The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury

December 19, 2021
4th Sunday in Advent
9:30 am


LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLES              The Clancy Family

Fourth Sunday in Advent: Love

Watch and wait for Christ’s coming! Light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love, remembering the promises of God with prayer.
We light this candle in hope. Light the first candle.
We light this candle for peace. Light the second candle.
We light this candle in joy! Light the third (pink) candle.
We light this candle with love. Light the fourth candle.
Hear again the Word of the Lord drawn from Zephaniah 3:17:

The LORD your God . . . will rejoice over you with gladness; God will quiet you with divine love like a child upon the breast. The Lord will exult over you with loud singing.

Let us pray:
God of hope, God of peace, God of joy, and God of love, Teach us how to love one another as reflections of your light in the world. God of promise, God of love, into our darkness come.



Our souls magnify the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God, our Savior.
For God has looked upon the lowliness of God’s servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call us blessed.
For God has done great things in us, and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who know their place,
who know that they serve God and God alone.
God has shown strength and has brought down the powerful.
God has filled the hungry and sent the rich away empty.
God has remembered God’s mercy and helped his servants,
according to the promise God has made to us.
Come, let us worship God-With-Us, Emmanuel!

HYMN No. 143                       “Angels, from the Realms of Glory”            vs. 1-3

1 Angels, from the realms of glory, 
wing your flight o’er all the earth;
you, who sang creation’s story,
now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
come and worship, come and worship,
worship Christ, the newborn king!

2 Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
yonder shines the infant light:
come and worship, come and worship,
worship Christ, the newborn king!

3 Sages, leave your contemplations;
brighter visions beam afar;
seek the great desire of nations;
you have seen his natal star:
come and worship, come and worship,
worship Christ, the newborn king!


Let us confess, before God and one another, the sins that have kept us from drawing near to God and one another.


Forgiving God, we have messed up in so many ways: we have attempted to disguise ourselves in fake piety, we have done something good only to make ourselves feel better, we have failed to exercise the compassion that Jesus embodied. Forgive us, Merciful God, for that which we have done and left undone. How long, O Lord, will you be angry with us? Shed your mercy upon us that we might be made new. This we pray in your holy name. Amen. 

Silence is observed


Friends, hear the good news of the Gospel: in the name of the Christ-child, Emmanuel, our sins are forgiven!
Alleluia! Amen.

RESPONSE No. 143               “Angels, from the Realms of Glory”  v. 4

4 All creation, join in praising
God the Father, Spirit, Son,
evermore your voices raising
to the eternal Three in One:
come and worship, come and worship,
worship Christ, the newborn king!


Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”

ANTHEM                   “A Carol for Advent”             Gilbert Martin                                                          


(all children will remain in the sanctuary)


Holy Spirit, Holy Word, may your love leap within us and your stories seal themselves to our hearts. As we prepare to welcome Jesus Christ, may we first welcome your wisdom to our worship.  Amen.

SCRIPTURE               Luke 1:39-45

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

SERMON                   “Leaped for Joy”

This time of year, brings all sorts of character to mind:  The Grinch, Cindy LouWho, George Bailey, Jack Skellington, Wayne and Lanny of Prep & Landing, The Nutcracker, the Mouse King, Susan Walker, Buddy the Elf, The Conductor on the Polar Express, Dominik the Italian Donkey, Hermey the Dentist Elf, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Yukon Cornelius, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Olive, the other reindeer, Santa Claus, Linus and his blanket, Angels, Wisemen, Shepherds and of course the Holy Family.

On this particular Sunday, I want us to consider not the wonderful fictional characters that paint the Christmas landscape, but two of the essential Biblical characters: Mary and Elizabeth. If we are looking for models of ministry in our modern times, Mary and Elizabeth should come to mind. On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas only five days away, the meaning of Advent has the potential to slip away. Waiting for a birth that will turn the world upside-down demands preemptive action — that is what is at the heart of the Advent season. Anticipating what is to come, you live as if it is already here. Expecting this event, you embody here and now what it will usher into the world. More than just characters in the story leading up to Christmas, Mary and Elizabeth show us what it looks like when you realize that your life is about to change – there is leaping and joy!

You can’t put off the implications of Christmas. You can’t defer its significances. You can’t postpone how it will affect your life. You simply must live as if it is true now. This is what we witness in Mary and Elizabeth. They realize the blessings that are about to arrive -alter everything about now. They believe that when God fulfills God’s promises, no matter when that fulfillment happens, that truth makes a difference now.

Mary and Elizabeth, in whom God has found favor, return that favor. Even though they do not yet grasp the fullness of that favor, even though they do not yet realize the magnitude of God’s regard for them, they know enough to act on it — and they can hardly wait to do so.

“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people” (Luke 1:25) and so Elizabeth welcomes her relative, Mary, who finds herself disgraced as an unmarried pregnant woman. “Nothing will be impossible with God” and so Mary testifies that because she has been favored, one whom the world would overlook, God will favor the lowly, lift up the marginalized, and do great things for those society casts aside.

The Advent difference means even before that for which we wait arrives we don’t wait to live out its truth= God’s peaceable kingdom has come. Advent helps us recognize that our response to Christmas cannot wait. Advent reminds us that when Christmas is “over” our work is just getting started — and should have already started.

As a result, Advent reminds us of a critical component of faith — that faith is as much anticipation as it is response. That faith is not just looking forward to fruition and fulfillment, but finds ways to manifest the culmination of God’s promises in the present. That faith trusts in God’s future while at the same time insists on making God’s future present for all people.

On this last Sunday of Advent, we can’t let this go. There’s too much at stake. There’s too much that has been lost. There’s too much that has been forgotten about the heart of the Christian faith.

