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December 31, 2023: Christmas Carols with Carol and Christopher
Guest Speaker
Sunday, December 31, 2023
Service and Hymns
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December 31st, 2023

1st Sunday After Christmas

Christmas Carols with Chris and Carol!

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Leading us today in Worship:
     Music Director:              Dr. Christopher Burton
     Lay Leader:                    Carol Clarke
     Scripture Reader:          Sandy Eagles

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

We Gather 

“Lo: How a Rose is Growing” Burkhardt

GREETING: (2 Cor. 13:13)                        
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.

As we come together this morning,
Let us light the Christ candle to remind us we are not alone. Christ’s spirit is with us, and in us, all around us.
May the light of this candle stay with us while we worship
And be a beacon of hope in our hearts when we leave this place.


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.

Praise the Lord from the highest heavens.
Praise God, sun and moon;
   sing for joy, you shining stars.
Praise the Lord from the deepest seas.
Praise God, fire and hail;
    Dance in ecstasy, snow and frost.
Praise the Lord from the hearts of the faithful.
Praise God, young and old;
   laugh with mirth, wise and meek.
Worship the Lord our God.
Pay homage to the ruler of heaven and earth.

God of holy mystery,
   it was no heavenly stranger
      that came to save us;
it was no happy accident
    that freed us from captivity;
it was no careless gesture
    that showed us the ways
      of life and death.
You are our light and our salvation.
You alone are worthy of our worship and praise.
In this season of Christmas,
    remind us once more of what you offer:
       a love born of endless searching,
       a connection born of deep longing,
       a future born of selfless sacrifice.
Be with us now
    for we are your people
      and you are our God. Amen.


INTRODUCTION to the WORD            AWA
Let us recount the gracious deeds of God and the praise-worthy acts of the Lord. Let us meditate on everything the Holy One has done for us in God’s steadfast mercy.

We Listen

Our scripture and reflections are in the form of lessons and carols.  

1st LESSON: Isaiah 63: 7-9 God’s presence has saved us.
(Contemporary English Ver.)
I will tell about the kind deeds
the Lord has done.
    They deserve praise!
The Lord has shown mercy
to the people of Israel;
    he has been kind and good.
The Lord rescued his people,
and said, “They are mine.
    They won't betray me.”
 It troubled the Lord
to see them in trouble,
    and his angel saved them.
The Lord was truly merciful,
    so he rescued his people.
He took them in his arms
and carried them all those years.

Carol: VU 6    A Candle is Burning  vs.1&4

1) A candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,
a candle of hope in December’s dark night.
While angels sing blessings from heaven’s starry sky,
our hearts we prepare now for Jesus is nigh.

4) A candle is burning, a candle of love,
a candle to point us to heaven above.
A baby for Christmas, a wonderful birth,
for Jesus is bringing God’s love to our earth.

2nd LESSON: VU 871 Psalm:148  (Responsive) Let all creation praise God.
Let the whole creation cry.
“Glory be to God on high.”

Praise God from the heavens; give praise in the heights!
Give praise, all you angels; praise God, all you hosts!

Praise God, sun and moon; give praise, stars and lights!
Praise God, farthest heavens, and all waters beyond heaven!
Let the whole creation cry.
“Glory be to God on high.”

Let all things praise the Holy One at whose command
they were created,
who established them for all time,
setting bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise God from the earth,
great sea creatures and ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and frost,
gales that obey God’s decree,

all mountains and hills, all fruit trees and cedars,
wild animals and cattle, creatures winged and earth-bound,
sovereigns who rule earth and its people,

all who govern and judge this world,
young men and women alike,
old people and children together!
Let the whole creation cry.
“Glory be to God on high.”

Let all things praise the name of God,
the name above every other,
whose splendour covers heaven and earth.

You give strength to your people,
songs of praise to your faithful,
to Israel, the people dear to your heart.
Let the whole creation cry.
“Glory be to God on high.”

CAROL:  VU 45   Joy Is In Every Place
1) Joy is now in every place,
Christmas lightens every face;
now be with us, in your grace,
     O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.

2) May the star that shone that night,
making your poor stable bright,
fill our hearts with love and light,
     O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.

3) Through the New Year let it stay,
leading us upon your way,
making Christmas every day,
     O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus

4) Now and ever may we find
your good news to fill our mind:
peace and love to humankind,     
     O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus

3rd LESSON:  Hebrews 2: 10-18 Jesus, the pioneer of salvation. 
(The Message Ver.)
It makes good sense that the God who got everything started and keeps everything going now completes the work by making the Salvation Pioneer perfect through suffering as he leads all these people to glory. Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family, saying,
I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you;
I’ll join them in worship and praise to you.
Again, he puts himself in the same family circle when he says,
Even I live by placing my trust in God.
And yet again,
I’m here with the children God gave me.
Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.
It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.

