Grace United Church Grace United Church
Grace United Church is live
December 24, 2023: Advent 4 - Sunday morning service with communion
Rev Dr John Smith
Rev Dr John Smith
Sunday, December 24, 2023
Service and Hymns
Loading chat...

December 24th, 2023

4th Sunday of Advent

Find this service at

Leading us today in Worship:
     Minister: Rev. Dr. John Greg Smith
     Music Director: Dr. Christopher Burton
     Scripture Reader: Jim Oliver

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

We Gather 

“Romance” -  Clara Schumann

GREETING:  (2 Cor. 13:13)

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!

Lighting the 4th Advent Candle
Throughout this Advent time, the candles have reminded us of the spiritual gifts God has placed deep within us.
Love, Peace, Joy, and Hope, seem to be such simple things,
Yet without them, how can we live?
Today as we light this fourth candle,
Let us pledge to keep the flame of Christ’s light
Bright and strong within us.
Let us pledge to walk in the light of Christ, each and every day.


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.

I will sing of God’s great love forever and a day!
I will open my mouth in song,
Singing the song God has given me to sing.
I will open my heart to the world,
That I might love the world as God loves the world.
I will open my spirit to everyone around me,
Creating circles of joy and blessing wherever I go.
I will declare that LOVE is the greatest gift;
I will declare that Love is the greatest power in the universe.
I will remember that you God have poured out your love on all people.
Your love is a blessing that is renewed in full each day.
In my soul, in the depths of my heart,
I will hold the newborn babe.
I will welcome his spirit and his light into my life.
Yes I will become one with his spirit and his light.
My soul and his soul will shine with divine light
From this moment on.
Praise be to God! AMEN!

O Come All Ye Faithful”

1) O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem:
come and behold him, born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

2) God of God, light of light,
lo, he abhors not the virgin’s womb;
very God, begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

3) Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
glory to God in the highest:
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

4) See how the shepherds summoned to his cradle,
leaving their flocks, draw nigh with lowly fear;
we too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

5) Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Gracious God of light and love,
Fill all the spaces of this place with your divine presence.
Fill all the darkness with your divine presence.
Fill every corner of this world with your divine presence.

May your glorious light fill our hearts this morning.
May your glorious light fill our minds and our spirits.
May your glorious light fill the whole world
and bathe each living soul in beauty and grace.

In our prayers we pray a blessing of divine presence.
We pray this blessing on our homes, on our church, on our community, on our world.
We pray this blessing on world leaders.
We pray this blessing on peacemakers and justice workers.
We pray this blessing on childcare workers, senior home caregivers, home care givers,
and all those who serve us in one way or another, each day.
We remember everyone who gives their all to others.

As Christmas Day comes once again,
We pray a blessing of peace and hope on our world.
We pray that wars will cease, that the hungry will be fed,
That the homeless will find room in the inn,
That the poor will be heard, the refugees settled.
God give us the courage and strength we need to ensure these things happen.

We pray in the light of love,
In the presence of love eternal,
And with hearts full of love and Christmas joy,

*HYMN: VU 38 
“Angels We Have Heard on High”

1) Angels we have heard on high
sweetly singing o’er the plains,
and the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains.
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

2) Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
which inspire your heavenly song?
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

3) Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ whose birth the angels sing;
come, adore on bended knee
Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo! 

4) See him in a manger laid,
whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
while our hearts in love we raise.
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
     Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

We Listen

 A Reading: In the Bleak Midwinter 
(A poem written by Christina Georgina Rossetti – 1872)
Read by Jim Oliver

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter, a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
the ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Matthew 1: 18 – 25     (NRSV) 
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son, and he named him Jesus.

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

"Still, Still, Still" -  German Carol

SERMON:  “Nasruddin and the Lost Key”

We Respond 

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.

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

Communion Prayer and Lord’s Prayer

Prayer after Communion
For the bread we have eaten, for the wine we have tasted,
We thank you God.
For the grace and compassion you bestow on this community,
We thank you God.
For filling us once again with the light and love of Christ,
We thank you God.
Grant that what we have shared here may so put its mark upon us
That it may remain always in our hearts,
And lead us to actions of love and service in Christ’s name. AMEN

Donate online:,  select “Give”
     or contact the office by email:  
     or phone: 519-599-2438 to arrange a cheque pick-up, or an e-transfer
     Mail: Grace UC, 140 Bruce St. S. PO Box 219, Thornbury, ON N0H 2P0

     Care, Prayer, Share

 What’s Up at Grace?

We Go Forth            

*HYMN: VU 91
“The First Nowell” vs. 1-4

1) The first Nowell the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay akeeping their sheep
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
     Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
     born is the King of Israel.

2) They looked up and saw a star,
shining in the east, beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.
     Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
     born is the King of Israel. 

3) And by the light of that same star
three wise men came from country far;
to seek for a king was their intent,
and to follow the star wherever it went.     
     Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
     born is the King of Israel.

4) This star drew nigh to the northwest;
o’er Bethlehem it took its rest,
and there it did both stop and stay,
right over the place where Jesus lay.
     Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
     born is the King of Israel. 


*SUNG BENEDICTION:   “Go Now in Peace”
Go now in peace. Never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of every day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true,
Know God will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there, * within, around, above.
Go now in peace, in faith and in love.
Amen, amen, amen.

* alternate words: watching from above

"Pastorale" from Messiah -  G.F. Handel


LITURGY SOURCES: The following are used with permission:
Prayers are written by Rev. John G Smith
- “In the Bleak Midwinter:” A poem written by Christina Georgina Rossetti – 1872. Public Domain
- “O Come All Ye Faithful:” Words: English Translation Frederick Oakeley 1841, et al, French translation Claude Rozier 1950. Music: attributed to John Francis Wade, ca. 1743. Public Domain
- “Angels We Have Heard on High:”
Words: French traditional, translation James Chadwick. Music: French carol melody, arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes. Public Domain
- “Christ Be Our Light:” (Bernadette Farrell © 1993,  Bernadette Farrell, published by OCP. All rights reserved.  Accessed through One License #608577
- “The First Nowell:” Words: English traditional carol. Music: English traditional melody. Refrain Harmony, Descant: © 1926 Oxford University Press, Inc. Words, Music: Public Domain. Refrain Harmony, Descant: Oxford University Press
-“Go Now in Peace” Words by Don Besig and Nancy Price. © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, Inc. Alternate words used with permission. Reproduced with permission, One License, #608577.
Scripture Passage from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.
Prelude: Romance” - Clara Schumann
Anthem: "Still, Still, Still" - German Carol  arr. by Philip Ledger
Postlude: "Pastorale" from Messiah  - G.F. Handel