Virtual Church – Advent III – December 13, 2020

8:30 am

December 13, 2020

Welcome to virtual church!

Each Sunday morning we will be sending an email to everyone in the congregation for whom we have email addresses, offering an abridged Sunday morning service — “virtual church.” For the latest news and updates from Walton, please check our Facebook page, Instagram and website.

Please contact office@waltonmemorial.com if you would like to be added to our email list.

Sunday Service Video (30+ minutes followed by the hymns)

Today’s service will be offered in 2 formats – a video and text. If you wish, you can download and print the service from this document – link – or you can read the complete service below.

The hymn-sing is at the end.


Announcements

•  A message from the Outreach Committee: Traditionally, at this time of year, we would be asking you to think about bringing into Walton a gift or a gift card, or a financial donation for us to deliver to the agencies taking care of so many people over the season. Usually, we divide all of these gifts between several agencies, including Kerr Street Mission and Wesley Urban Ministries. Of course, an actual White Gift Sunday wasn’t possible in this COVID-19 year – though we hope you enjoyed our virtual White Gift service last week – but we don’t want those families and individuals in need to feel their shortages more than ever. If you are able this year, we ask you to bring us an unwrapped toy for a girl or boy.

This is a suggested donation wish list:
New gifts: toys, hygiene items, small kitchen appliances, towel & linens.
Gift certificates for Walmart, Giant Tiger, Canadian Tire, Toys ‘R’ Us.

We have been blessed by the many hats, scarves and gloves already donated to the Mitten Tree. We know that some of you knit all year in order to deliver the massive bags of knitting. Any deliveries can be made to the Allen Entrance (back door) of Walton Church on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. Please wear a mask and ring the bell to have someone open the door to you. If you need a pick-up, please call the office to make arrangements.

Daily Advent Email Devotional – Find greater meaning and inspiration as you prepare for Christmas, with a daily moment of guided reflection and prayer. Inspired this year by the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (made famous by Kings’ College, Cambridge, in the UK), each day you’ll be sent either a Scripture passage or an excerpt from a carol, as well as a short reflection and a prayer. Internet links will also be provided so that you can watch and listen to the carols and readings offered up in worship.
– Throughout Advent, we will affirm and remember our endeavours across the centuries to glorify God and give thanks for the birth of God’s Son. Each day, the devotionals will remind us of God’s enduring relationship with humanity and encourage us to welcome and praise God in our world today.
– If you’ve received the Advent emails in a previous year, you should have received the Advent emails automatically, starting today, Nov 29th. To sign up to receive the emails, please visit: waltonmemorial.com/advent-devotional

Christmas Memorials – Anyone has the opportunity to make a special memorial gift to Walton at Christmas time. There are two ways you can do that this year — you can make a monetary donation or you can donate a virtual poinsettia in loving memory of a loved one. The cost for a virtual poinsettia is a minimum donation of $10.00 and all donations go to the Walton Benevolent Fund. 

Please donate online or contact the church office at office@waltonmemorial.com to make your donation to either the Christmas Memorial Fund or virtual poinsettias.
The deadline for donations is Wednesday, December 16th. These memorial gifts will be compiled into a list and will be emailed out to all those who donated early in the new year. They will be dedicated during the virtual service on Sunday, December 20th.
More information – https://www.waltonmemorial.com/benevolent-fund-christmas-memorials/

What is the Benevolent Fund? This confidential fund, managed by Rev. Gill with help from some of the staff, is to help people in need due to Covid, illness, unemployment, unexpected accident, setback, or tragedy. Every year it helps people in our congregation and in the wider community who are in need,  through financial and material assistance. The work of the fund remains highly confidential to allow for anonymous support of people in need. For more information, please email Rev. Jim Gill jamescwaltonwuc@gmail.com

• Join us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning – We will be having 3 virtual services to celebrate Christmas:

December 24th – 3:00pm – Storyteller Service for kids of all ages
December 24th – 6:00pm – Christmas Eve Service with Communion
December 25th – 8:30am – Christmas Day service

