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
“Christmas Comes” (from Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems)
Christmas comes every time we see God in other persons.
The human and the holy meet in Bethlehem or in Times Square,
for Christmas comes like a golden storm on its way to Jerusalem —
Even now it comes in the face of hatred and warring — no atrocity too terrible to stop it, no Herod strong enough, no hurt deep enough, no curse shocking enough, no disaster shattering enough.
For someone on earth will see the star,
someone will hear the angel voices, someone will run to Bethlehem,
someone will know peace and goodwill:
the Christ will be born!
Question: Will you be that someone?
God’s Light Grows
Call To Worship
Leader: Christ is born!
People: Christ IS Born! We celebrate today the presence of God’s promise in our midst.
Leader: The promise of a small child coming into a crowded, hurting world, and growing to be a liberator.
People: It’s the promise of you and me, struggling and stumbling together,
growing and celebrating, reaching out to make a new presence in our world.
Leader: We come this morning to be gathered from the scatteredness and fragmentation of our hurried days.
People: We come this morning to be held and carried through places of pain, sorrow, and fear.
Leader: We come this morning to be nurtured for strength;
People: We come to be led into new paths of service as we become shepherds for one another.
Leader: May this hour be a time to hope for all these gifts from God.
Passing The Peace
Leader: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
People: And also with you.
Opening Prayer (unison)
God of new beginnings, begin again with us. We thank you that you are still Emmanuel, God-with-us. Heal our wounded spirits; reopen our hearts to hope; help us to overcome the fears that keep us from fullness of life. As we face a new year, bring us to new places of openness and love toward you and the people around us, and help us individually and as a congregation to become signs of your compassion, hope, joy and unity in the world around us. Amen.
#135 O Come, All You Faithful
John 1: 9-18 (from Common English Bible)
The true light that shines on all people
was coming into the world.
The light was in the world,
and the world came into being through the light,
but the world didn’t recognize the light.
The light came to his own people,
and his own people didn’t welcome him.
But those who did welcome him,
he empowered to become God’s children,
born not of natural descent, nor urge of flesh nor human will—
but born of God.
And the Word became flesh
and stayed for a little while among us.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a parent’s only child,
full of grace and truth.
John testified by proclaiming, “This is the one I was talking about when I said,
“The one who comes after me ranks ahead of me,
for this One existed before I did.”
From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
For while the Law was given through Moses,
the Gift and the Truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
God’s only Child, who is ever at Abba’s side, who has revealed God to us.
A Contemporary Reading
When the world was dark and the city was quiet, you came.
You crept in beside us.
And no one knew.
Only the few who dared to believe that God might do something different.
Will you do the same this Christmas, God?
Will you come into the darkness of today’s world? Not the friendly darkness—
as when sleep rescues us from tiredness, but the fearful darkness, in which people have stopped believing that war will end or that food will come or that a government will change or that the Church cares?
Will you come into that darkness
and do something different
to save your people from death and despair?
Will you come into the quietness of this city; not the friendly quietness as when lovers hold hands but the fearful silence when the phone has not rung, the letter has not come, the friendly voice no longer speaks, the doctor’s face says it all?
Will you come into that darkness,
and do something different,
not to distract, but to embrace your people?
And will you come into the dark corners and the quiet places of our lives?
We ask this not because we are guilt-ridden
but because the fullness our lives long for
depends on us being as open and vulnerable to you
as you were to us,
when you came,
wearing no more than diapers,
and trusting human hands
When the world was dark and the city was quiet you came.
You crept in beside us.
Do the same this Christmas, God. Do the same this Christmas.
A Christmas Story by Nancy Dahlberg
read by Rev. Jean Crist Thompson
#132 Joy to the World
Our Community At Prayer
Pastoral Prayer And The Lord’s Prayer
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.
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
Prayer Of Dedication For The Offerings, Pledges, And Gifts Of Today And This Week
We thank you, God of love, for the promise of this season. Through these offerings and all our actions, may we be protectors and encouragers as we work for a world where every child, every person is free to flourish in body and spirit. Amen.
Sharing Of Joys And Opportunities
#154 Go, Tell It on the Mountain
Sending Us Forth
“It Is Not Over” from Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems
It is not over,
There are always newer skies
God can throw stars.
When we begin to think
that we can predict the Advent of God,
that we can box the Christ in a stable in Bethlehem,
that’s just the time
that God will be born
in a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe.
Those who wait for God
watch with their hearts and not their eyes,
listening, always listening
for angel words.
Help us, God, to listen. May your story guide us and help us claim the sacredness in our own lives and stories. Help us to follow you with all our hearts and minds and souls and strength, for you are our hope, our leader, and the light we follow.
So let us go forth, knowing that Christ is with us as we seek to be God’s Christmas people in the world. Alleluia. Amen.
Taking God’s Light Into The World
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
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