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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The Fourth Sunday of Advent - Year A
Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7,18-19; Matthew 1:18-25
"Christmas Love"

READING:  Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7,18-19; Matthew 1:18-25
SERMON :  "Christmas Love"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ad04su 959000

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday. Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   Sources:  We are indebted to a number of people and sources.  
   The Children's Story is that found in John Maynard's, "Prayers 
   and Litanies for Advent 4A 2001" as sent to the PRCL List, 
   December 2001.  The fable portion of the sermon was adapted from 
   Victor Spencer's ( "Preach Christmas 
   - A Grimm's Fairy Tale", as sent to the PRCL List on December 
   24 2000.  The Christmas version of I Corinthians 13 (authorship
   unknown) was sent by Phil Gilman, from the "More Light 
   Presbyterians List" to "" 
   December 17, 2001.  The quote from Jim Swanson is from his note 
   to the PRCL List, December 21 2001.  The Eucharistic Preface is 
   adapted from that for Advent 4A by Nathan Nettleton at 
   "", 2004.  The Candle Lighting song "A 
   Candle Is Burning" is sung to the tune of "Away in A Manger" 
   and may be used with acknowledgement to Sandra Dean, Ottawa, 
   Ontario, 1986.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you
L  Look said the prophet: 
   "A virgin shall conceive and bear a son".
P  You shall call him Emmanuel.
   which means "God is with us".
L  He will be born of the line of David 
   and of his kingdom there will be no end.
P  You shall call him Jesus, 
   because he will save his people from their sins. 
L  In him all the promises 
   made from the beginning of time to the end 
   shall come true.
P  By him the fullness of God's love 
   shall shine upon the whole world.

* INTROIT                                                  - VU 1 (Verse 1)
       O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
       that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.
       Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


VOICE  - Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Love.

VOICE  - Jesus shows us God's perfect love.  He is God's perfect love in
       human form.  Those who believe in him and live in him, live in love. 
       Love transforms and perfects all things.  It never ends.

VOICE  We light this candle today to remind us that God is love.  We thank
       God for hope he gives us, for the peace he bestows, for the joy he
       pours into our hearts, and for the love that redeems us and shows us
       the way.

-- Light the First, Second, Third and Fourth Candles --

VOICE  - Let us pray -- O God of Love, Emmanuel, send your light into our
       hearts at this time.  Help us to be ready for the time of Christ's
       appearing.  Grant that we may so dwell in him that his perfect love
       fills our entire being.  Make our worship a time in which we
       celebrate your love and are made ready to show that love to the
       whole world - both today - and forevermore.  Amen.

SONG: "A Candle Is Burning"                                - VU 6 (verse 4)
   A candle is burning, a candle of love,
   a candle to point us to heaven above,
   A baby for Christmas, a wonderful birth,
   for Jesus is bringing God's love to our earth.


- Announcements  
- Birthdays and Anniversaries  
- Special Matters  
- Joys and Concerns for Prayer

* HYMN:  "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks"                     - VU 75

Object    None
Source    John Maynard, "Prayers and Litanies for Advent 4A 2001" as sent
          to the PRCL List.
Theme     The Names of Jesus

Good morning.....    There is something special happening here Friday
Evening?  Do you know what it is???  (We are celebrating the birth of Jesus
with candlelight and song)    

Did you know that the Name 'Jesus" has a special meaning?  In Hebrew it
means: "YAHWEH HELPS" (Yeshua) or "YAHWEH IS SALVATION"   

Yahweh is the Jewish Name for God.  So when we use Jesus' Name we are

In the Gospel according to Matthew an Angel tells Joseph to give Mary's
baby the name Jesus because he would grow up to save his people from Sin -
to show them all the love of God.

There is another name we give to Jesus and that name is CHRIST.  Sometimes
we call the one who is born tomorrow night Christ Jesus, other times we
call him Jesus Christ.  Do you know what CHRIST means???  It means  "GOD'S

In the Old Testament there are many stories about prophets and kings, whom
God anointed, because He had special things to do.  When God anoints
someone, He says:  "I HAVE CHOSEN YOU!"   "I have a special task for you to

So when we say "JESUS IS THE CHRIST"  we are saying-Jesus is God's ANOINTED
ONE!  We are saying "GOD CHOSE HIM TO BE OUR SAVIOUR!"  That he is chosen
to be our KING and our PROPHET to do the special work of SAVING US.

