Virtual Service – January 2, 2022

8:30 am

January 2, 2022

Virtual Service

Welcome to virtual church!

Today’s service will be offered in 2 formats – video and text.

• View the video below
• You can download and print the service from this document – link
• You can read the complete service on our website.

For the latest news and updates from Walton, please check our Facebook page, Instagram and website. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for videos of service, the choirs and more!

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

Please Note: This service was pre-recorded by staff on Thursday, December 23 following strict Covid protocols.


Announcements

• GRIEF SUPPORT GROUP – This education and support group is designed for those who are dealing with the death of a loved one. Taking a faith-based perspective, we will explore various aspects of grief, how grief affects one’s emotions, behaviours, body, mind and spirit. We will look at tasks one can do and adjustments one can make to move through grief, and help find ways to reinvest in one’s life in meaningful ways. The contents of the course are based on the materials of Dr. Bill Webster, Centre for the Grief Journey.
Leadership: The Rev. Dr. Deborah Hart – Minister of Deer Park United Church in Toronto, who has been facilitating grief support groups for over 25 years. Sponsored by Christ First United, Maple Grove United, St. Cuthbert’s Anglican and Walton United churches.
Location: On-line by Zoom
Dates: 6 Wednesdays, Jan. 19 to Feb. 23, 2022 + one follow-up session – date TBD
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $20 per participant for the course materials
Contact: Maeva Donaldson – 905-845-7454 or maeva.k.d@hotmail.com  for more information or to register
• Children and youth are invited to view this week’s virtual Sunday School lesson online. If you’re feeling the post-holiday letdown don’t worry, we’ll learn how to have a happy new year, no matter what’s going on!
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.


Land Acknowledgement

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Welcome

Hello, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Welcome to this first Sunday of worship at Walton for 2022. We know, it’s not exactly how we thought or hoped this year would be beginning, and many have not had the Christmas time that we had planned or looked forward to. It’s been a difficult couple of weeks.

Yet when we come together in worship, we affirm that despite the twists and turns and unpredictability of our life, God’s love is constant; despite the confusion and uncertainty of all the guidelines and advisories, God’s love is unchanging; and no matter how dark our days may feel, God’s love is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

Music: 12 Days of Christmas Praise

 

Call to Worship

One: Holy Spirit, our counsellor, lead us steadfastly into this new year.
Two: Guide us to recognize your will for us each day.
One: God, the father of glory, shine in our hearts and strengthen our faithfulness.
Two: Awaken in us praise and worship for all that you give to us.
One: Jesus our saviour, accept us, forgive us, and free us from pain.
Two:Let us know the comfort of your love and the joy that comes from trusting in you.
One:Reach out to us in worship and bring us peace.

Opening Prayer

Everlasting God,
Your love stretches across the ages, a constant beacon of hope and promise to all those who proclaim your name. Your love burrows down inside us to the gulf of our anxiety, providing us with your unchanging acceptance and peace. Your love untangles the messy, knotty dramas of our lives, guiding us with the certainty of your forgiveness and faithfulness. When we are overwhelmed with uncertainty, remind us that all things are possible for you and reassure us with your abiding presence in our hearts. Amen.

The Lord’s  Prayer

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, forever and ever. Amen.

Youth Story Intro

Good morning! Alison and I videoed this before Christmas and then all the covid protocols changed…  but the meaning behind it and the excitement and the joy in celebrating Jesus birth hasn’t changed, or won’t change cause that is in you; that is between you and God. How grateful we are for the blessings we have… no virus or variant can change that… only we can do that! So close your eyes and let’s pray…

Dear God, please enter my heart today. Help me feel your love, hope, joy and peace in a way I have never felt it before. Help me to know you better and to see the blessings among all the challenges, and help me to remember  that you bless each one of us every day. With a grateful heart, I pray. Amen

Youth Story – Praise Party

Alison is taking the decorations off the tree when Val comes in wearing a party hat, whooping and hollering.

V: Alison, what are you doing?