•  Walton’s prayer chain is open. Confidential prayers requests can be sent to office@waltonmemorial.com

•  If you need Rev. Jim for a pastoral emergency, please email him directly at jamescgillwuc@gmail.com


Welcome

Good Morning and welcome to Advent III – Joy

Call to Worship

In worship, we affirm that we are blessed by the presence of God.
While at home, soothe us with the blessing of your forgiveness, for ourselves and each other.
While at work, strengthen us with the blessing of your gifts to us, to fulfil our purpose.
In the world, nourish us with the blessing of your creation, abundant and diverse.
In our quiet, comfort us with the blessing of your peace.
In each and every day, we affirm that we stand in the presence of God, sustained by your love.

Choir: African Advent Carol

Opening Prayer

Caring God,
As we rush to prepare our homes and our trees, slow us down and prepare our hearts.
When we shut you out with worry and fear, renew our trust and prepare our hearts.
If we are distracted by the clamour of the world, soothe our minds and prepare our hearts.
Let the warmth of your kindness prepare our hearts to hear your word.
Let the comfort of your healing prepare our hearts to feel your peace.
Let the joy of your love prepare our hearts to worship your holy name.
Amen.

Advent Candle Lighting: Joy

Our Advent journey continues our time of celebration. We celebrate the coming of the Christ child who turns the world upside down.

We come to dance joyfully in anticipation of this season of new life, new life that challenges and guides, comforts and confronts.

Out of pain comes possibility; out of anguish comes transformation; out of loneliness comes community; out of labour comes birth.

We come in joy but not to distract us from life’s pains; instead, joy emerges out of each disruption and within each disappointment.

We come to heal one another in the midst of all life’s challenges.

We light the first candle reminding us of the way of hope. (The first Advent candle is lit)
We light the second candle reminding us of Christ’s path of peace. (The second Advent candle is lit.)

We light the third candle, which dances in joy even as it burns. (The third Advent candle is lit.) Let us join together in singing our Candle lighting song.

Sing: Light one candle for joy,
One bright candle for joy,
Christ brings joy to every heart,
He smiles, He smiles.

Let us join as one community of faith in prayer:
We come to worship as we hold images of the baby Jesus in our mind’s eye, O God. We imagine the boundless love pouring out for this child, just as we imagine the boundless love pouring out for any child, just as we imagine the colicky nights and the diapering days. Teach us to stop drawing boundaries between joy and labour, allowing us to lean into the wholeness and complexity of life. Bless us this morning with an openness to all of life’s realities, knowing we are never alone in the struggle nor in the celebration. Amen.

Youth Story: “Covid can’t cancel Christmas”

Christmas Story Scripture Reading #1

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

Anthem: “And the Glory of the Lord”

Morning Message: “The Doors of Christmas #1 – The Temple Door” – Gill Le Fevre

I have fond childhood memories of Advent and enjoying the anticipation of opening the door in my Advent calendar each day, and especially of enjoying the chocolate treat hidden inside. I have less fond memories of spending most of Advent trying to protect my chocolates from my brother, who had inevitably eaten the contents of his calendar early.

But I think both of us would be disappointed by the original Advent tradition of marking off the days until Christmas by drawing chalk marks on the side of a door or the wall. In fact, what we would recognize now as an Advent calendar, with a door to open each day, wasn’t created until the 1920s and the idea of having treats or gifts didn’t start until the 40s and 50s.

Now, for many of us, opening a door in an Advent calendar each day is a fixed part of our Christmas preparations. And in a way, it puts a focus on a door, which otherwise is pretty much taken for granted – an everyday household feature that you might only really notice when your arms are full of shopping or you’ve forgotten your key and you can’t get easily through.

And so, in this season of Advent, we want to put a renewed focus on the doors we find in the Nativity accounts of Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels. What gets through each of these doors and what is shut out? Where are doors opened in welcome or closed in fear?