There is still another name we give Christ Jesus.  Can you guess what it
is???  It is a name that we use a lot at Christmas time - we sing that name
just before we light the Advent Candles each week during Advent.  Do you
know what that name is now????   It is EMMANUEL.    

Do you know what the name Emmanuel means???  That's right, it means "GOD
WITH US."  And that's a special promise from God, one made long ago through
the Prophet Isaiah - that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son who would
be called Emmanuel - for in him God would be with his people.  Jesus is
that child, the special child of God and of Mary, and when we know him and
have him in our heart.  We know God and have God in our Heart, God is with

When we celebrate Christ's Birth this Christmas, let's think about these
three names for Jesus:  JESUS -CHRIST - EMMANUEL and remember the lesson
they tell us - that in him God has a special purpose - that in him God has
come to rescue us and be with us - so that we are never alone - so that we
are never without his help and his love.

Let us pray....

       We thank you God - for Christ Jesus Emmanuel - for he is the one
       you have chosen - to save us and help us - and to always be with
       us.   We thank you for his birthday - and we pray that this
       Christmas - will be very special for us - and for people all
       around the world.   Amen.
       And in the word's that Christ Jesus, Emmanuel taught us, let us
       sing together his 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, for ever and ever.  Amen

* HYMN:   "Once In Royal David's City"                              - VU 62

       (NIV) Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask the Lord your God for a
       sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." 
       But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the

       Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough
       to try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of my God
       also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The
       virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will
       call him Immanuel.  He will eat curds and honey when he knows
       enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.  But before the
       boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the
       land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

L      This is the word of the Lord.
P      Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 80:1-7,18-19 (VU 794, Part One) and the Gloria
Patri (sung)

       Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. 
       As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
       World without end.  Amen 

       (NIV)  This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about:  His
       mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they
       came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy
       Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did
       not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to
       divorce her quietly.  But after he had considered this, an angel
       of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of
       David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because
       what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give
       birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because
       he will save his people from their sins." 

       All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the
       prophet:  "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a
       son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with

       When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had
       commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he had no
       union with her until she gave birth to a son.  And he gave him
       the name Jesus.

L      This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord.
P      Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN: "Angels We Have Heard on High"                              - VU 38

HOMILY:  "Christmas Love"

       O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
       and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
       the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants
       listen.  Amen.

For the last three weeks we have been looking at the hope, the peace, and
the joy that God grants us through Christ Jesus.  Today is the Sunday of
Advent we call the Sunday of Love.  The scriptures we have heard speak of
God's love for us - of how he promised us through the prophet Isaiah that a
virgin would conceive and bear a son whose name would be known as
"Emmanuel", God with us - and how this special child would save and deliver
his people.

The gospel lesson tells us of how that promise came true through the child
of Mary and of how Joseph, out of his love for God and his obedience to
God's word took Mary for his wife and did all that the angel commanded him
to do - thereby giving a home and family to the one who was to be called
Jesus, Emmanuel.

Today as we await the birth of Jesus, God's gift of love to us, I want to
share with you a familiar story or fable, slightly rewritten for this
season, and then make a few comments about what love is like.   

First the fable:

       "Once upon a time there lived a fisherman and his wife.  Their
       home was a humble two roomed cottage with a tiny garden and a
       well.  Every day the fisherman would go out in his little boat
       and in the evening bring home his catch, sometimes good,
       sometimes poor.  This was their livelihood.

       But the fisherman's wife was discontented.  "Why should I have to
       live in this hovel?  Is it too much to expect a decent home with
       water and electricity and a kitchen?   I wish I was a lady."  
       Her continual grousing made the fisherman quite miserable.

