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  • Rev. Daniel Benson

Advent Three: Joy is a Song.

Sunday, December 13th, 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 third week is named for Joy, a song that welcomes the (new) dawn. This beautiful rendition of the third verse of 'Hope is a Star' is sung by Elise, Liane, and Alexandra Catibog.

This verse, "Joy is a Song," is particularly apt because this is the week that we usually have the gift of music with our Choir singing a Christmas Cantata. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we are not able to gather in person for worship, sing, nor listen to our Choir. Nevertheless, we raise our spirits (if not our voices) in song. Last week, I invited members and friends to make suggestions for music today, so much of the music that follows is near and dear to the hearts of St. Paul's.

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: Joyce requested this most-Canadian of Christmas Carols. Written by St Jean de Brébeuf in 1642, this version includes the first verse in the original language of the Huron Wendat.


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 no body 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: 26 - 38, "The Annunciation."

Sermon: "Mary, A Woman of Strength and Resilience"

Music: Joyce recommended another hymn performed by Pentatonix, this wonderful, modern, a cappella group, but their version of 'Mary, Did You Know?' fit perfectly. We'll feature Joyce's other carol next week!

Stan recommended this medley of carols by Alfred Burt, performed by John Williams, the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Tanglewood Chorus, and the Boston Boys Choir, as our Cantata. If you'd like to read the lyrics, scroll below the video for a PDF that Stan has kindly prepared. It corresponds perfectly with the video.

Burt carols lyrics
Download PDF • 62KB


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

Our joy for skills and talents well used.

Our joy for loneliness, compassionately overcome.

Our joy for worship, faithfully offered.

Our joy for neighbourhood needs, faithfully met.

Our joy 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.

Hilda requested this lovely Advent carol, sung here by a choir and

soloist Charlotte Church.

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 aloud or in your heart the Lord's Prayer.

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: One of Barb's favourite carols is "Once in Royal David's City," here sung by the Choir of King's College Cambridge.


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

We will meet one another with joy and compassion.

We will trust with joy and faithfulness.

We will give with joy and generosity.

We will proclaim the God's grace with joy and confidence.

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


One Last Thought. Businesses in the UK produce some wonderful, moving adverts for Christmas. This one is from Woodie's, a DIY home improvement chain.

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 13th, 2020 11:30 AM Toronto

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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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Dec 13, 2020

Another very meaningful service, sermon, music and the delightful Turkey humour. The theme of Joy this week is an important reminder for me that change will come but the Joy that is shared will always be a treasure.

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