A: I’m putting away the tree. What on earth are you doing?

V: It’s party time. Time to celebrate! Woohoo!

A: Ummm…you’re either a little late or really, really early. Christmas and New Year’s are over. It’s time to pack everything up and put it away. There’s nothing to celebrate now. It’s January and there’s not even anything to look forward to.

V: What are you talking about? Christmas is never over. You don’t need to have the winter blues because it can be Christmas whenever you want. Jesus is a gift that lasts forever, and we can praise God and celebrate him whenever we want. We should celebrate that all the time!

A: Whenever we want?

V: Whenever we want.

A: We can have a Christmas party in February?

V: Sure can!

A: In summer?

V: Yup!

A: In September and October?

V: Absolutely!

A: In that case, I’m putting these decorations back on the tree and it’s staying up all year long. And I’m coming to your house tonight for a praise party. Ok?

V: Ok!

Anthem: Jesus, Light of the World Has Come

 

Scripture Reading:  Luke 2:22-40, Isaiah 61:10-62:3 (Simeon & Anna)

Listen for God’s holy word for you today.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”),  and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,  Simeon  took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant  in peace, according to your word;for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed  so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.  At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

My whole being shall exult in my God;for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise  to spring up before all the nations.

The Vindication and Salvation of Zion

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn,  and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name  that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God upon him.

Morning Message:  The Face of God

I have a confession to make. I’m terrible – truly awful – at recognizing people. Which is not a great trait to have in any workplace or community setting.

Don’t get me wrong, I can oftentimes recognize faces as familiar, and I can usually identify names, sometimes even both, albeit in isolation. It’s when it comes to joining them up, that’s where I start to fall apart.

This isn’t a new challenge for me – it’s been tricky for as long as I can remember – but Covid mask regulations have made it exponentially more difficult. With a mask covering half of a person’s face, my chances of recognition drop by 50%. And if you add in any element of complexity – a hat, sunglasses, or a new haircut – then you can almost guarantee I will fail.

But at least I know roughly the age and overall appearance of the people I meet. Adults generally don’t change a huge amount, even in two years. Simeon, who we read about this morning, had a much more difficult predicament.

The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. A promise that was inspiring and daunting in equal measure. Yet, no matter what or who Simeon thought he should be watching out for, it’s safe to say, it wasn’t a baby.

This week is the last Sunday in our Advent-Christmas series of messages which explores, “What Nativity Character are you?” And along the way our services have explored the meaning for us of some of the lesser people and places of the Christmas story. We’ve looked at Nazareth, always in second place behind Bethlehem, as well as Joseph, too often left in Mary’s shadow.

Today, we are exploring the Christmas message found in two people who, perhaps more than anyone else in the Nativity, represent each one of us – Simeon and Anna. These are two ordinary people, who’ve had their ups and downs, and who are trying their best to live lives of faith. Maybe they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, but they believe that God is and will be present in the world.

Simeon and Anna don’t get a place at the stable though. In fact, our reading tells of an encounter with Jesus that many may not even realize is part of the Christmas accounts.

Mary and Joseph have brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfil two teachings from the Hebrew Bible; to offer the stipulated sacrifices for the consecration of the first-born, and the purification of a woman 40 days after childbirth.

And there’s an important nuance in the details we’re given. The sacrifice being offered – “a pair of doves or two young pigeons,” – is the option provided for those who could not afford to sacrifice a lamb.

This is the bargain basement, cut-price sacrifice; the cheaper alternative provided in the book of Leviticus in cases of poverty to ensure the required rituals were still followed.

If Luke’s Nativity account had not already depicted the humble family into which Jesus was born, these events confirm it. This is not then a family whose presence in the temple will draw attention. They are there only to fulfil the ritual obligations of the Law; they will bring their sacrifice to the priest and then they will go, as insignificantly as they arrived.

Except they don’t.

Because, guided by the Spirit, a man named Simeon approaches the family and in the surprising and counter-intuitive face of a baby, Simeon knows that he is seeing the face of God.