       One day, something happened which changed their lives.  The man
       caught a strange and beautiful fish which startled him by
       speaking.  "Please thrown me back into the sea and I'll grant
       whatever you wish."

       The fisherman thought a bit and then replied, "So be it.  I wish
       my wife was a lady and lived in a proper house with water,
       electricity and a kitchen."

       When he returned that evening he found that his wish had been
       granted, and his wife was very pleased.  But as the months passed
       she began to grumble again, "Is it too much to expect something
       better than this pokey house?  I wish I was a Duchess, with a
       mansion and servants and a carriage.  Why did you ask for so
       little?  I'm sure the fish meant us to do better than this."

       Driven by her complaints nagging, the fisherman tried to contact
       the fish again and rowed his boat to the spot.  No sooner had he
       called than the fish appeared and agreed to his request.

       But the duchess was still not satisfied.  Within a month she was
       grumbling and complaining again.  "I wish I was a queen, go and
       see your fish again".  And so he did.

       Life in the palace was luxurious, but the fisherman's wife, now a
       queen, wasn't content for long.  "What I would really like" she
       said, "would be to be God.  I'm sure your fish will understand
       that this is what I wanted all along."

       When the man returned from his last visit to his fishy friend, he
       found no palace on the shore, no mansion, not a  house.  Not even
       his little old cottage was there.  But then he heard crying, and
       noticing a cave in the cliff face, he went closer.  Inside it was
       fashioned into a rough stable.  There were 2 oxen and a donkey. 
       And in the manger a little baby lay crying."

       The fisherman's wife had her wish.

The wife in our rewrite of the story had, of course, forgotten what God is
like in this world, in human flesh.

She'd forgotten about Christmas and Passiontide.  
       She'd forgotten about the manger and the cross.  
            She'd forgotten that our God is a God who comes and who
identifies with his people, and especially with the poorest and the most
humble of people

It is so easy to forget what it cost Jesus to come to earth as one of us.

The Almighty God, Creator and King of the Universe, 
       gave up his heavenly throne, 
       gave up being worshipped and adored by angels and saints, 
in order to come to us and to give us heaven.

There was a painter (I've forgotten his name - it is something like
Holstein) who offended many people by painting a picture of the baby Jesus
in the manger, with the roof beams of the stable throwing the shadow of a
cross over his face. 

But that painter was right.  God was born as a baby in Bethlehem, knowing
full well that the cross would follow as surely as night follows day.

Greater love has no one than this 
- that they lay down their life for their friends.

This is the love of Christmas 
- God laid aside his throne - and in Jesus became one of us, 
       like us in every way: 
- and being one of us he further humbled himself and gave his life for us.

In the face of this incredible and beautiful and sobering news there can be
only one response: to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and
strength; and to love one another - in the way that he loves us.

My friend's love is the most important part of the Christmas story.   
It is the love of God that brings to us the hope and the peace and the joy
that we need.   
And it is our love for one another in Christ's name - that makes Christmas

As you finish your preparations for Christmas, less than a week away now,
listen to the words of St. Paul concerning love in a fresh way.  Someone, I
know not who, wrote a paraphrase of First Corinthians Thirteen which goes
like this:

       If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of 
       twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my
       family, I'm just another decorator.

       If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas 
       cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully
       adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, 
       I'm just another cook.

       If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and 
       give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my
       family, it profits me nothing.

       If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted 
       snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the
       choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the

       Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

       Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.

       Love is kind, though harried and tired.

       Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated  Christmas
       china and table linens.

       Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.

       Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return
       but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

       Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, 
       endures all things.

       Love never fails.  Video games will break, pearl necklaces will
       be lost, golf clubs will rust.

       But giving the gift of love will endure.

The gift of love will endure.   
Indeed - that is what Christmas is all about.  The gift of love.   

I would like to conclude with words written by Jim Swanson, a clergy person
in Florida.   They are from a Christmas Greeting he wrote and sent out to
his friends and family some 30 years ago - the year that he had a daughter
born to him with Downs Syndrome.  This is part of what he wrote:

       Into a world of strength and pride
            a child is born, weak and humble,
       having no power -
            except that power which alone can conquer all others:
       Such was, and is, Christmas.


