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  • Rev. Peter Surgenor

December 13 Worship

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, December 13 will be hosted on Zoom. We will share prayers and reflections.


For computers:

(Or use )

For smartphones and tablets, download and install the Zoom app.

If prompted: Click “JOIN Meeting” and enter:

Meeting ID: 957 1526 9411 Passcode: LOTSOD

FACEBOOKLIVE: Click on the church Facebook page

The Zoom meeting will open at 10:15 am to allow folks to connect and greet each other. If you have a camera, you will have the option to share your face and smile—be prepared. You can also have a cup of your favorite morning beverage at hand.

The worship will include familiar elements (although recorded rather than live) as well as live leadership of prayers, scripture reading, and the sermon.

The bulletin is attached and posted on the church website,


Union Church, Newburgh NY

December 13, 2020 10:30 am



We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship.


December Worship Schedule: All services will be online ONLY via Zoom and FacebookLive and posted on YouTube afterwards.

December 20 at 10:30 am: Focus – Fourth Advent candle focusing on Joy December 24 at 7:00 pm: Focus – Light

December 27 at 10:30 am: includes Cantata What Child Is This? by Joel Raney

Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. Dec. 21 and Wed. Dec. 23 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

Pledge Update: As of Dec. 6, we have received 29 pledges (2 new) for 2021 in the amount of $62,730. Last year at this time, we received 34 pledges in the amount of $77,649.

Welcome Commissioned Ruling Elder John Redman to Union Church!

VIRTUAL Coffee Hour: Begins immediately after worship. If you have joined worship on Zoom you don’t need to do anything more. If you are joining us for fellowship time only use mobile phone or computer video. Check email or website for access instructions. Questions? Call James at (301) 335-8677

Choral Music will precede the worship service beginning at 9:45 as people ‘tune in’ to the zoom service.



PRELUDE Ding Dong, Merrily on High Union Bell Choir

ADVENT WREATH The Candle of Love Prince Family


When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,

Shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.


God of the prophets, you predicted turmoil, imprisonment, long journeys, and a Messiah. Be with us this day as we endure unusual circumstances, attempt to participate in familiar routines and as we worship together in new ways. Reassure us, inspire us, and direct us as we are together. Amen.

HYMN Lo How A Rose ‘Ere Blooming


Everlasting God, in this season of anticipation and growing darkness we remember your faithfulness to the people of Israel, we remember those voices in the wilderness and the gift of your Son. Be with us as we remember how we were when you found us and how you relieve our burdens of guilt.


(silence) in the stopping, in the pausing, in the quiet, we cannot avoid what we are not. Our faults, our lack of faith, our lack of vision and of action, our lack of trust in You – all bubble to the surface. You, God, see what we are and still stand by us offering us hope and above all, forgiveness. Help us here Help us now – to recognize that it was with us in mind that You sent the baby Jesus. It was with us in mind that He grew to live and die and to rise again. Because that’s what You think we are worth. May Your love set us free this day and always – these things we ask in the name of that Son, whose praise we sing. Amen.


Ours is a God of grace and peace, of forgiveness and compassion, of life and hope. Faithful and just, the Holy One hears the cries of your heart, and welcomes you back home. Friends: Believe this Good News and be at peace. In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.



O God, may these words of scripture reach those ears that are open and those hearts that are prepared to receive their wisdom.


OLD TESTAMENT Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

NEW TESTAMENT John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

SERMON “Reflections Shining” Rev. Peter Surgenor


ANTHEM Sing Noel Union Church Choirs


You can support the work of Union Church by mailing donations to 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh, NY 12550 or visit to donate online.

Presbyterian Church USA Christmas Joy Offering: This annual special offering provides scholarships for students to learn and grow in faith at Presbyterian related schools and colleges, equipping communities of color and provides assistance for current and retired church workers and their families with critical financial needs. 50% of gifts to this offering go to educational support and 50% supports special needs of clergy and families. As you donate, just note Christmas Joy Offering on your check.


We give you thanks, generous God that we can each share what we have: goods, finances, courage, faith, and friendship to one another. They are gifts from your hands. Amen.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE Church of Scotland

Creator God, we thank You, for Your Son – the Light of the world. We thank You too, for those in every generation who have faithfully pointed to Him and who have spread His light in even the darkest times.