Then, accompanying Simeon, is Anna. Her body may have been aging, but the sight of Jesus was unmistakable, and not even first-century eye-care could prevent her recognizing and proclaiming the glory of God.

Simeon and Anna are among the earliest external witnesses to God’s incarnation in human form. Simeon, praising God and speaking inwardly to the holy family. Anna, also praising God and then outwardly witnessing to the promise of redemption that Jesus manifest.

There are so many details that Luke tucks into this scene. If his gospel was a video game, the details would be called – appropriately – Easter Eggs. Images and messages that have a meaning deeper than is first apparent, and which when we unpack them, bring us closer to the saving love of God.

The overarching meaning I take from this reading is summed up in one of the more obscure details, at least to modern readers. Anna, the prophet, is named as the daughter of Phanuel. That’s certainly not a common name today, and indeed it’s only mentioned once or twice in the entire Bible.

It means ‘face of God’, and it points to the many other ways we can see the face of God in the passage, highlighting the breadth of God’s love.

God keeping God’s promises is a recurring theme. The most obvious of these is referred to by Simeon, in his moving prayer of praise, as he affirms the fulfilling of God’s promise to him, to see the Messiah – God’s salvation – before his death.

This would likely have resonated with those present that day, drawing a connection to the first of the rituals being carried out – the consecration of a first-born child, which was instituted by God to Moses following the escape of the Israelites from Egypt.

It is an association that emphatically draws attention to the faithfulness of God to God’s people; God’s promise to be with us and to lead us to safety and peace.

This reminder of God redeeming or rescuing his people is also alluded to in the lineage of Anna – a descendant of the tribe of Asher. If you’re really up on your Old Testament history, you may know that Asher was one of the sons of Jacob, who together later became the twelve tribes of Israel.

But Asher was conquered by Assyria and the people deported, viewed as lost until the coming of the Messiah; when as Luke will later write, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Perhaps the most wonderful detail is Anna herself. A woman. A devout, vocal, forthright woman, to whom is given the honour of first proclaiming the saving love of God in Jesus.

Her presence at this moment, the responsibility she had in conveying God’s message to the people in the temple, reinforces the inclusive nature of God’s love, that we have already seen in the presence of the shepherds at Jesus’ birth and indeed the poverty of the holy family themselves.

This is a God that makes room for people – for whom age or gender or social standing are irrelevant, and all are welcomed, healed, and saved.

And God’s determination to love and care for us all is emphasized by Anna’s name itself, which means grace; a word that sums up God’s acceptance of us as we are, his love for us, his forgiveness of us, and his everlasting desire to stay in relationship with us.

Now amongst all Luke’s carefully crafted details and poetic praise, there’s a noticeable gap. When Anna proclaims the wonder of the child before them, announcing her witness of the face of God, Luke falls silent. Anna’s words are not recorded.

And I’d encourage us to think of this as space Luke has left for us to fill in. For us to bear witness to the inclusive, faithful, rescuing face of God with those around us.

Or, to borrow the words of Mother Teresa, to seek “the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; Seeing the presence of Jesus, … in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

The ‘distressing disguise of the poor’ is an apt description for how Kevin began his life – abandoned as a newborn baby in a New York subway station. So small and still that Danny Stewart almost walked straight past, thinking the small bundle was a doll – until the doll’s legs moved.

Frantic calls to the police and his partner Pete followed – Danny was late for dinner –before the baby was taken into care. The “Good Samaritan” rescue and efforts to find the baby’s biological parents flooded the news for a few days and then life went back to normal.

Until 6 weeks later, when Danny was asked to testify at a family court hearing about finding the baby. The judge presiding that day was also taking part in what ended up being a short-lived pilot project to expedite adoption for abandoned babies.

The judge believed strongly that all babies needed a connection to someone, and as Danny testified, the judge felt overwhelmingly that the baby’s “most serious connection in the world” was to the man who found him.

“Would you be interested in adopting this baby?” she asked.

