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  • Rev. Cathy Surgenor

December 20 Worship

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, December 20 will be hosted on Zoom. We will share prayers and reflections.

Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols Service at 7:00 pm—Watch for zoom info

December 27 Worship at 10:30 am will include the Cantata What Child is This? by Joel Raney from 2015.


For computers:

(Or use )

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

If prompted: Click “JOIN Meeting” and enter:

Meeting ID: 936 6476 1312 Passcode: JASMAR

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 20, 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: Cantata What Child is This? by Joel Raney from 2015.

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. 13, we have received 30 pledges (3 new) for 2021 in the amount of $81,259. Last year at this time, we received 37 pledges in the amount of $82,259

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 Ave Maria Luciano Pavarotti

ADVENT CANDLE Joy Kristen, Mark, and Ethan Lyon


Come, sisters and brothers in Christ, come you who are worried and isolated. God is present here among us just as much as if we were in God’s house.

God is faithful and has made a covenant with David that his descendants will know God’s faithfulness forever. Let us cry out to the Lord “You are our god and the rock of our salvation.”


O God of Elizabeth and Mary, you visited your servants with news of the world's redemption in the coming of the Savior. Make our hearts leap with joy, and fill our mouths with songs of praise, that we may announce glad tidings of peace, and welcome the Christ in our midst. Amen.


Come, come to the place where God hears, where God heals, where God makes all things new. Though we stumble, though we fail, God is faithful and believes in what can be. Let us pray.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION Based on a prayer by Rev. Melody Long

Holy One, you created us in your image, people meant to be reflections of your love, your grace, and your justice. More often, though, we put our own desires above you, our ambitions above your beloved community, our wants above the needs of others, our justice above your compassion, our fear above your grace. The realization of all that we have done and left undone weighs us down. Free us from ourselves and show us how to live lives of gratitude for what we have done through your grace. Hear now the silent prayers of our hearts... Amen.


Believe the good news! God loves us and accepts us, who we are and where we are – and God believes in who we can become. Know that grace takes us and wraps us in the gift of new beginnings.



Holy Spirit, lamp for all people, guide our way as we open ourselves to be changed by your Word. Let light shine into the dark spaces in our lives so that we may know deep joy.


FIRST TESTAMENT 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus, says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.


Mary's Song of Praise

And Mary said,

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

SERMON Tidings of Great Joy Rev. Cathy Surgenor

HYMN Magnificat


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

OFFERTORY Arise, Arise, and Shine Union Chancel Choir


God of Blessings, we give you thanks this morning for your presence in this community of your people in ways that encourage us to remain faithful in our own blessings of this church. We look forward to Christmas with renewed assurance and to the coming year with new hope. Amen

DOXOLOGY Joseph Bush


O Lord, you promised in your Holy Scriptures to send your Son Jesus Christ as the Son of David, and your own Son. Reveal this saving promise also to us and move our hearts to faith and obedience; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Loving God - as we approach the day of Christ's birth help us to throw wide the doors of our hearts in preparation. Help us to sense the importance of what happened so long ago when Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, to remember the words of the angels and the prophets and the teachers of old, and to celebrate all the promises that you made through them. Help us to take firm hold of the meaning of all these things and to know in the depths of our being that even now you are seeking to work in us and through us to fulfill the promises you have made... Lord hear our prayer...

Lord - may this Christmas season be for us and for those around us a season of healing, may it be a season of hope and of love and of joy, may it be a time of true sharing and of rejoicing in all the earth... Lord hear our prayer...

We pray O God for those in need around us: for those who need a second birth, for those who need a tender touch and a healing word... Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray too, O God for the children of our world - and all those of tender faith, all those who have no home to call their home, all those who are hungry and thirsty. Bless we pray the innocent of the earth and all those who trust in you. Bless the humble and the powerless and bring down from their thrones those who are full of pride and those who are indifferent... Lord, hear our prayer...

Nancy Thomas

Bless we pray, too, each special one we name before you now... Lord hear our prayer….