The first door that we’re going to open is the Temple Door, that separates the inner sanctuary of the Temple at Jerusalem from the main worshipping area, the Holy Place from the outer “Court of the Israelites”. This is the doorway that Zechariah would have passed through that day as he went to perform the daily ritual burning of incense to God.

In this era, there were thousands of priests, possibly up to 32,000 who could serve in the Temple and so they rotated this duty, with each group only serving two weeks at a time. Luke tells us that, for Zechariah’s division, their turn had come, and so Zechariah has gone to Jerusalem for this reason.

And more than merely serving in the Temple, Zechariah had been selected for the special privilege of burning the incense, which carried the prayers of Israel to God. This was such a coveted task that a priest would only get to be chosen once in their life. And on this day, it was Zechariah’s turn.

Quite the day. One moment preparing for the honour of a lifetime, then the sudden realization that he is not alone in the Holy Place. Something far holier is there also.

This is when the day definitely goes sideways for Zechariah. Overwhelmed and terrified by the appearance of the angel, he does not exactly impress in their conversation.

The angel announces that Zechariah and his wife’s prayer for a child will be answered, and all Zechariah can answer with is the biblical equivalent of “Say what?”

And not just, “Say what? I don’t understand” – Zechariah’s response is definitely in the “I don’t believe you” category of replies. Which in the circumstances is staggering. You couldn’t get a more sacred moment: in the Temple, standing in the Holy Place, greeted by an angel – and yet Zechariah doesn’t believe God.

A commentary on Luke that I read shared this insight: Zechariah doesn’t believe God because Zechariah has stopped praying for a child. He has given up hope and closed the door on that desire. The chapter in his life where he could see this as possible is over.

Because Zechariah’s response to the angel is not the response of someone who is actively praying to God for something. When you’re praying to God for something to happen and an angel turns up and answers your prayer, no matter how unlikely it seems, your reaction might be one of amazement but not disbelief. Your prayers have been answered! Wow! Hallelujah!! Thank you, God!

Definitely not: Say what?

Yet how often do we find ourselves “doing a Zechariah”? Rising Covid cases, job insecurity, relationship challenges, family tragedy. There’s a lot going wrong in our lives right now.

And when things don’t change – fast enough perhaps, or in the way we think they should – it’s so easy to give up and think that God isn’t listening. It is so easy to close the door on God and think that he isn’t involved in our world.

We close the door on God. Maybe it’s even the church door. We say, “OK God, you stay in here where it’s safe, and I’ll come and visit you every Sunday.”

Now of course, with Covid-19, the church doors are shut to us also, and so we’ve brought our weekly worship into our homes instead. And I think there are many ways this suits God, hanging out with us between the piles of laundry and the dirty dishes; slouching on the sofa or unwinding at the kitchen table. God doesn’t want to be limited to Sundays and ceremony; God wants to be integral to our everyday lives.

And as Zechariah’s experience shows us, we should never try to contain God, to define how he can work in our lives and where he’s going to show up.

Not only does God answer Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s perhaps long-forgotten prayer for a child, but God gives Zechariah the sign he asked for. Now losing the ability to speak was not exactly the sign Zechariah had in mind, but it was one that would undoubtedly remind Zechariah, every day of the coming nine months, that he had indeed met an angel.

And their prayers were indeed answered. Elizabeth conceived and bore a son whom they named John, following the angel’s instructions. The ministry of John the Baptist is foreshadowed by the angel’s words; a ministry that will proclaim God’s presence in the world and open people’s hearts to God’s love.

God is wonderfully present and involved in our world. Like he did for Zechariah, God answers our prayers and sends angels to help us. They just look a little different these days.

This happened to me just the other day. I’d had a conversation with a friend that had gone wrong, leading to one of those awkward, uncomfortable, far-too-human situations where I knew that our relationship was strained but I didn’t know how to fix it. With typical human stubbornness, I didn’t think the fault was all mine, that in fact a misunderstanding was largely to blame – but then, “I’m sorry you misunderstood me,” isn’t exactly going to heal hurt feelings.

At a complete loss, over how to feel as much as what to do, I prayed to God to help fix our friendship, and then I got on with my day.

