The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Sunday December 21, 2014, Advent Four Lessons and Carols Selection of prayers and related thoughts                                   



Bright star of David, light our path this winter solstice. 

Guiding north star, radiance of sun and moon and stars,

Keeper of the eternal hearth, be with us.

Tender Jesus, Prince of Peace, at this Christmastide

Give light to our paths and songs for a sacred season.

Jesus, Bringer of Light, Counsellor, and Prince of Peace,

We herald your presence among us with cherubim and seraphim

We shout and jump for joy. Amen.


An Advent Question: How far is it to Bethlehem?  How far is it to Bethlehem? 


These are but two different ways we could ask this question emphasizing different words leading to quite different answers.


To begin with, we could answer the question from a geographical perspective.   For example, for Joseph and Mary thought to be travelling on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, the distance is thought to be about 80 miles.  It is thought that walking on rough terrain, sometimes riding on the back of the donkey, it would take about a week, give or take.  That would be one way to answer the question.


What about the journey to Bethlehem as a spiritual question:  How far is it to the place where something unexpected, something surprising, something wonderfully new and vulnerable might be born in our midst at Advent?


This Advent season, here at Knox, we have been learning to be curious and courageous as we discern what it means to be an Advent people in this time and in this place.  

We have been learning together as a community standing on the brink of something new as it emerges here at Knox. 

How far is it to Bethlehem? 


Let us, like Mary the mother of Jesus, continue to ponder the meaning of all this and more in our hearts as our service continues…..


Anthem:  “How Far is it to Bethlehem”


Lesson 1: Galatians 3: 23-28 Faith has come!


“Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.  Therefore, the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith.”


*CAROL: VU#35 “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”


Lesson 2: Galatians 4: 4-12: In the fullness of time God sent his son


“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.  And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying: “Abba!  Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.”


*CAROL: VU#74 “What Child Is This?”


Lesson 3:  Luke 1: 5-25 To Zechariah and Elizabeth, a son will be born


“In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah.  His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to the commandments and regulations of the Lord.  But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.  Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense.  Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.  Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.  Bu the angel said to him “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.  Your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.  You will have great joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.  He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.   With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so?  For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”  The angel replied, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to you and to bring you this good news.  But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occurs.  Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary.  He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak.  When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.  After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion.  She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”


Saxophone Solo: Bob Copeman “Ave Maria”-Bach. Gounod


Lesson 4: LUKE 1: 26-38 The Angel Gabriel visits Mary


“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”  But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most high, and the Lord will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end”.  Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  The angel said to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.


*CAROL:  VU#14 “To A Maid Whose Name Was Mary”


Prayer of Thanksgiving For The Readings:  God of grace, we rejoice that you choose to dwell among us. Like Elizabeth and Mary, may we be filled with your Holy Spirit, so as to witness to the good news of your unfolding purpose in our lives and in our world.  Help us to know that with you, anything is possible!  Amen. 


Anthem: “Carol for the King”



Pastoal Prayers:  Gracious God, we stand on the brink of new life.  Our Advent season draws to a close and we wonder: How far has the journey to Bethlehem been for us this year? 

Has the road been bumpy or smooth?  Has the journey been straightforward or fraught with delays?  Have we focussed our attention on your presence in our midst in and through our relationships with you and with each other? 


God, have we made room enough?  Have we held space open for you, God with us?


Or have we relegated the place for You to be born, have we left it unnoticed in the background corners of our lives where no can see? 


God of fulfillment, give us patience and courage for the work of rebuilding fragile relationships in need of nurturing and repair. 


Help us find ways of reflecting the joy of your love for us so that we, too, might share our love and our lives as faithful and hopeful ones. 


God of promise, we offer you our prayers for this community of faith here at Knox United Church.


This morning we pray especially for all those who find it hard to be merry……


Encourage and strengthen us for our journeys of faith alone and together to risk saying ‘YES’ to your call for our shared life as a faith community. 


God of all people and all places, we offer now our prayers for those in the wider community, our region, our province, our country, and all nations of the world. 


We pray for leaders to make wise decisions that are best for all and not just for a few. 


Help us to live faithfully as good citizens in this global village we call our home and remind us that we can make a difference. 


Just as a little baby born 2000 years ago in a lonely barn made a difference.  Amen.


Lord’s Prayer VU#921

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by 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.