Advent Four, Year A

Musical Reflection
Before You Were Born by Rocky Votolato 



God with us,
borne by Mary’s flesh
beyond all convention:
give us the faith of Joseph
to see the Spirit’s work
where the world sees only shame;
to listen to the promise
and waken to the cry
of life renewed and love reborn;
through Jesus Christ, the one who is to come.


First Reading

 by Mary Jo Salter

Wind whistling, as it does
in winter, and I think
nothing of it until

it snaps a shutter off
her bedroom window, spins
it over the roof and down

to crash on the deck in back,
like something out of Oz.
We look up, stunned—then glad

to be safe and have a story,
characters in a fable
we only half-believe.

Look, in my surprise
I somehow split a wall,
the last one in the house

we’re making of gingerbread.
We’ll have to improvise:
prop the two halves forward

like an open double door
and with a tube of icing
cement them to the floor.

Five days until Christmas,
and the house cannot be closed.
When she peers into the cold

interior we’ve exposed,
she half-expects to find
three magi in the manger,

a mother and her child.
She half-expects to read
on tablets of gingerbread

a line or two of Scripture,
as she has every morning
inside a dated shutter

on her Advent calendar.
She takes it from the mantel
and coaxes one fingertip

under the perforation,
as if her future hinges
on not tearing off the flap

under which a thumbnail picture
by Raphael or Giorgione,
Hans Memling or David

of apses, niches, archways,
cradles a smaller scene
of a mother and her child,

of the lidded jewel-box
of Mary’s downcast eyes.
Flee into Egypt, cries

the angel of the Lord
to Joseph in a dream,
for Herod will seek the young 

child to destroy him. While
she works to tile the roof
with shingled peppermints,

I wash my sugared hands
and step out to the deck
to lug the shutter in,

a page torn from a book
still blank for the two of us,
a mother and her child.

Second Reading
by Nate Klug


In the middle of December

to start over

to assume again
an order

at the end
of wonder

to conjure
and then to keep

slow dirty sleet
within its streetlight



Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they lived together, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to divorce her quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, heir to the house of David, don’t be afraid to wed Mary, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a baby, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:

Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
        And the child will be called Emmanuel.

(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)

When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and went ahead with the marriage. But he didn’t have intercourse with her until she had given birth to her baby. They called him Jesus.

Musical Reflection
Speaking with the Angel by Ron Sexsmith


by Craig Mitchell, adapted

Loving God,
some of us are like Zechariah,
not believing that you would bless us,
some of us are like Mary,
surprised and humbled by your gifts,
some of us are like Joseph,
needing reassurance and faith for the way ahead,
some of us are like Elizabeth,
supporting others as they begin their journeys,
some of us are like the shepherds,
unsure whether your presence is real or a dream,
some are like the angels,
eager to tell others about good news,
some are like the inn keeper
not yet realising how special you really are,
some are like the Magi,
kneeling in wonder and worship.
Wherever we are in our journey of faith,
remind us that your plans lie before us,
help us to grow tall in your love and light,
so that we may stand strong and gentle for you in our world.


The Lord’s Prayer

Most compassionate Life-giver,
may we honour and praise you:
may we work with you to establish
your new order of justice, peace and love.
Give us what we need for growth,
and help us, through forgiving others,
to accept forgiveness.
Strengthen us in the time of testing,
that we may resist all evil.
For all the tenderness,
strength and love are yours,
now and forever. Amen.

Musical Reflection
Let’s Stay Engaged by The Tragically Hip



Bless to us, O Lord,
the earth beneath our feet;
bless to us, O Lord,
the path we tread:
our walk this day with the Creator,
our walk this day with the Redeemer,
our walk this day with the Spirit.

May the blessing of God – the Existing, the Living, and the Speaking,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.




Artwork by James C Lewis

Invocation from Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare

Musical Reflection Before You Were Born by Rocky Votolato

Poem Advent by Mary Jo Salter

Poem Advent by Nate Klug

Musical Reflection Speaking with the Angel by Ron Sexsmith

Prayer by Craig Mitchell

Lord’s Prayer by W Wallace

Musical Reflection Let’s Stay Engaged by The Tragically Hip

Blessing from Celtic Daily Prayer

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