Hours later, as I was heading outside, I ran into one of my neighbours. The most reticent and introverted of my neighbours; the one who never engages in passing conversation, who barely waves some days.

Not this day. I’ve never seen this man so chatty and full of news to share. Amazed, I stood there listening – barely able to get a word in – when my friend appeared. She was drawn into the conversation, which turned to banter and then a plan to catch up later. We went back to our Saturday errands and my angel went on silently raking his lawn.

If there’s one thing to expect of God, it’s that he will work in the most surprising places and through the most unexpected people. As Zechariah discovered, the Temple door may have kept the Israelites out, but it wasn’t going to keep God out. There isn’t a door, in the world or in our hearts, that can truly keep God out.

And so as we draw nearer to this Covid Christmas, let’s renew our prayers to our God who is always listening and caring, and open our hearts to proclaim the love of God through the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God.

Pastoral Prayer

We come now to our Pastoral Prayer, the prayers of the people. If you have the words in front of you, please join in the response in bold.

Attentive, ever-present God,
We give thanks that you hear us in our sadness and our joy. You lift us up when the world would pull us down. You listen to our cries – you listen for our cries – when we come to you in doubt and despair, as much as in happiness and hope.

We pray for the lost, who have closed the doors of their hearts to you. Help us to recognize your presence, God, in our world, and to welcome you into our lives. Shine through us to reach others with your glory.
We affirm the words of the angel – we shall not be afraid, for our prayers have been heard.

We pray for the fearful, who reject the promise and possibility of your word. Help us to trust in your love, Lord, and to be guided by your teaching. Shine through us to reach others with your peace.
We affirm the words of the angel – we shall not be afraid, for our prayers have been heard.

We pray for the despondent, with unfulfilled dreams and painful regrets. Help us to remember your compassion, God, and to be comforted by your healing words. Shine through us to reach others with your hope.
We affirm the words of the angel – we shall not be afraid, for our prayers have been heard.

We pray for each one of us, with our struggles and dreams, the moments we need courage, the places we need calm. Shine in us to comfort us with the warmth of your love.
We proclaim the words of the angel – we are not afraid, for our prayers are heard.

Hallelujah! Amen.

Offering of Ourselves, Our Gifts, Our Tithes

Sharing our faith, our joys, and ourselves is what Advent is about. Let us offer up our hope, peace, joy and love and ourselves as we give our offerings virtually today.

♥ by secure online payment from your bank or credit card – waltonmemorial.com/donate

*Important Note*Please enter the donation in one person’s name (preferably the name shown on the credit/debit card) even if you give jointly with another person. As with cheques and cash, donations made online are automatically credited to both adults in the same household regardless of which one made the donation.

♥ by cheque through the mail slot at the Church office entrance or by Canada Post.
♥ by monthly PAR payments. To sign up contact stuart@waltonmemorial.com.

Offering Prayer

Uplifting God,
We rejoice in the blessings of your abundant love, that enrich and nourish our lives. Guide us to give with joy, that by sharing what we have with those in need, we affirm your care and compassion. Encourage us to serve with joy, that by using your gifts to us of talent and purpose, we discover fulfilment and peace. Inspire us to pray with joy, that we may accept your love and recognize your presence in our hearts and in our world. Amen.

Benediction

Go out this day filled with joy and delight of God’s love given for you, inspired by the spirit and power of God’s wisdom shared for you, and strengthened and encouraged to open your hearts to be prepared for the Lord.

Walton’s Musical Message

This morning on Facebook and on YouTube, we’re sharing a video where Linda shares with us several of our favourite hymns! Sing along!

♬ Introit. (tune All Through the Night)
♬ Joy is Now in Every Place
♬ Candle of Joy/Joy is a Song
♬ My Soul Cries Out
♬ As Lately We Watched
♬ Good King Wenceslas
♬ Joy to the World
♬ Closing (tune Hark the Herald Angels Sing)

In case you missed it…

Here is Rev. Jim’s mid-week update from Wednesday, December 9th