Let us Pray:  Father - we rejoice at this time in your most gracious will -
a will that is so shaped by your love that it has held nothing back from
us.  As we ponder this day the message of the angels to Mary and to Joseph
and how their lives were changed by their acceptance of that message - we
pray that our lives  too may be changed.  Grant that like Mary we may be
your willing and humble servants - and that like Joseph we may place
obedience to the vision you give us over any thoughts of our reputation or
convenience...  Lord hear our prayer....

We thank you God, that is since it is to the needy and the lost, and to the
least that you sent Jesus, we can know that he also comes to us.  We thank
you that in Him, the Mystery of Love was born and is known, the love that
names us good and the power that makes us good.  Help us to always
celebrate the radiance of Christ, he who was born in Bethlehem to be our
light and the light of the whole world.  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord - we pray today for those who have a special need for the gift of
Christmas in their lives.  We pray for those who feel empty, that they may
discover the Babe of Christmas who fills the soul with peace and hope.... 
We pray for those who feel alone - that they may discover that you are with
them - that Jesus is Emmanuel.... and we pray for those who are homeless
and those who hunger and thirst this day - that they may have justice and
peace and blessings for their minds and bodies and spirits...  Lord hear
our prayer....

Father we hold before as a community and family of faith, the family of
your love, those of our family, our congregation, our community, and our
world that are upon our hearts today...  BIDDING PRAYER ...Lord, hear our

Thank you Father for hearing our prayers and for coming to us.  We pray all
that we pray through Christ Jesus - the babe of Bethlehem and the lamb who
was slain, the one who is both our brother and our Lord.  Amen.

SPECIAL READING - "My First Christmas In Heaven"

My First Christmas in Heaven 
I see the countless 
Christmas trees 
around the world below 
With tiny lights, like Heaven's stars,
reflecting on the snow 

The sight is so spectacular, 
please wipe away the tear 
For I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year. 

I hear the many Christmas songs 
that people hold so dear 
But the sounds of music can't compare 
with the Christmas choir up here. 

I have no words to tell you, 
the joy their voices bring, 
For it is beyond description, 
to hear the angels sing. 

I know how much you miss me, 
I see the pain inside your heart. 
But I am not so far away, 
We really aren't apart. 

So be happy for me, dear ones, 
You know I hold you dear. 
And be glad I'm spending Christmas 
with Jesus Christ this year. 

I sent you each a special gift, 
from my heavenly home above. 
I sent you each a memory 
of my undying love. 

After all, love is a gift more precious 
than pure gold. 
was always most important 
the stories Jesus told. 

Please love and keep each other, 
my Father said to do. 
I can't count the blessing or love 
has for each of you. 

So have a Merry Christmas and 
Wipe away that tear
Remember, I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year 

Source - this has been reported to be by a 13 year boy 
by the name of Ben, who died of brain cancer in 1997

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

       Gracious God - we thank you for your many gifts to us and our
       world.  Most of all we thank you for your gift of love in and
       thru Jesus Christ.  As He offered himself for the world to you -
       so we ourselves and our gifts to at this time.  May your name
       always be glorified in what we say and do.  Amen.

* SHARING THE PEACE:  We greet those around us with a sign of peace
       (handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the Lord be with
       you".  This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to the peace
       that God gives to those who hear and do his word.

* COMMUNION HYMN:  "All Who Hunger"                                - VU 460

       COMMUNION EXPLAIN - Our table, the table of our Lord, Jesus
       Christ, is an open table.  All who desire to receive from it may
       receive from it.  Today we receive Communion by coming forward to
       one of the two stations that will be here by our Advent Candle
       Wreath.   We receive by intinction, which means that you are
       asked to tear a piece of bread from the loaf and then dip into
       the cup.   As you take the bread the server will say "the body of
       the Lord broken for you" and as you dip the bread into the cup
       the server will say "the blood of Christ poured out for you".  A
       traditional response to these words is "Amen" or "And also for
       you".   Finally - those who find it difficult to come forward &
       would like to be served - please raise hand)

L      The peace of the Lord be with you.
P      And also with you.
L      Lift up your hearts.
P      We lift them up to the Lord.
L      Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P      It is right to give God thanks and praise.

