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  • Rev. Daniel Benson

Advent Four: Love is a Flame.

Updated: Dec 20, 2020

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

Welcome to Advent - the weeks leading to Christmas. It's a time of preparation, waiting, and praying. Possibly, Advent is the perfect remedy for these challenging times when our anxiety is high, our morale is low, and the pressure of Christmas expectations in the midst of uncertainty is incalculable.

In the midst of all this as we wait for the Birth of the Holy Child, we can pause:

"Be Still. Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46.

The weeks of Advent are named for the gifts God blesses us with: hope, peace, joy, and love; gifts that God dreams we can embrace through a deep encounter with Emmanuel, God with Us. This fourth week is named for Love, a flame that burns in our hearts. This beautiful rendition of the last verse of 'Hope is a Star' is sung by Elise, Liane, and Alexandra Catibog.

Remember always, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor masks nor viruses, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Rev. Dan. (with apologies to Paul and the Romans for this paraphrase).

In preparation for the following service, you may wish to have your Advent Wreath and Candles ready. Always practice safe candle-burning! We always light candles in church because they remind us of the presence and beauty of God, and during Advent, we light candles to mark the path of anticipation and preparation leading to Christmas.

Music for centering: As we get closer and closer to Christmas and the birth of the Holy Child, we may be (rightly) wondering, 'how shall we meet him?' This ancient hymn, written in 1653 by Paul Gerhardt, dwells on that question -- a question for all of us.


We want to be ready for the coming of Jesus;

be with us, Loving God.

We want to be ready for the coming of Jesus;

remind us to look out for the needs of family, friends, and strangers.

We want to be ready for the coming of Jesus;

show us what we can give to the life of this community.

We want to be ready for the coming of Jesus;

alert us to the crying needs of the world that pleads for our support.

Guide us in nourishing our spirits with calm and quiet waiting.

Make us act with compassion for ourselves, the broken, the downtrodden, and downhearted.

Help us express our eagerness to be your hands and feet in the world, for you have nobody but ours to do your work.

We want to be ready for the coming of Jesus.

We are ready.

O come, o come, Emmanuel, Lord Jesus, God with us. Come.

We are, indeed, ready.


God be with you!

Lighting of the Advent candle.

Scripture Reading: Luke 1: 39 - 56, "The Visitation and Magnificat."

The words of 'The Magnificat' have been set to music many times, most famously, perhaps by Bach. It's quite beautiful but also a bit long. If you want, you can listen to it here. The Gregorian Chant below is also quite stirring, but shorter and in a different style.

Sermon: "One Righteous Woman!" by Rev. Dan.

Music: The First Noel is almost upon us. Listen to the extraordinary vocalizations of "Pentatonix" in this beloved carol.


We put our love in these gifts, gracefully given, gracious God; and, you put your love in us as the gifts are used.

Our love for skills and talents well used.

Our love for loneliness, compassionately overcome.

Our love for worship, faithfully offered.

Our love for neighbourhood needs, faithfully met.

Our love for justice, built brick by brick.

With these gifts come our commitment to follow and serve the Way of Jesus, and so we ask God's blessing on these gifts, on us, and on the witness, we offer in God's name.

Hymn: "Come Thou Long-expected Jesus."

Our offering is both a practical and symbolic act of our commitment to serve Christ and build His church. Although we can’t actually ‘pass the plate’ online, you are encouraged to continue your gift to the church, as the work of the St Paul’s and the staff continues:

  • Drop your envelope (cheque or cash) at the church;

  • Mail your cheque to the church;

  • Go on PAR (call the church for details);

  • Use the Donate button at the top of the page (it will take you to SPUC’s Canada Helps page where you can donate online and get an instant tax receipt).

May my gifts of time, talent, and treasure generously and lovingly offered, be instruments of change and instrumental in God's mission in the world!


Prayer. You're invited to listen to the Advent Prayer on the video below, after which, you can recite Lord's prayer aloud or in your heart.

And, of all the prayers silent and spoken, we pray the one prayer that unites us in your presence:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever. Amen.

Music: This is possibly the most Christmassy-sounding of Advent carols, as we rest on the edge of time, between waiting and welcoming Jesus to Bethlehem. Written by Philip Doddridge in 1738, set to music by Thomas Haweis in 1792, this is an Advent fave! This version features the organ at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco, played by David Schoefield. The lyrics are there for you to sing along (like nobody except God is listening).


Live lovingly as you leave this time of Advent worship, for we believe that the Good News of Jesus' imminent arrival will find, within us, love beyond imagining.

We will meet one another with love and compassion.

We will trust with love and faithfulness.

We will give with love and generosity.

We will proclaim God's grace with love and confidence.

We will be an Advent people: waiting, watching, and preparing with love.


One Last Thought. Another Christmas ad, this time from the Netherlands, full of the spirit of the season.

Closing notes:

  • Don’t forget to extinguish your candle(s)

  • Note that portions of this service are drawn and adapted from 'Gathering,' a worship resource published by The United Church of Canada.

  • Thanks to our contributors this week: the Catibog Trio, and all those who helped create the musical repertoire for today.

  • Join friends for coffee after church!

Topic: Sunday Coffee

Time: December 20th, 2020 11:30 AM Toronto

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Meeting ID: 829 432 3094

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Just because you scrolled down to the very bottom, here's an extra surprise for you. One of Stuart McLean's most beloved Christmas stories. Sit back, relax, and listen to a master story-teller.

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