Lord Jesus, May we find the courage to point to the hope and comfort and peace You offer, especially in times of difficulty and sorrow. Give us the courage and the desire to seek to serve You as best we can – and in that service may we reflect the life You lived. Bring Your comfort,fill with Your strength, and grant all Your peace... We pray too, for places in the world where conflict and violence are rife... For places where nature has been harsh –and we have been thoughtless in caring for Your creation: Give us greater concern for one another and an even greater willingness to do whatever we can for each other and for the world itself.

May we witness to Your love and Your goodness, Your presence and Your compassion.

And thank You – thank You for the family of Your people meeting throughout the world this day – all of us gathered only too aware of our faults and our limitations, but knowing too, that You, Lord Jesus, can take the tiniest spark and fan it into a raging fire.

We offer You our prayers for those who struggle with this season. We think of the bereaved, of those who cannot afford to celebrate as they might want, of those with no one to share a table, and of those for whom childlessness is accentuated at this time. Lord God, You understand and share tears and silences, disappointments and regrets.

Bring Your comfort, fill with Your strength, and grant all Your peace…

We pray too, for places in the world where conflict and violence are rife…

For places where nature has been harsh – and we have been thoughtless in caring for Your creation:

Give us greater concern for one another and an even greater willingness to do whatever we can for each other and for the world itself. So, may we work with You, Lord God, to make this world, the world You intended it to be – a world where people care and love and laugh, a world where justice reigns and peace is evident and where all know they belong.

These prayers, along with our gratitude for the birth of Your Son, we offer You in His name and for His sake. Be with us as we pray the prayer your son taught:

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 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,

for ever. Amen.

HYMN O Come All Ye Faithful


Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord through serving others.

Keep Awake

Watch for signs

Care for each other in new ways

Wait for the Christ Child.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all. Amen

POSTLUDE Worship the Newborn King Union Bell Choir

SERMON TEXT “Reflections Shining” Rev. Peter Surgenor

Here we are this morning wandering toward Christmas. An unusual journey this year. We have hope for the birth of the Christ Child and for the technology of a vaccine on the horizon – we can see it, but not yet! We are each looking for the new path to our celebrations. After quiet, missing family Thanksgivings we anticipate more of the same coming this month and in the next 6-12 months.

In our wandering we continue to look for clues for the journey. This Advent we have been reading stories in the gospel of Mark (with a wandering into Matthew two weeks ago). Here we are reading the gospel of John and we anticipate the familiar Luke passages in the next 10 days. In this progress toward Christmas, we often wonder why John the Baptist enters our story. As a subject he is not very Christmassy!

Remember we discussed how the gospel of John is focused on mysticism and articulated a whole movement known as Gnosticism. This group believed that esoteric understanding of God was the true belief. Don’t ask questions, relax and know. In the words of Robert Heinlein, they “grokked” God. They just knew.

The Christmas pageant using the Gospel of John would be incredibly simple. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “A Christmas pageant based on the Fourth Gospel would feature one child, speaking one line, in front of a curtain of black velvet: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” While this might constitute great savings in the costume and props department, it would no doubt leave the audience feeling seasonally shortchanged.

But out of this mystical and simple approach we are challenged to think about John the Baptist just when we can almost see the manger scene coming into focus.

John the Baptist had obviously built a reputation in the area. Stories of a wild haired may wearing animal skins wandering in the near desert began to spread. Then John started preaching and practicing what was a ritual rite for the Israelites but with a twist to the meaning. His conversation about being washed and having sins forgiven caught the attention of the religious leaders. So, they came to do a site visit – to interrogate him hoping to trap him into a statement that they could use to accuse him.

But we see that John was not defensive or even offensive. It is easy to imagine that he simply acknowledged them and kept on with his activities. In response to a simple question, “Who are you?”, John does not name himself, but defines himself by who he is not, “I am not the Messiah.” So, the leaders were forced to name their wonderings. “Are you Elijah (a prophet well known in Israelite history). His simple answer is, “No”. After a few questions in this format they try to force a statement of identity, “Who sent you? What do you have to say for yourself?” Again, he does not make “I” statements but quotes prophesy from Isaiah that they all knew well – he names himself as a predecessor of the expected one. But clearly not claiming that himself.

John is cleverly careful not to make declaratory “I” statements when pushed for answers. We would use our name, our town, maybe even our address to define ourselves. But John does not answer directly but deflects and reflects their questions toward the expected Messiah, Jesus. Finally, we are getting close to the Christmas story!