CAROL:  VU 55   In the Bleak Midwinter vs.1&2
1) 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.

2) 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.

4th LESSON:  Based on Luke 2 -  Jesus is Born  (A Reading)

CAROL:  VU 91   The First Noel vs. 1&2
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.

5th LESSON:  Based on Matthew 2:1-12  The Three Wise Men
(A Reading)

CAROL:  VU 91   The First Nowell vs. 3,4&5
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.

5) Then entered in those wise men three,
full reverently upon their knee,
and offered there in his presence
their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
            Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
            born is the King of Israel.

6th LESSON: Based on Matthew 2:13-23  The escape to Egypt.
(A Reading)

*Carol: VU 91 The First Nowell v.6
6) Then let us all with one accord
sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
that hath made heaven and earth of nought,
and with his blood our life hath bought.
            Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
            born is the King of Israel.

We Respond


We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:
who has created
   and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
   the Word made flesh,
   to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
   by the Spirit.

We trust in God.


We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus,
   crucified and risen,
   our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
   God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.

PRAYERS of the PEOPLE:              CC
Loving God, Hear our Prayers.
As this year comes to a close, let us take a moment to pause... to take a breath in this space between Christmas and the New Year.
Compassionate God,
In this season full of beauty and pageantry, it is sometimes easy to forget that Christmas isn’t always a time of peace and joy for all.
Please hear our prayers for the people of the world for whom Christmas was just another day of struggle, survival or recovery. Let us remember the refugees who, just as the holy family had to escape to Egypt, are fleeing war and oppression and seeking safety in other lands.

(Pause for silent prayer)

For others of us, Christmas may be a difficult time of tension and brokenness...a time of battle with physical and mental illness, lonely days or cold nights without a home.
Give us strength and help us hold onto hope for better days and a renewal of humanity. Help us remember that we always have more of your grace than we are aware, and we always need more than we realize.

(Pause for silent prayer)

Loving God,
During the Christmas season, it is easy for us to smile and be merry...easy to be generous with our time and our friendships. Help us to carry a loving spirit into the New Year, help us to remember how little effort it takes to be kind and how much joy it can bring us.
Let us ask God to shine on us and every person or place that needs some light.


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


VU 55   In the Bleak Midwinter v.4
4) 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.

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


We Go Forth 


*SENDING              AWA
As we journey through the Christmas season,         
            more than a star guides us,
As we traverse the hillsides of faith,
            more than a messenger shows us the way.
As we ride the rapids of our lives,
            more than an angel shields us from harm.
When we live the truth of Christmas,
            more than the delight of holiday meals blesses us.
In Christmas we taste the joy of our salvation.
            we touch the presence of the living God.
Go with God.

Go Tell It On The Mountain
Go, tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere.
Go, tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born.

1) While shepherds kept their watching
o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens
there shone a holy light.
Go, tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere.
Go, tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born.

2) The shepherds feared and trembled
when lo, above the earth
rang out the angel chorus
that hailed our Saviour’s birth!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere.
Go, tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born.

3) Down in a lonely manger
the humble Christ was born,
and God sent our salvation
that blessed Christmas morn.
Go, tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere.
Go, tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born.

POSTLUDE:  Now Sing We, Now Rejoice” - Manz


LITURGY SOURCES: The following are used with permission:
AWA – Abingdon Worship Annual 2019, Abingdon Press
Lighting the Christ Candle written by Rev. John G. Smith.
Prayers of the People written by Carol Clarke
DT: read from Children of God Storybook Bible, as retold by Desmond Tutu
Hymns and Sung Blessing
- “A Candle is Burning:” Words: © 1986 Sandra Dean, 1134 Plant Dr., Ottawa, ON K1V 9E8. Music: James R. Murray. Words : Sandra Dean. Music: Public Domain.
- “Joy is Now in Every Place:” Words: Author unknown. Music: German carol melody. Arrangement: Used by permission of Oxford University Press. Words, Music: Public Domain. Arrangement: Oxford University Press
- “In The Bleak Midwinter:” Words: Christina Georgina Rossetti ca. 1872. Music: Gustav Theodor Holst 1906. Public Domain
- “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 Tell it on the Mountain:” Words: John Wesley Work II. Music: African-American spiritual 19th century. Arrangement: © United Reformed Church. Used by permission of Oxford University Press. Words: Public Domain. Arrangement: Oxford University Press.
Scripture Passage from the Contemporary English Version. Contemporary English Version ® Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language is a translation of the Bible in contemporary English. Authored by Eugene H. Peterson and published in segments from 1993 to 2002
Prelude: “Lo: How a Rose is Growing”   Burkhardt. Morning Star Music Publishers. One License#608577
Postlude:  Now Sing We, Now Rejoice”    Manz .  Morning Star Music Publishers. One License#608577