Worship Service for January 7, 2024

January 7, 2024 – First Sunday after the Epiphany

A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, January 7, 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, January 7.

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: Arise, shine: for your light has come!
All: The glory of the Lord has risen upon us.

One: Lift up your eyes and look around!
All: We shall see and be radiant; our hearts shall rejoice.

One: For the Lord will be our everlasting light and our glory!
All: And so we worship God in humble expectation.

Opening Hymn

We three kings” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 173). Words and music (both 1857; tune: “Kings of Orient”) by American clergyman and hymnwriter John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1820–1891). Words and music public domain.

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

God of light and life,
we praise you for the amazing depth of your creation and the mysteries of the galaxies. We praise you for the wonders of the earth around us and for the Word made flesh in the child born in Bethlehem. Open our hearts and minds in this time of worship. Just as you led the magi by the star, lead us by your Spirit beyond the limits of this world’s expectations, to the life where you make all things new through Christ, our Morning Star.

God of mercy and loving-kindness,
you sent Christ among us to be the light of the world and reveal your love to all people. Yet our sins hide the brightness of your light that should shine through us. Forgive us for wasting our gifts, ignoring cries for justice, and harming the earth you love. In your mercy, cleanse us and make us new.

We pray in Jesus’ name, and continue to pray as he taught:

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

Be assured of God’s love and forgiveness that shine for us in Christ Jesus. As a new year unfolds, make a new beginning with God and with one another. May the peace of Christ be with you all. 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

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

Scripture Reading

Luke 2:22–40  <– 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 2:22–40

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word, 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.


Christmas is a profoundly sacred season for us; it invites us to come to Bethlehem and celebrate the birth of Christ. Yet, we cannot stay in Bethlehem forever, we need to go back to Galilee. While it is important to celebrate the birth of Christ, even more crucial is our commitment to nurture the baby Christ within us. The story we read today from the Gospel of Luke describes what follows the birth of Jesus. It teaches us what it means to go beyond Christmas.

Verse 22 and 23,
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

After spending 40 days of purification in Bethlehem, meaning after spending 40 days of rest, healing, and prayer in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph take their infant son, Jesus, to the temple in Jerusalem. The first place they take their infant child is not their home, their parents’ house, or to their relatives in Galilee, but rather to the temple, the house of prayer in Jerusalem. Perhaps they go to the house of prayer to express their thanksgiving for the safe delivery of both the mother and the child. Maybe they are excited to be parents, or perhaps they visit the house of prayer because they feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood. Whatever their reasons were, whatever they experienced during the last forty days, they choose to go to the house of prayer first, just like we have our own reasons to be here today.

Mary and Joseph offer a sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, which is the offering of the poor, while wealthy or middle-class parents would present a year-old lamb. This story invites us to remember another story from the gospel of Luke, the story of the widow who offers two small copper coins at the temple. Luke 21:1–4, “21 He (Jesus) looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them, 4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

It was by no coincidence that Jesus saw the poor widow who gave two copper coins out of her poverty. In the same spirit as Jesus acknowledged and blessed the poor widow who, at the temple, put in two small copper coins, two devout strangers who loved God — Simeon and Anna — acknowledge and bless Mary and Joseph who offer two young pigeons, a humble gift from the poor, for their child Jesus. It warms my heart, yet it also brings a touch of sadness too.

It warms my heart thinking about how Mary and Joseph are acknowledged, welcomed, and blessed by Simeon and Anna. It evokes a touch of sadness, because we cannot help but to ask where is a priest?  None of the priests, elders, Pharisees, scribes, or those who serve God and the temple with zeal and title are the ones welcoming and blessing Jesus and his parents in the house of prayer, but two unknown strangers, Simeon and Anna recognize and welcome Jesus and his parents in the house of prayer.

The gospel of Luke is very intentional about paying attention to the many strangers whom the society tend to forget and ignore: Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, Mary, the mother of Jesus, the shepherds on the field, the widow who offers two copper coins, the widow in a town called Nain, a sinful woman who wipes the feet of Jesus with her tears and perfume, a sick woman, a demon possessed man, the good Samaritan and so on. The gospel of Luke continues to invite us to recognize these strangers the society has ignored. According to the gospel of Luke, it is when we recognize these strangers, we begin to recognize the presence of Christ.

And today the gospel of Luke introduces two other unrecognized strangers: Simeon and Anna, to us. We don’t know a lot about Simeon and Anna. The gospel of Luke describes Simeon as someone who was righteous/just and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel; Anna as a prophet and as a widow to the age of eighty-four who has left the temple but has worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.

They are two elderly individuals approaching the conclusion of their life’s journey, having borne witness to the oppression and persecution endured by their people year after year. While many claimed that God had forsaken and punished them, Simeon and Anna never wavered in their faith. Instead, they persevered in their dreams and patiently awaited God. Even when people questioned them, saying, ‘Why waste time in prayer?’, they never stopped praying.

Despite all the disappointments, failures, and challenges they witnessed, they never lost their trust in God and found the courage to persist in waiting and dreaming. It is the kind of faith that asserts, ‘Even if I fail today, God will succeed.

View Rembrandt’s “Simeon in the temple”.


“Open my eyes, that I may see” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 500). Words and music (tune: “Open my eyes”) completed in 1895 by American composer and hymn-writer Clara H. Scott (1841–1897); both 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 majesty and mystery, we bring our gifts to you, grateful that you are always with us. We do not know what the year ahead will hold, but your love shines like a star to guide us. Bless these gifts that they may keep the light of Christ shining through the church to embrace the world you love. Amen.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Hope

God of all time and space,
as we gather in prayer, we recognize that our lives are but small details in the vast expanse of your universe; so we thank you for attending to the details of our lives. We thank you for the year just past, for walking through hard days and uncertainties with us, and for the gifts of encouragement and friendship that cheered us. Thank you for accomplishments in ministry and mission, for generosity offered to those in need, and for renewed commitment to gather together to celebrate your presence with us.

As your Spirit guides us into the future, Our hearts kneel before you, O God; Receive our humble prayers.

The year just ending has held so many sorrows and challenges. We remember dear ones who have died and pray for those who look ahead in loneliness or sadness….

We pray for those who have faced challenges in health, in their families or at work… .

Support each one who needs you close by. Our hearts kneel before you, O God; Receive our humble prayers.

God of light and love,
As we face the year ahead, we are aware of tensions around us. We seek your strength and guidance in each challenge we will face. Draw near to each one who must confront changing circumstances in their personal lives and all who feel overwhelmed by turmoil around the globe.

Guide those for whom new opportunities appear and choices must be made Our hearts kneel before you, O God; Receive our humble prayers.

God of community and commitment,
We pray for wisdom and courage in the year ahead. Strengthen us as a congregation to be a committed witness to your love. Inspire our outreach to our community, and make us effective citizens in these challenging times. Guide leaders in our nation and in nations around the world so that justice and peace may prevail, resources to meet health and hunger needs are shared, and understanding and respect will grow among divided peoples. Amen.

Closing Hymn

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 174). Words (first published 1863) by Irish Anglican clergyman and poet John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811–1875). Music (tune: “Moredun”)by English organist and composer Henry Thomas Smart (1813–1879). Words and music in the public domain.

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.

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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