What has been forgotten? Or conveniently left out of Christian living? Much, I suspect, given a cursory glance at what passes for Christianity today. But what Mary and Elizabeth tell us is that the birth of Jesus, the Word made flesh, is never, and never can be, celebrated without our participation in and manifestation of its promises.  Our participation in the body of Christ!  Our participation in sharing God’s love!  Our participation in proclaiming the Kingdom of God has arrived!  Our participation in sharing the Good News!

And yet our world has decided that Christmas can come and go without turning the world upside down once again. Mary and Elizabeth know the truth, however. That the birth of Jesus, every single year, upends the world as we know it, especially when the world needs it the most and specifically when the world persists in pretending that the status quo can continue, business as usual.

And the world, especially the so-called “Christian” world, has become very good at convincing itself that Mary’s Magnificat are simply long-ago words that don’t have any bearing on how we live today. But when we dismiss Mary’s words, we ourselves dismiss the very meaning of Christmas itself.

Mary and Elizabeth know better. They know what it feels like to be lifted up when you are the lowly. They know what it feels like to be free of shame and finally distanced from disgrace. They know what it feels like to be regarded when you’ve only been the recipient of the world’s practiced disregard. And they see that the promises of Christmas have already come true in their own lives.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent – Elizabeth and Mary – The Sunday of Love – should help us to believe that world will indeed be turned upside down five days later — and can hardly wait to tell about it and to show it to others. Who can hardly wait to live it out and to love it out. Who can hardly wait to see even in their own lives the promises of Christmas.  Recognize that Emmanuel – God has been made flesh and is with us!  That should make us jump for joy!!!!

Commentary and Liturgy provided by Debie Thomas, Dave Davies, Karoline Lewis, Alyce Mckenzie, Stephen M. Fearing, Daniel Hayward and MaryAnn McKibben Dana.

*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH            The Apostles’ Creed

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,  

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

*HYMN No. 99                      “My Soul Gives Glory to My God”

1 My soul gives glory to my God;
my heart pours out its praise.
God lifted up my lowliness
in many marvelous ways.

2 My God has done great things for me:
yes, holy is God’s name.
All people will declare me blessed,
and blessings they shall claim.

3 From age to age to all who fear,
such mercy love imparts,
dispensing justice far and near,
dismissing selfish hearts.

4 Love casts the mighty from their thrones,
promotes the insecure,
leaves hungry spirits satisfied;
the rich seem suddenly poor.

5 Praise God, whose loving covenant
supports those in distress,
remembering past promises
with present faithfulness.


God of Wonder,
We come before you in anticipation of what is to come;
We are excited
We are fearful
We are relieved
We are uncertain
In all these emotions, you are here with us.

God of No Limits,
We give you thanks for the boundless gifts you have given us:
This universe which you have created with its infinite mystery;
This earth that sustains us with its resources and beauty;
This created life, with all its relationships, of which we are a part;
For all these acts of love, we give you thanks.

God of Love,
We give you thanks for your Church
The community of those who came before, are here now, and are yet to come.
Help us to work together in the building of your kingdom here on earth
That we might live in justice, peace and harmony with all.

God of Many Blessings,
We call to mind all the ways in which you have blessed us individually,
With family and friends that fill us with belonging,
with studies and ministries that challenge and excite us
with good health and happiness.
In silence, O God, we give you are thanks for other blessings that you have laid before us….

God of Wisdom and Understanding,
As we give thanks we also hear the words of Scripture, urging us to bring all the concerns of our hearts to you.
And so we come with prayers of petition and intercession:
For a time when all this world might know peace
When hunger and oppression might end
When those who suffer might know freedom from pain
In our individual lives, O God, we name and offer the sighs of our hearts.
Hear them now as we call out these prayers to you……….

God of Patience and God of Surprises,
Teach us, in this time of waiting, to be open to let go of all those things
That hide your presence from us.
Catch us by surprise, catch us with wonder,
Fill us with the gift of your grace and your love
In this time of Advent and all the days to come.

In the power of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus, your wonderful gift to us,
we pray the words he taught us to say: Our Father…

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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.



God is with us in amazing and powerful ways, bringing shining new hope into the world. Like Mary and Elizabeth so long ago, the ministry of our church is radiant with that great hope. And like Mary and Elizabeth, our congregation and the whole United Church of Christ also trusts in the promises of God. In our giving this morning, our joy overflows in generosity. Let us gather…



Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below.  Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully know; Creator, Word and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


Gracious God, we thank you for the gifts before us and ask that you bless them that we might use them to be a blessing to others. As we finish this journey of Advent, care for us as you did your servant Mary, that we might serve you as she did, carrying God’s grace into the world.  Amen. 

*HYMN No. 123                     “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”

1 It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth,
to touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to all,
from heaven’s all-gracious King”:
the world in solemn stillness lay,
to hear the angels sing.

2 Still through the cloven skies they come,
with peaceful wings unfurled,
and still their heavenly music floats
o’er all the weary world:
above its sad and lowly plains
they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o’er its Babel sounds
the blessed angels sing.

3 Yet with the woes of sin and strife
the world has suffered long;
beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
and we at war on earth hear not
the tidings that they bring;
O, hush the noise and cease the strife
to hear the angels sing!

4 And you, beneath life’s crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
look now, for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing:
O, rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing.

5 For lo, the days are hastening on,
by prophets seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years
shall come the time foretold,
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world give back the song
which now the angels sing.


Be people of joy.
Let joy live in your heart and share the joy of Christ with all you meet.
Share joy by seeing the good in each other.
Share joy by remembering good times and hoping for good times to come.
Share joy by praying for our world.
In this Advent season, we need to see, feel, and share joy.
As you go out into the wonder of God’s creations, share joy, peace, and hope with those you meet. Amen.