Fourth Sunday of Advent – Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph

SENTENCE FROM SCRIPTURE –
My Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour

OPENING HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,

all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

The first commandment is this:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

There is no other commandment greater than these. Amen. Lord, have mercy.

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CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children.

There is no room for fear in love.

We love because God loved us first.

Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you

and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ

that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,

and in what we have failed to do.

We are truly sorry.

Forgive us our sins,

and deliver us from the power of evil,

for the sake of your Son

who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

God, who is both power and love,

forgive you and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,

and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

KYRIE

Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy, Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy

LIGHT CANDLE ON ADVENT WREATH FOR MARY

ADVENT WREATH

Mary’s gift beyond all telling,

was to give Christ room.

She gave God a human dwelling

in a mother’s womb.

who could guess the final story?

cross and glory, empty tomb!

COLLECT

Stir up your power, Lord and come

and strengthen us by the might of your love;

that, although we are hindered by our sins,

your abundant grace and mercy may quickly come

and save us; for you live and reign with the Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, world without end. Amen

PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD

FIRST READING MICAH 5: 2-5a

The Ruler from Bethlehem

Micah 5:2-5a | The Reflectionary

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labour has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.

SECOND READING Hebrews 10:5-10 read by David Kerr

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

Hebrews 10:5–10 (NRSV) - Hebrews 10:5–10 NRSV - Consequently, when… | Biblia

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

GRADUAL HYMN

GOSPEL READING Luke 1:39-45 read by Reverend James Clark Maxwell

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 1 beginning at verse 39

Glory to Christ our Saviour

Mary Visits Elizabeth

Daily Gospel Reading – Luke 1:39-47 | Daily Bible Readings

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.

Praise to Christ our Lord

REFLECTION

A Mother's Love... What It Does & Why It Matters So Much

There is absolutely nothing like a mother’s love – all of us have been comforted time and time again by our mother’s love. The story is told of an Eastern princess, whose child, a lad of a few years, lay smitten with the plague and dying. The mother stood a little distance away, yet forbidden by the physician to approach lest she also perish. As she stood with breaking heart looking upon her child, the little eyes opened and turned toward her tear-stained face. There was the loving face of her who had so many times dispelled his childish troubles and healed his bruises with her kiss. Why not now? The little arms went out toward her while the childish voice said, “Kiss me, Mamma, kiss me, Mamma.” The doctors have forbidden it and so she hesitates, still her heart yearns for the little child. Again, the voice of her darling entreats, “Kiss me, Mamma, kiss me.” What cares she for the doctors now? It is the last request of her dying boy and she claps the little form to her heart and covers the fevered cheek with her kisses – and within a few days, she also dies.

A Mother's Love Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

Undoubtedly, because a mother’s love is so special and so important during a child’s formative years, God carefully chose the mother for both his Son and his forerunner. In this morning’s text, the two mothers – who were relatives meet, and Elizabeth heaps praise upon Mary, the Lord’s mother. Before going to visit Elizabeth, Mary had just learned that God is a God who does the impossible. Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that Elizabeth, her relative, was going to bear a child in her old age. But, that’s not nearly as shocking as telling Mary that she – a virgin – was going to bear a child as a virgin. As Mary pondered how she could conceive as a virgin and her old relative could conceive, she was told, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Next, we are told that Mary set out with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” What’s that about? Luke doesn’t tell us why she went or what she was looking for but maybe we can get a clearer picture of what’s going on if we put today’s gospel in a larger context. The angel Gabriel has just told Mary that she has been chosen and favoured by God, that God is with her, that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High will overshadow her, that she will conceive and give birth to a son, the Son of God, and she will name him Jesus. That story is so familiar to us that, I think, we sometimes lose sight of or forget just how strange, unfamiliar, and unexpected that experience was for Mary. And I think it’s the strangeness, unfamiliarity, and unexpectedness of what happened that causes Mary to “set out with haste to a Judean town in the hill country.”

