December 31, 2023 – First Sunday after Christmas Day
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, December 31, 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 31.
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.
Lighting of the Christ Candle
This is the Christ Candle. We light the candle to help us remember that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is with us in every place and every time.
Call to Worship
One: Praise the Lord!
All: Praise the Lord from the heavens!
One: Praise God in the heights and the depths!
All: Praise God, all creatures of earth and sky!
One: Praise God, young and old, together!
All: Let us praise the Lord and worship God’s holy name!
“In the Bleak Midwinter” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 145). Words (1872) by English poet Christina Rossetti (1830–1894). Music (1906; tune “Cranham”) by English composer Gustav Holst (1874–1934). Words and music public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
God of grace and glory,
we praise you from the heights and from the depths; from the courts of power and from the sidewalks of our lives. Your splendour shines from a manger, where the Light of the World was born for us. In fragile flesh, you are revealed to us face to face reaching out to claim our love. And so we gather with those who have glimpsed that love to rejoice that you have claimed us in Christ. We offer you our praise, Creator, Son, and Spirit; Source of life, Glorious light, and Wisdom of the ages.
God of our lives,
we know you are with us through thick and thin, in times of great joy and at moments of disappointment. Yet we can feel let down when the joy of Christmas Day has passed. Our hope gets folded away with the gift wrap, our energy for the future feels a bit tattered. Forgive us when our faithfulness flickers like a candle burning down.
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 of the Gospel: Jesus Christ is our light and our salvation. In him we are made new. Let us give thanks to God, and be at peace with ourselves and with one another. Thanks be to God!
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
Fun with the Young at Heart (children’s story)
Luke 2:1–7 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place in the guest room.
Joan Chittister writes:
“Christmas is a strange season. When you’re a child, it is a season of presents. When you’re young, it’s a season of parties. When you have a home, it’s a season of preparations. But when you get older, Christmas changes color dramatically. Suddenly, out from behind the advertisements and big dinners, through the haze of old carols and soft candles, past the dazzling altars and sumptuous crib scenes, we begin to see what Christmas is really all about. Christmas is about finding life where we do not expect life to be.”
May we pause and listen to the gospel of Luke 2:1–7:
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
I would like to highlight verse 7: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Pause a minute and look at ‘The Nativity’ by the German-American painter Gari Melchers.
Sometimes, we tend to romanticize the stories we read from the Bible, turning them into feel-good Disney movies. Please don’t get me wrong; I love many Disney movies, and I believe there is a place for them. However, the stories in the Bible invite us to go much deeper into our human hearts.
This painting by Gari Melchers serves as a wake-up call, dispelling our illusions and desire for a perfect nativity story. It invites us to discover the light of God in a very unlikely place, urging us to encounter the infant Christ Jesus who continues to illuminate our souls. It invites us to shake off our daydreams and the desire for our lives and the world to be perfect. This artwork challenges us to confront the illusion that if God is with us, everything will be okay and perfect.
It invites us to accept that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The light of God will not be taken away from us, no matter the darkness that surrounds us.
“What Child is This?” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 161). Christmas carol from 1865 with words by English hymnwriter William Chatterton Dix (1837–1898), which was set in 1871 to the traditional English tune “Greensleeves”. Words and 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.
“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
Good and gracious God, your love overflows in the goodness we have met even in challenging times. As one year closes and another begins, help us trust your goodness. Bless these gifts so that they may provide others with the hope we know in Christ Jesus and the love you share with the world through him.
The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of love, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Saviour, we are filled with thanks that he has shared human life, and knows well both our joys and heartaches. We bring our prayers for the world you love, grateful that Jesus walks ahead of us into the year ahead.
We pray for all children for they embody our future. Protect them from danger, strengthen their characters, and give them joy. Help them look to the future with hope and trust.
We pray for the most aged among us, those whom Simeon and Anna bring to mind. Protect them in these days of rising costs and rising tensions, and reassure them of their value to you and to the whole community.
We pray for those whose hearts are filled with pain and fear and for those whose Christmas has been touched with loss or grief. Surround each one with your comforting embrace.
We pray for those who cannot afford enough to eat, and for those who lack adequate shelter here and in desperate corners of the world. We pray for those who fear violence in their daily lives here and in so many regions of conflict. And we pray for those whose are anxious about the year ahead for whatever reason, Grant each one the courage and strength to face the days ahead.
As this year draws to a close, we surrender to you, O God, the challenges it has held for us so that they will not remain as burdens. Remind us of the good things that have offered us encouragement and pleasure. Give us wisdom to navigate whatever the coming year brings.
In the new year, grant our leaders the wisdom and generosity of spirit to collaborate on decisions they face for the wellbeing of society and of the earth itself. Inspire us all with the hope, joy and peace we find through trusting you, Amen.
“Joy to the World” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 153). Words by English minister and hymnwriter Isaac Watts (1674–1748), based on Psalm 98. Music (1848; tune “Antioch”) by American music director and banker Lowell Mason (1792–1872). Harmony by organist Henry Rosevear (1902–1982). Words and music public domain. Harmony copyright © estate of Henry Rosevear.
Changing the Light
Now, it is time to change the light. The light that was in one place can now be in every place and every time going with you wherever you go.
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.
“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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