“Yes,” replied Danny, “but I don’t think it’s that easy.”

The judge smiled, changed three lives, and said, “Well, it can be.”

There isn’t the time to do justice to the unfolding of how the family of Danny, Pete and Kevin came into being – and you can read more online if you’re interested. But suffice to say, Kevin is now 20 years old and studying math and computer science at college. Danny and Pete married, with the ceremony being presided over – at Kevin’s suggestion – by the judge who arranged Kevin’s adoption.

The family embodies the inclusive, faithful, rescuing face of God, and our calling to seek “the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening.”

Or as Pete sums up, “Where there is love, anything is possible.”

The theologian David Lose reflects that the witness of Simeon and Anna as part of the Christmas story encourage us to see “a renewed conviction that God is at work through small details, that the light shines on in the darkness, and that God’s promise of salvation enables us to face all things.”

The family story of Danny, Pete and Kevin affirms these truths also, and proclaims the incredible things that can result when we see the face of God in all whom we encounter.

Simeon and Anna each express the glory of God’s faithful love, of the salvation of humankind, that they experienced from encountering Jesus. When we also accept that love, that promise, when we open our hearts to the face of God, then “there is nothing left to fear.”

Whatever comes will come, and it will come with God by our side.

Praise be to God.

‘We found a baby on the subway – now he’s our son’ – BBC News

These men became dads to baby found abandoned at subway station | CBC Radio

Pastoral Prayer

Healing God, as we leave behind another year, we grieve all that we have lost.

We weep for the loved ones departed in these times, with mourning constrained and sorrow stifled.

We hurt for the opportunities and security undermined or put on hold, as doors closed, economies shrank, and travel stuttered.

We acknowledge the milestones passed by unexpressed, with gatherings prevented or discouraged, and celebrating so often out of place.

We lament the fading of purpose in our lives, as our former routines and patterns of meaning pass into memory.

We name our losses before you now, in search of your consolation and peace.

Rescuing God, as we tentatively venture into this new year, we crave the reassurance of your everlasting love.

Comfort us when suffer loss, and remind us of the promise of your salvation, both on earth now and in the life hereafter.

Strengthen us throughout this uncertainty to move forward with hope and to renew our dreams and ambitions despite our unpredictable world.

Nurture us and our communities to create fresh connections and expressions of togetherness; to reinvent rituals through which we can grow.

Nourish us to discover and affirm your will for us, and guide us as we create faithful paths to our fulfilment and the flourishing of your word.

Help us to see the blessings in our world, the possibilities in each day, and your constant presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Music: What Sweeter Music (Rutter)

 

Offering of Ourselves, Our Gifts, Our Tithes

We have been given the gift of another year. A gift of renewal and hope, a gift of fresh starts and possibilities, and the opportunity to share those gifts with others. As we contemplate all that lies ahead, may our service bring about renewal and hope for those in need, and let our giving provide for others the fresh start they long for and the possibilities of a brighter life.

♥  by secure online payment from your debit or credit card. Click here to go to our donation page to make a single or recurring donation. Multiple funds can be included in one donation by using the “Add Donation” button
♥ by cheque through the mail slot at the Church office entrance or by Canada Post
♥ by Text to Give. Donate securely at any time just by texting a dollar amount to 84321 (eg. $5).  See our Text-to-Give page for more information.
♥ by monthly PAR payments. To sign up contact stuart@waltonmemorial.com

Offering Prayer

Abundant and renewing God,

Guide us in the endeavours of this new year ahead, that we might serve you to bring about the redemption of your world and the healing of your children. That we might enrich the outreach and ministry of the Walton community with our resources. And that we might praise you with our lives, so that all may know that we are your disciples. Amen.

Benediction

Go forward into this new year, blessed by your witness of God in your life, and inspired by the presence of God in the world. Let your love shine forth like the dawn, bringing hope to all around you, and may your faith glow steadily like a burning torch, guiding you each day. Amen.


In case you missed it…

Here is Rev. Jim’s mid-week update for Wednesday, December 29th