BRING FORTH HOLY THINGS – WGCK BETHANY WORSHIP CENTRE – ELDORET

As soon as Gabriel makes his announcement and departs, so does Mary, with haste. She wastes no time. She hits the road and heads for the hills as they say. Maybe she’s excited and wants to share this good news. Maybe she wants to celebrate what is happening in her. Or maybe she’s afraid and needs a friendly face. Maybe she’s overwhelmed and needs someone to talk with. Maybe she doesn’t know what to do next and is looking for some guidance. Maybe she wants help in figuring out how to tell and deal with Joseph and her mom and dad. Maybe she just wants to get away for a little while and try to make sense of what has happened. Maybe she wants to talk with someone who will understand. Maybe it’s any one of those things, all of them, or a thousand other things that caused Mary to leave with haste. 

Whatever Mary’s reasons were, you and I probably know what that’s like. Haven’t there been times in your life when you set out in haste looking for something or someone familiar to stand with you in the midst of the unexpected and unfamiliar? Who has been your Elizabeth? When have you been Elizabeth for another?

Stream Berg & Orpheus - Stranger To Yourself Sample by Berg | Listen online  for free on SoundCloud

Throughout our lives we find ourselves in circumstances or situations that are strange, new, incomprehensible. They’re beyond our previous experience and more often than not they leave us feeling estranged from ourselves, an alien in our own life. You know what that’s like, right? Maybe it was that first day, first week, first year of being a married person, a divorced person, a parent, a widow, and you didn’t know what to do but you knew you had to make room in your life for this new person you were becoming. Maybe it was a time that you did or said something that hurt another and you knew that wasn’t really who you are or who you want to be and you felt estranged not only from the other person but from yourself. A friend of mine took a new job nearly two years ago. He recently said to me, “I’m just now starting to feel like myself again.” Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that feeling of being a stranger in his or her own life. I remember a woman asking me a friend of mine if she was still a mother after her daughter died. Maybe someone offered you an opportunity that you had never before considered possible. They saw something in you, a gift, a capability, a possibility, that you had never seen or imagined for yourself, and that person they saw was a stranger to you. At some time or another we’ve all felt like strangers to ourselves.

I wonder if that’s exactly how Mary felt. I wonder, if her leaving in haste is the outer expression of her inner estrangement. I wonder, if her leaving home reflects that she is not yet at home in herself. I don’t think Mary is running away from home, her life, or herself. I think she leaves home so she can return, and she knows that Elizabeth is the one who can help her come back to her home, her life, herself. 

The First Christmas Carol Luke 1: The Magnificat Luke 1: ppt download

Mary doesn’t go to Anna her mother, to Joseph her fiancé, to the local clergy, or to a girlfriend around the corner. Not just anyone can handle or be trusted with our estrangement. Elizabeth is Mary’s go to person; Elizabeth her older cousin, who is getting on in years, “who was said to be barren,” and who is now six months pregnant, just as Gabriel had said would happen. 

The trip to Elizabeth’s house isn’t a simple walk across the street or around the block. Our sacred tradition says that Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in Ein Karem, a town just outside of Jerusalem and about 80 miles from Mary’s home in Nazareth. Eighty miles; that’s about thirty hours of walking. Mary was surely looking for something in particular from Elizabeth. I don’t know what she wanted or needed but I know when I’ve been estranged from myself I want a place of acceptance and understanding, I want someone who will love me and not judge, someone who will be with me in the beauty, pain, and mystery of what is happening, someone who will encourage and offer hope without telling me what to do, someone who can be present to my reality and speak truth even if it hurts, someone who assures me that I don’t have to do this alone, someone who offers her or his faith, hope, and love when mine is in short supply, someone who will remind me that I am ok and I can do this. Isn’t that what you want when you feel like a stranger to yourself? Isn’t that what you need from your go to person, from your Elizabeth?

