On Line Worship Service, November 8, 2020, Advent Preparation Sunday

Welcome to this service.

Advent begins on November 29th this year.  Today we begin to prepare for it.

For over fifteen hundred years Advent has been a time for connecting to the spirit, seeking the light that shines in the darkness, finding hope and peace. Advent invites us to be like shepherds who wait and watch and pray, like Mary who brings God to birth to change the world, like Magi bearing gifts, like angels singing. 

Advent can be beautiful and transformative, but we need to plan and prepare for its spiritual agenda or else other material agendas will take over. I hope you will pay attention to your longings for a different experience in your life, and allow yourself to form a spiritual intention for this Advent. 

I hope this service helps you reflect on what you need this year.

You can respond with thoughts about the service or with anything you would like to say by using the comment feature at the end of the post or by emailing us.  You can also bring others into this experience by sharing the link to this service by email or social media. Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey, you are welcome here and in our church community. 

Pastor Tom Kinder    

Today’s Order of Worship

  1. Prelude, “Vocalise,” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Becky Bailey, voice, Annemieke McLane, piano
  2. Call to Worship: A Haiku by Mel Goertz
  3. Scriptures
  4. Sermon
  5. Offering
  6. Announcements
  7. Benediction and Postlude, “May You Be Blessed on Advent’s Way”


Prelude  “Vocalise,” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, sung by Becky Bailey of the United Church of Strafford Choir,  with our church musician and choir director, Annemieke McLane, playing the piano 


Call to Worship  “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46   This week’s haiku by Mel Goertz:

As soon as I put seed out,

my neighbor’s bird population

dropped by half.

Let us worship together.         

Scripture Passages:

Jeremiah 33:14-16
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Philippians 2:1-9
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.

Responsive Reading  from Isaiah 60, Mark 1 & 13, Luke 1 

Leader:   Jesus said, “Beware, keep alert…
               What I say to you I say to all: keep awake.”

People:  Isaiah said, “Arise, shine; for your light has come,
                 and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.   
                 For darkness shall cover the earth,
                 and thick darkness the peoples;
                 but the Lord will arise upon you
                 and his glory will appear over you.”

Leader:   Zechariah said, “By the tender mercy of our God,
                the dawn from on high will break upon us,
                to give light to those who sit in darkness
                and in the shadow of death,
                to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

People:   Mark said, See, I am sending my messenger…
                  the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
                  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
                  make his paths straight.’”

Leader:    Mary said, “He has brought down the powerful
                 from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly
                 in remembrance of his mercy,
                 according to the promise he made to our ancestors.”

People:    We say as Mary said,
                 “Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
                    let it be with me according to your word.”


Sermon  Preparing for “God With Us,”  Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder  

You can find the text of the Sermon by clicking here



This congregation is a small but meaningful part of the movement to establish God’s realm of peace, justice and care for God’s creation on earth, actively engaged in serving our community and supporting the wider worldwide movement.

One of the ways we work together and increase our strength beyond our individual abilities is by pooling our resources.  This is hard to do when we are forced apart by the pandemic, so we hope you will take just a minute to use our online donation service.

To make your offering on line, please click here.  (This is a service we are providing through an extremely well established on-line donation company specializing in churches that is recommended by the national United Church of Christ and used by thousands of churches like ours.  To read more about our decision to allow on line donations, click here.)  


Please note that we are gathering as a congregation by Zoom at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings to say hello to one another and share our Joys and Concerns and Prayer requests and offer our compassion and support and company for this journey.

We are now streaming live readings and music from our sanctuary on that same Zoom link at 10:15 AM, so just sign on fifteen minutes earlier.

Our Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle is also meeting by Zoom on Thursdays at 6:00 PM.  This is for anyone who is interested in practicing mindfulness or meditation, or heartfulness and centering prayer.  It is a time for talking about those practices and also more generally about our spiritual life.

You can find links to instructions on how to be part of those Zoom gatherings on the Welcome Page of our website.

If you are not on our weekly email list and would like to be, please email us at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com and we will make sure you receive all our church news with many more announcements than we print here. You can also see more news on this website by clicking here.

It is extremely important that we stay connected now.  Please reach out by phone or email to neighbors and other members of the congregation, especially those who live by themselves or are struggling or vulnerable.  Our Deacons, Becky Bailey, Kim Welsh and Maggie Hooker, are coordinating our Deacons Fund and our outreach to people in need of support, and Danette Harris, Chair of our Mission Committee, is leading our work with the Food Shelf.  Becky, Danette and Joey Hawkins are on the town committee that is coordinating outreach as well.  If you would like to donate or help please email us or use the comment feature on this page.    

Benediction and Postlude “May You Be Blessed on Advent’s Way,” a contemporary text by Thomas Cary Kinder set to the oldest hymn tune and one that has been sung daily in monasteries during Advent for over 1200 years, Conditor Alme.  Sung by members of the United Church of Strafford Choir, directed and accompanied by Annemieke McLane.

See the words below.

May You Be Blessed on Advent’s Way

May you be blessed on Advent’s way.
Like shepherds, wait and watch and pray.
Like Magi on their starlit tower
Seek guiding light, God’s higher power.

May Advent give you gifts to bear,
Your life a manger you prepare,
Like Mary, how she sacrificed
To bring to all the love of Christ.

May Advent lead you to the birth
Of God with us, transforming earth,
All now divided, reconciled,
All children seen as God’s own child.

May you be filled with Advent light
To shine, a candle in the night.
Sing out with angels from above,
Fill earth with hope, peace, joy and love.

copyright 2018, 2019 Thomas Cary Kinder

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