?

Because I cannot help but to sense sadness?

Why does the song of joy make me have tears in my heart?

Perhaps it is because not only I recognize sadness but also her wisdom to look at her own life as a gift of God. I sense her worries but also her courage to put her trust in how God will lead her life on forward….

She does not sing ‘I am excited and I am rejoicing, but my soul and my spirit.’

It is not I, but my soul (Psyche) magnifies.

It is not I, but my spirit (pneuma) rejoices….

Mary is telling us the source of her joy and thanksgiving is her spirit and soul where God is breathing his breath into.

This is the kind of joy we humans cannot produce….

The presence of God experience in our life….

It is probably not because Mary understood what was about to happen… but probably because Mary saw God’s plan and intention in her life.

We too have the song, the prayer, the writing, the blessing God has written in the core of our being, in our spirits and souls…. May we also discover the song of praise Mary has discovered that sustain us and guide us even in the lowest and darkest moments of our spiritual journey.


“When we are living”(Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 630). Original Spanish words paraphrase of Romans 14:8. Verse 1 anonymous; verses 2–4 (1983) by Mexican-American hymnwriter Roberto Escamilla (1931–). English translation verse 1 by American Elise S. Eslinger (1942–); verses 2–4 by American George Lockwood (1942–). Music (tune: “Somos del Señor”) Hispanic folk song. English words copyright © 1989 The United Methodist Publishing House; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music 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 justice and joy, we bring our gifts to you in gratitude for your unfailing goodness to us. Bless these gifts and use them to create justice and bring joy into the world in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Hope

Come, Christ Jesus, be our guest, and enter our lives today with your blessing. We are lonely for you and the peace you bring. Draw near to us in friendship and faithfulness so that in this season which combines celebration in the face of uncertainty, we may know your presence…

Come, Christ Jesus, be our guide, and show us the way to wisdom and gratitude. We are thankful for the kindness we know in friends and good neighbours, in warm houses and warm smiles, which hold off the darkness and fears for the future. Encourage us to reach out to those who need your embrace and ours… so that together we may sing of your presence:

Come, Christ Jesus, be our hope and touch us with your healing and grace. We remember before you all those we know and those known to you alone who are living with loss or illness this season, those who face depression or discouragement, and all who will find it hard to be merry this year.

Shine the light of your comfort into their lives… as we sing of the hope that dawns in your love: Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Come, Christ Jesus, be our king, and claim your rightful place in our hearts. Our world is struggling to find the justice and mercy you call for. Draw near to our leaders and all citizens working for peace and justice, and those striving to mediate or contain conflicts. Encourage honourable action and co-operation on all sides. Give hope to people under oppression and to those living with fear or hunger day by day. Hasten the day when the world’s peoples will live as neighbours reconciled in your truth and freedom. Amen.

Closing Hymn

Come, thou long-expected Jesus” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 110). Words (1744) by English minister and hymnwriter Charles Wesley (1707–1788); music (tune “Hyfrydol”; 1844) by Welsh musician Rowland Prichard (1811–1887); harmony by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958). Words, music and harmony in the public domain.


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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