December 20, 2020, Fourth Sunday of Advent

Sun shining through the forest

Photo Credit: Jim Burks

Bethesda United Church of Christ Worship Service

“We welcome all without exception as we worship God together, journey in the spirit, and share our gifts with each other, our neighbors and the world.”

For your reflection: “Once I had asked God for one or two extra inches in height, but instead, he made me as tall as the sky, so high that I could not measure myself… By giving me this height to reach people, he has also given me great responsibilities.” –Malala Yousafzai, activist

Question:  Have you ever strove to reach “the unreachable”?  What is the “unreachable” for you?  In what way does God extend our reach so that we have courage to “reach beyond” even when scorned for doing so?  In what way does God reach into places that we cannot?


Rev. Dee


Musical selection


The Congregation

God’s light grows 

Call to Worship  (responsive)

In holy wonder,
with divine expectation,
we echo the mother of God
reciting her poetry of freedom:
“God’s mercy extends from generation to generation.
God scatters the proud and lifts high the humble.
God’s promises to the hungry, the captive, and the weary will be fulfilled.”
A testimony to persistent hope,
we join the whole world in waiting.
Our spirits rejoice! The time is nearly here.

Gathering Carol

#109 With Joy Draw Water   

Music and lyrics to With Joy, Draw Water

Music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712

Opening Prayer (unison)

Come, Faithful One, and make us prophets of your nearness. While the world groans wearily with loss and grief, we eagerly anticipate your birth among us. We prepare through repentance for wrong actions. We prepare with acts of care and mutual aid. We prepare with offerings of imagination, readying ourselves for changes to come. Make us like midwives of your long-awaited presence. Amen.

Passing The Peace

Leader: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
People: And also with you.

Lighting Of The Fourth Candle Of Advent  (responsive)

–read by Laney McHarry and Kate Wissman

You are invited to light a candle as you worship with us. If you are lighting Advent candles, please light 3 blue/1 pink candle today.

One: We live on the brink every day. We stand on the threshold between this world and the next one. We live and move between the ordinary and divine, between the mundane and the mystery. Too often, we forget to look up and see the angels in our living room. We forget that the love we give and live is a sign of eternity, God with us, right now. We forget that company is coming.

Two: Luke tells us that God’s favor came to a girl, an ordinary girl. It might have been you or your daughter; it might have been the girl down the street or your grandchild. But the messenger of God came and greeted her and said, “The Lord is with you.” What a gift and a promise: Emmanuel, God is with us.

One: We light these candles with peace in our hearts for the promise of proximity, the nearness of God. Even when we forget to listen, to lean into that presence, God is as close as our own breath. This, in a confused and confusing world, is a peace that passes all understanding. It is the peace that knows that company is coming.

Two: O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Sung Response   

We Gather ‘Round   An Advent Candle Song

Tune: THE FIRST NOWELL, Anonymous, 1833
Lyrics by Rev. Elana Keppel Levy, 2020

[Love] We gather ‘round with love in our hearts
Seeking blessings for all though we’re so far apart
Apart, but in God’s great mystery
We are joined in a love that is flowing and free.

Refrain: The candles glow, showing us God’s light /
Calling us forward, united in Christ.

Children’s Moment

“Christmas Time, Christmas Time”  (sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells” ) a special puppet video with thanksgiving to our friends at Trinity Chapel Cheadle in the United Kingdom, created and copyright by Becky Packer; used with permission.

The children may depart to the breakout room for their classes and activities.

Contemporary Reading

“A Modern Magnificat”  from John Shelby Spong’s website “A New Christianity for A New World”  19 Dec 2007 –read by Maria Yuan

My soul sings in gratitude.
I’m dancing in the mystery of God.
The light of the Holy One is within me
and I am blessed, so truly blessed.

This goes deeper than human thinking.
I am filled with awe
at Love whose only condition
is to be received.

The gift is not for the proud,
for they have no room for it.
The strong and self-sufficient ones
don’t have this awareness.

But those who know their emptiness
can rejoice in Love’s fullness.
It’s the Love that we are made for,
the reason for our being.
It fills our inmost heart space
and brings to birth in us, the Holy One.

A Reading From The Gospel

–read by friends at Christian Aid, UK

Luke 1:46b-55

46 And Mary[a] said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”


Not Beyond Reach by Rev. Dee Ledger

Musical Meditation

“Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine”

  1. “Joseph, Dearest Joseph mine,
    Help me cradle the Child divine.
    God reward thee and all that’s thine,
    In paradise,” so prays the mother Mary.

He came among us at Christmas time
At Christmas time in Bethlehem
Men shall bring him from far and wide,
Love’s diadem
Jesus, Jesus;
Lo, he comes and loves and saves and frees us.

  1. “Gladly dear one, Lady mine
    Help I cradle this Child of thine.”
    “God’s own light on us both shall shine,
    In paradise,” as prays the mother Mary.


  1. “Little man, and God indeed,
    Little and poor, Thou art all we need;
    We will follow where Thou dost lead,
    And we will heed our brother, born of Mary.”


Joys/Concerns, Pastoral Prayer And Prayer Of Our Savior

Our Mother/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.

 We pray for:

those dealing with the effects of racism

those who have suffered job loss or financial insecurity

our veterans, soldiers & their families

those who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus

our country as it transitions leadership

Prayer Of Dedication For The Offerings, Pledges, And Gifts Of Today And This Week

If you wish to give to support the work of Bethesda UCC, you can donate via Venmo @Bethesda-UCC or send a check via mail to Bethesda UCC c/o Treasurer; 10010 Fernwood Road; Bethesda, MD 20817


 #123  Mary, Woman of the Promise

Music and lyrics to Mary, woman of the promise

Music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712


May we be so bold as Mary:

mothering God into being in dangerous ways and places, in practices of radical solidarity,

in hopes of collective liberation made flesh.

Let us go, rejoicing together with songs of freedom about the day when salvation comes.


Musical Selection

Liturgical Resources/Credits:   Our Advent Candle-Lighting liturgy is from / Unless otherwise noted, our liturgy and “More Food for Spiritual Thought” comes from and is adapted use for our worship today.  All resources are used with permission from authors/source.

More Food For Spiritual Thought

  • What are some of the radical ways those who mother are nurturing collective liberation in our world today?
  • What is one way Mary – and her song of justice and power redistribution – is de-politicized in your faith tradition?
  • What is one experience, fear, hope, or struggle you have been extremely choosy about sharing with only the right people? How did you know who in your life would be able to show up for you?

More about us

Bethesda UCC was founded in 1957 as Bethesda Congregational Church.  United Church of Christ is the union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

We are located at the corner of Fernwood and Democracy. Our postal address is:

Bethesda United Church of Christ
10010 Fernwood Road
Bethesda, Maryland  20817

Minister: Rev. Dee Ledger
Music Director: Kay Krekow

Today’s music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712

A ONE LICENSE Reprint License grants churches, schools, religious communities, retreat centers, and other worshiping bodies permission to reprint or project music for their congregations from any of our Member Publishers.

Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE, License #A-726712. All rights reserved.

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