But this tactic of reflection got me thinking and I remembered sconces. Those implements that were used before Thomas Edison did his tinkering in Newburgh. When light was scarce creative people found ways to make life brighter. When we think about candles or lantern flames, we recognize that the light they produce is distributed up and all around. This is fine if you are trying to find your way in a dark space, but not good for needlework or reading. The sconce was invented. A reflective surface (probably not aluminum foil!) was placed near the flame and all of a sudden the light available was doubled! Light directed and reflected. If you remember your Abraham Lincoln history – even the back of the fireplace (not polished but a hard surface) reflected enough light for him to read as a young man.

But thinking about this drove me deeper in to my ancient understanding of the physics of light and the colors we enjoy. From Wikipedia: The color of the objects that we see is largely due to the way those objects interact with light and ultimately reflect or transmit it to our eyes. The color of an object is not actually within the object itself. Rather, the color is in the light that shines upon it and is ultimately reflected or transmitted to our eyes.

Simply, a black object absorbs all the colors of the light hitting it. A white object reflects all the colors which reach it. Other colors absorb different ranges of colors reflecting the ones we enjoy.

What we perceive is reflected light. We heard the hymn, “Lo how a rose ‘ere blooming” this morning. The rose has beauty because of the light it reflects and the physical shape of its blossoms.

Remember the story we read a while ago relating the conversation Moses had with God on top of the mountain as the Israelites were struggling in the wilderness. Moses asked God to show himself so that Moses could witness (state clearly details about God). God’s answer was to indicate that seeing would be too bright. The answer was for Moses to go into a cleft in the rock of the mountain and shield his eyes. Then God would pass by and Moses testified to a great light (overwhelming light) and the mountain shaking. We read further that when Moses came down from the Mountain, his Face Shone as the Sun", so the people were in awe of him. It was as if Moses had the Reflection of GOD on his countenance! Reflection, Indeed!

God could not be seen directly, but evidence was found in reflected light!

Here today we have John the mystic explaining how John the Baptist reflects what he knows about Jesus rather than making direct claims about himself and what he knows to be true. Just like the sconce John redirects light to shine on Jesus rather than himself.

As December plods toward the 21(shortest daylight of the year) and figuratively plods ahead in the midst of this raging pandemic there is a reminder to us which is simple and challenging.

We are charged to take the example of John the Baptist and consider how we reflect the light of our faith in God to the world around us.

Remember that definition of visible light? What is visible to the eye is reflected light (often very beautiful). Do we reflect light or an attitude of special caring or a caring attitude as a witness to our faith? Or do we absorb all the light that God brings to our lives and present a dull or black or dark presence to the world?

Asking the positive question: If Jesus the Christ Child is the light of the world. And if this light changes our lives as we live in faith. How does the world perceive us?

This is the season when Dickens story “A Christmas Carol” is often retold. Remember how dull and dreary the world is portrayed in the early portions of the story? Is that how we live and are seen? Or, once we see the dramatic attitude change in Scrooge is that bright attitude seen in the world around us? It is easy to see the brighter attitude expressed in the story, but a bit more difficult to reflect that changed attitude to the world each and every day.

The personality we reflect to the world around us is a combination of absorbed faith and reflected faith. When people ask you why you have such a bright positive attitude remember John the Baptist. Our answer should not be a long or short description of our personal qualities and achievements. Rather our reflective answer should be remembering the gift to the world in the Christ Child we expect again this year.

This morning we lit another of our Advent Wreath candles. Each candle provides more light. As we add light, we shine to the world around us brighter. And we need to remember that we are charged to take the candlelight of Christmas Eve services out to the world (even in the shortest and darkest days).

One of the problems with sconces is that because the reflector is so close to the flame there is a need to keep shining the reflector. The first sconce we saw was brightly cleaned ceramic reflective pieces in a parabolic shape.

But ponder this sconce. Dull and tarnished – not very reflective! And thinking about physics again we can see that the light is not concentrated but widely diffused about the room. But even this tarnished diffusing sconce adds light to a room where it is used.

We live our lives reflecting the Christmas lights to the world. Sometimes dimly other times with great brightness. All witnessing the God so bright that Moses could only survive seeing reflected light.

Go out these days reflecting a brightness in your life because of your faith and your expectation of the Christ Child even as unusual agents like John the Baptist are part of that story.


Rev. Cathy Surgenor Rev. Peter Surgenor

(845) 216-4328 (914) 907-9685

Union Church

44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955

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