December 18th, 2016

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TextWeek

On Being – Annunciation

St. Luke’s United Church
December 18th, 2016
Love
Hymn People, Look East VU 9

Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Lighting the Advent Wreath & Centering
Advent Chant Phil Porter

Call to Worship:
One: Four candles burn with love. They burn stronger together offering hope, inspiring peace, sharing joy and creating love. Love calls us to do things and be people we never thought possible.
All: One candle offers us hope. Two candles inspire peace. Three candles share joy. Four candles create love.
One: An advent wreath in a circle reminds us that hope, peace, joy and love are a never ending cycle. One can’t happen without the others.

Opening Prayer:
Loving God, we celebrate all that you are and all that you bring to our lives. May this hour be filled with celebration of the Spirit. May we be filled with Love.

Hymn O Come All Ye Faithful VU 60

Jesse Tree Stories

Readings Luke 1:26-49
Annunciation Marie Howe

Hymn Mary, She Sang Love Song

Love
A few years ago I ministered in a community where deteriorating mental health was a huge problem. The pastoral charge’s visioning committee and I sat down to try and strategize ways for the congregations to engage in mental health issues. We had no budget to work with. But we had determination and focus. We knew that our identity statement would guide us, and we trusted the movement of the Spirit.
A year or two into our mission, we thought we would try something different for the Longest Night or Blue Christmas as it’s sometimes called. We’d had little attendance the year before, and I thought maybe the problem is that we were expecting the community to come to us. So what would happen if we did something for the community instead? What would happen if we put our faith on display for the whole community? What would happen if we attempted to maintain a small light for 24 of the darkest hours of the year? What would it be like to publicly acknowledge the grief that people had? People who never darkened the doors of the church, especially on a Sunday, and to say we love you anyway, and we’re right here – if you need us.
Let’s flip to the lectionary reading for a moment. Mary was in a bit of a bind. Pregnant and engaged in a time when it was socially unacceptable to be pregnant while you are engaged. It was something people didn’t even really talk about behind closed doors. It’s only been the last couple of decades that becoming pregnant while you are engaged is a socially acceptable thing. But Mary was called to do this. Not only was she called, but she felt called to be the mother of this child. During what was probably the darkest and loneliest time of Mary’s life, what was the light that brought her hope?
Almost a month ago, I talked about hope and how we need more signs of hope in our society. Some people need more hope than others. And some people only need a minuscule amount. Others still are capable of generating their own hope. Those people seem to be few and far between. Most people need at least a little love in their lives to have hope.
Mary obviously had hope once she and Joseph were able to sort things out. But how did she even have the courage to sort things out? To even utter the words? “I’m pregnant.” Of course some off it was her tenacity, some of it was her relationship with Joseph, but a good portion of her courage surely came from her conversation with Gabriel. We don’t hear about it as often, but Joseph also had a conversation with Gabriel, which I’m sure also helped him with his courage to go against the societal norms of the time and continue his relationship with Mary. Gabriel was the spark of light that they both needed to get through their version of the longest night.
Now I could go to my default at this point and ask you what sparks of light are in your longest night? How do you get through the tough stuff? But let’s be honest here. You’re part of this community and hopefully, if you find yourself in a particularly dark moment, there is someone here in this community that you can talk to, that you gain courage from people in this community. What I want to ask you today, is how are offering hope to the wider community as we head into this literal longest night? How are you giving courage to those who really need to have hard conversations? How are you showing people in general that you care? How are we as a community of faith, filled with strong, courageous people, whose lives have hope and love in them reaching out beyond ourselves to offer hope and love to others? If you don’t know how or what to do, please stop by on Wednesday and join in a 24 hour long candle vigil to bring a small spark of light to the larger community. Tending a small spark might just be the thing you need to do this Christmas.

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Gifts from the heart are the gifts that matter the most.

Offertory

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR be signs of our Love for others. Amen.

Prayer Music

Prayers of the People
Ending with an alternative Prayer of Jesus, found in Voices United, pg 921 or on the screen.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Hope is a Candle Linnea Good

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