What I am really describing here is hospitality. Hospitality is the antidote to our estrangement. I am talking about the kind of hospitality we receive from another that allows us to be hospitable to and accepting of ourselves. The hospitality Elizabeth offered Mary was more than an open door, a warm welcome, and a place to stay. It was an affirmation of Mary’s life. It was a prayer commending Mary to God. It was a blessing that gave Mary back to herself. 

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth says to Mary. “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”  “Blessed, blessed, blessed,” says Elizabeth. Her words of affirmation, commendation, and blessing will remain with Mary the rest of her life. They will echo in the silence as Mary ponders and treasures the words of the shepherds at Jesus’ birth. They will ring in her ears when Simeon declares that a sword will pierce her own soul. They will call her back to herself when her twelve-year old son runs away to be in his Father’s house. They will hold her broken heart at the cross. And they will sing with joy at the empty tomb. 

That’s how deep and authentic hospitality works. It’s not just a word spoken or an action done at a particular point in time. It’s an event that stays with us and continues to affirm, commend and bless. It’s an event in which we recognize God’s presence and leap for joy. It’s an event that is pregnant with possibilities and new life. 

I wonder in what ways you’ve experienced this Elizabethan hospitality. When has another, an Elizabeth, affirmed, commended, and blessed your life? How is that event of hospitality alive in you today and what new thing in your life is still to be born and bring you great blessing. Amen

THE CREED

Christ The Savior Lutheran Church

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

God from God,

Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one substance with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven;

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father.

With the Father and the Son,

he is worshipped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

PRAYERS

Let us pray...May 2019 - YouTube

As we share in Mary and Elizabeth’s joy

at the coming of our Saviour

let us quieten, and still ourselves

in the presence of God.

Heavenly Father, we marvel at the way

you break into our ordinary lives,

and work with us.

We want you to know

that we are willing to be used.

Let it be to me

according to your will.

9 Ways to Raise Courageous Kids in a Bubble-Wrapped World | Dr Michele Borba

We think of the risks and the danger that Mary and Joseph took

in responding in obedience to your call.

Thank you for their faith, courage, and humility

that inspires us and so many.

Fill us by your Spirit so that we may to be open

to your whisper and call.

Let it be to me

according to your will.

The Persecuted Church - Advancing Native Missions | Give Today!

We call to mind before you

those whom we would love to know you

and we ask that you would prepare their hearts

to recognize and receive you.

We remember too those

who are persecuted for their faith

and lift them and their families to you.

Give them the strength, courage

and peace they need in these difficult times.

Let it be to me

according to your will.

A Mandate for Hospitality | Revive Our Hearts Episode

We ask you to reassure

and encourage us in our churches,

giving us insights to the real needs

and what you would have us do.

Grant us hospitality of heart

and generosity of spirit

to everyone we encounter.

Let it be to me

according to your will.

We ask you to give us courage

to continue working with you

even during the dark and dangerous times

of Covid 19 and of economic uncertainty.

Let it be to me

according to your will.

Relative vs Absolute Poverty: Defining Different Types of Poverty

We call to mind those who are struggling

with poverty, illness, despair and depression,

and ask you to comfort them,

using us and others to bring

the help and support they need.

Let it be to me

according to your will.

We call to mind those who have died

and thank you for the good

you have worked in their lives.

May we like them share in the life with you

that lasts forever.

Let it be to me

according to your will.

The Wonder of the Incarnation - New Westminster Christian Reformed Church  in Burnaby, BC

As we approach the festival of Christmas

we praise and thank you for the wonder

and mystery of the incarnation.

Touch us afresh with the good news

of the Word made flesh,

and dwelling among us.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

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.

Do not bring us

to the time of trial

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power

and the glory are yours,

now and forever. Amen.

HYMN



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BLESSING

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

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St John the Evangelist, Dumfries, is a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church also serving Methodist parishioners locally.

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