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER (Prayer of Thanksgiving)
L      It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, O God, for
       you rest your hand upon us, calling us to be your saints and
       giving us life again - new life - a life of hope and peace and
       joy and love - a life that never ends.  

       Before time began, your Holy Spirit brooded over the chaos and
       brought the earth and its inhabitants to birth.  You made us in
       your image and destined us to be your friends and companions
       throughout all time.  Yet we turned away from you and ignored
       your holy word.  Your plan, however, was not defeated and your
       word did not return to you empty.  Through your prophets in the
       holy scriptures you promised to us a child, born as a sign of
       your saving presence with us.  

       Your promise has taken flesh in your Son, Jesus, who was born of
       the line of David.  When he was killed by your enemies, your
       Spirit brought him forth again by resurrection from the dead.  

       Through him the light of your presence has been restored to the
       World and your mercy has been poured out on all those who turn to
       Him in the obedience of faith.  In him and by him the gates of
       Heaven have been thrown open and the way of glory prepared for
       all who trust in his name.  Therefore with all the Saints and
       Angels gathered before you throne, we praise your name and we
       join their unending chorus of praise, saying

P      Holy, holy, holy, Lord, 
       God of power and might,
       Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
       Hosanna in the highest.
       Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
       Hosanna in the highest.

THANKSGIVING (continued)       
L      Blessed indeed, O God, is your Son and our Saviour, Christ Jesus our
       Lord.  Wonderful is the love that you have for us that you sent him to
       us - to be born of the Virgin Mary - to be raised among your Chosen
       People as one like us in every way - and to offer himself as a
       sacrifice for our sin.  We thank you, Father that in him you are with
       us - to save and deliver your people and to be with us forevermore.   

L      Wherefor, O Father, in obedience to his command, we remember how on
       the night he gave himself up for us, Jesus took bread, and gave you
       thanks (as even now we thank you, O Lord, for this bread), and then
       broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, all of you, and
       eat.  This is my body, broken for you."  

       In the same way, we recall how, when the meal was over, Jesus
       took the cup, the cup of blessing, and after giving you thanks,
       gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take all of you and drink. 
       This is my blood, the blood of a new and  everlasting covenant,
       poured out for you and for all, for the forgiveness of sins.... 
       Do this in remembrance of me."

L      Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith:
P      Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

L      Loving God, send your Spirit and breathe upon these gifts of bread and
       wine that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.  May his
       life be in us - and our life be found in him.   Amen

THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS:    The congregation is invited to come
                                     forward up the centre aisle, then return
                                     to their seats by the side aisles

L      Come - this is the table of the one who was born in Bethlehem for us.  
       Come and receive the gift that he offers us - his body broken and his
       blood poured out - that we may be made whole.

L:     Let us pray... (silence)....   
       We give you thanks, O God, for your unfailing love.
P      We thank you for Christ Jesus , Emmanuel, born on Christmas Day.
L      We thank you for his life, his death, and his resurrection.
P      We thank you for the life that he gives us.
L      We proclaim our faith in You, in Him, and in the Holy Spirit....

P      We are not alone, we live in God's world.
       We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
            who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, 
            to reconcile and make new, 
            who works in us and others by the Spirit. 
       We trust in God.
       We are called to be the Church,
            to celebrate God's presence, 
            to live with respect in creation,
            to love and serve others, 
            to seek justice and resist evil, 
            to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,  our Judge and our Hope.
       In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.   
       We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.
                                 (Voices United - inside cover or page 918)

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Go Tell It On The Mountain"                     - VU 43

* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
       into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body
       of Christ.

Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ Jesus,
- And may God the Father be with you;
- May Christ Jesus the Son, forgive you sins and grant you eternal joy;
- And may the Holy Spirit dwell richly within you and light your way,
both this Christmas time - and forevermore.   Amen

* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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