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December 17, 2023: Advent 3 - Opening Up to Mary's Energy!
Rev Dr John Smith
Rev Dr John Smith
Sunday, December 17, 2023
Service and Hymns
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 December 17th, 2023

 3rd Sunday of Advent

 In the Beginning Was Joy”

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Leading us today in Worship:
     Minister: Rev. Dr. John Greg. Smith
     Music Director: Dr. Christopher Burton
     Guest Musician: Kerri McGonigle
     Scripture Reader: Shirley Woolner

Leader: regular font ~ All: bold font ~ Sung words: bold italics
Asterisk * Indicates when the congregation may stand if able.

We Gather

“The way God approaches the soul: I come to my beloved as the dew on the flower.”
Mechtild of Magdeburg

“Fantasy Piece #1” -  R. Schumann

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit,  be with you all!
And also with you!


Grace United Church is situated on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabek, Petun, Huron-Wendat, and Mississauga peoples, located within the boundary of Treaty 18 region of 1818. We humbly acknowledge the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples of Canada as traditional stewards of the land on which we work and worship and are committed to working actively toward genuine restitution and reconciliation.

At Grace United Church we strive to offer a safer, inclusive and generous space for all who are seeking a faith community – people of all gender identities, sexual orientations, races, ages, abilities and their families.  We honour the holy truth that all people are made in the image of God and are innately entitled to dignity and respect.  We are committed to learning what it means to be an affirming congregation and how we can be welcoming and inclusive in all ways and at all times.

As we gather together on this third Sunday of Advent
We are aware that God is a magnificent agent of change,
But we generally do not welcome it!
We are stuck in our patterns and thoughts;
We are unable to come up with new visions
even though the times demand it from us!

Could it be we are looking for vision in the wrong place?
Not in a church meeting.
Not in a visioning session.
Not in a discussion group when the stakes are so high:  too many words!

Yet the Advent promise is that something new will be born in our midst.
Isaiah the prophet said this:
Forget the former things!  Do not dwell on the past!
See, I am doing a new thing! 
It springs up:  do you not perceive it?    (Isaiah 43:  18 – 19)

God makes streams flow in the desert!
God will make streams of joy to flow from our hearts and souls!
God makes a way through the choppy waters of the sea!
God will make a way for us to follow.
May our hearts and souls today open up like flowers to receive the new life God is pouring out upon us!

“Gentle Mary Laid Her Child”
(Tune: Good King Wenceslas)
1) Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger;
there he lay, the undefiled, to the world a stranger.
Such a babe in such a place, can he be the Saviour?
Ask the saved of all the race who have found his favour.

2) Angels sang about his birth, wise men sought and found him;
heaven’s star shone brightly forth, glory all around him.
Shepherds saw the wondrous sight,heard the angels singing;
all the plains were lit that night, all the hills were ringing.

3) Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger;
he is still the undefiled, but no more a stranger.
Son of God of humble birth, beautiful the story;
praise his name in all the earth; hail the King of glory!

We gather today in remembrance of the mother of Jesus,  Mother Mary,
and to acknowledge her part in the story of joy re-born.
We thank you God for the images of wombs sparking joy in others,
and the waters of birth and blessing so prevalent in these stories.
Let us be blessed by the Spirit of Living Water, for the flow of life into and through us.
Let us be blessed by the Spirit of tidal waters, rising and falling like the breath of the oceans.
Let us be blessed by the Spirit of the Dew at night,
a sign of blessing in the darkness,  and harbinger of new things to come.

We feel our own lives being blessed by these energies.
Thank you God.

Despite the fear and anxiety that Mary must have felt,
and even the shame and humiliation that was certainly poured out upon her,
we witness the loosening of their hold on Mary,
and the release of her feminine power.
We imagine her dancing in circles of joy and ecstasy as she finds her inner power.

As we light the third candle today, we remember Mary.
Her joy at new things is our joy.
Her songs of triumph continue to bless all women,
And they can be our songs too….

(we light the third Advent candle)

God thank you for filling us with the Spirit of Mary,
A true light in the darkness at this time of year
And at this point in our own stories of faith.   AMEN

Amen!  May it be so!  Amen!

*HYMN:  Christ Be Our Light” 
1) Longing for light, we wait in darkness
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
Light for the world to see…
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.  Shine through the darkness!
Christ be our light!  Shine in your church, gathered today.

2) Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has power to save us,
Make us your living voice…
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.  Shine through the darkness!
Christ be our light!  Shine in your church, gathered today.

3) Many the gifts, many the people,
Many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
Making your KIN-dom come…..
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.  Shine through the darkness!
Christ be our light!  Shine in your church, gathered today.

We Listen


Luke 1:   46 – 55   “The Magnificat”   (New Revised Edition UKV)
And Mary  said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
    Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name;
 indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
    and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty.
 He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

“Allemande from Suite in C Major” - J.S.Bach

Luke 1:  26 -44     (Contemporary English version)
When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee,  to a maiden who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The maiden’s name was Mary.  When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!”  She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you.  Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.  He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.

Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.  Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant.  Nothing is impossible for God.”

Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands.  She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry.  Why do I have this honour, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

May these words of scripture inspire us in heart, mind and soul.  AMEN

 “One Child” -  G. Gallina

SERMON:  “Dancing with the Divine!”

We Respond 

Gigue from Suite in C Major” -  J.S.Bach


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     Mail: Grace UC, 140 Bruce St. S. PO Box 219, Thornbury, ON N0H 2P0

     Care, Prayer, Share

The Memories and Blessings Christmas Tree
Offering our Memorials and Tributes to Those We Love and Have Loved

What’s Up at Grace?

We Go Forth         

*HYMN: VU 48   
Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

1) Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!’
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’
Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King!’

2) Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail, the incarnate deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King!’

3) Hail, the heavenborn Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King!’


Peace Be With You”

Peace be with you, peace forever,
peace be with you,my friends.
Till we meet again, may God be with you.
Peace, peace, peace.

Fantasy Piece #3” -  R. Schumann


LITURGY SOURCES: The following are used with permission:
Prayers are written by Rev. John G Smith
Call to Worship: written by Rev. John G. Smith
- “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child:”
Words: Austrian carol, trans. John Rutter © 1994 Hinshaw Music, Inc. Reprinted by permission.
Music: Austrian melody. Arrangement: © 1963, 1980 Walter Ehret, Walton Music Corporation
Words: Hinshaw Music Inc. Arrangement: Walton Music Corp. One License #608577
- “Christ Be Our Light:” (Bernadette Farrell © 1993,  Bernadette Farrell, published by OCP. All rights reserved.  Accessed through One License #608577-
- “Hark the Herald Angels Sing:”Words: Charles Wesley. Music: Felix Mendelssoln, adaptation: William Hayman Cummings. Public Domain
- “Peace be With You:” Words and music: Alison L. Wesley (Slaats), 2000. Words and music Copyright © Alison L. Wesley.
Scripture Passage from the New Revised Edition UKV
Scripture Passage from the Contemporary English Version.
Contemporary English Version ® Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Prelude: “Fantasy Piece #1” - R. Schumann
Cello Solo: “Allemande from Suite in C Major” - J.S.Bach
Anthem: “One Child” -  G. Gallina
Cello Solo: Gigue from Suite in C Major” -  J.S.Bach
Postlude:  Fantasy Piece #3” -  R. Schumann