We ask these things O God, with hope and praise in our hearts, our minds, and our souls, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

— written by Richard J. Fairchild, posted on Kir-shalom

CLOSING HYMN Jesu Joy of the Highest Heaven Union Chancel Choir


Carry the joy of the angels, of the children, of all believers with you as you depart today and share it with those you meet. Now may the hope, peace, love, and joy of Advent bring you to the triumph of Christmas. Amen.

POSTLUDE Hallelujah

SERMON TEXT Glad Tidings of Great Joy Rev. Cathy Surgenor

Our theme this fourth Sunday of Advent is Joy – more accurately Joy in the Midst – of life’s struggles and dangers and sorrows. Surely, we are each aware of those who have been harmed directly or indirectly or we have been directly impacted by the tragic and infuriating events of 2020. So how can we find joy in the midst? This scripture passage, which was shared with us during the candle lighting by the Lyon Family, can provide us with an answer. But to understand the full measure of these joyful women we need to know a bit about them.

We spent the last two Sunday’s focused on John the Baptist, the one who is to prepare the way for the Messiah. But Luke wants us to know the back story that he has taken great pains to learn. He tells us at the start of this first chapter that “after investigating everything carefully from the very first,” he decided to write “an orderly account” for Theophilous so that “you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” Now Theophilous means “Lover of God”. So, if we are Lovers of God, we can be assured that Luke is writing to us too. There is so much more to the story of John the Baptist and Jesus at the Jordan River.

Luke tells us more about Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah than he does about Mary. Elizabeth was a direct descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses himself. Zechariah was a priest and both of them were “righteous before God”. Zechariah was serving one day in the Jerusalem temple before God when he was chosen to light the incense in the inner most temple – the Holy of Holies. This might happen once in a lifetime. Just imagine how excited and keyed up he must have been as he alone entered the sacred space. All the people were gathered and praying outside. Then an angel appeared to him there next to the incense altar. Luke writes, “He was terrified and fear overwhelmed him.” The angel said, “Do not fear” and told him that his prayers had been answered and his wife Elizabeth would bear a child to be named John. “You will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice. He will be Filled with the Holly Spirit even before his birth. But Zechariah questioned how this could be since he and Elizabeth were already old.” The angel, clearly peeved, explained that he was Gabriel and because Zechariah had questioned what the angel said, he would be mute, unable to speak, until the child was born. And it was so.

Luke then moves us to the region of Galilee where a young maid named Mary has a similar encounter. The angel Gabriel appears to her and says “Greetings, favored one.” Imagine how you might feel if an angel appeared to you with such a greeting. Mary was perplexed and pondered what this might mean. Gabriel again says ‘do not fear’, and adds ‘the Lord has found favor with you. You will conceive and the child will be called the son of the most high.” Mary too, has a question. “How can this be since I am a virgin.” Gabriel accepts this question and explains that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her. He also mentions that her cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant. Mary accepts this pronouncement and agrees to her part in it. “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.” We lovers of God should recognize that these are the words of God’s faithful prophets going right back to the boy Samuel, who would grow up to choose David to be anointed King.

Unlike some other prophets, think of Jonah or even Moses, Mary immediately acts. She travels up into the hill country to see Elizabeth. How she made this eighty-mile trip Luke does not say. It could not have been easy. And so, we come to this morning’s scripture passage.

To me this scene is the most natural in the world – who else besides Elizabeth could possibly understand Mary and her situation? Where else could Mary turn for comfort and understanding at a time where such a situation, being pregnant without being married, could be severely punished.

Mary finds herself approaching Zechariah’s door. Does she wonder what type of reception she will receive? Will he question her? Why are you here? How did you get here? Where are your parents? Where is Joseph, your betrothed. But Zechariah is still mute! And Mary is greeted by Elizabeth, who is overjoyed to see her.

There seems to be instant understanding, a knowing, a connection. Not only between Elizabeth and Mary but even Elizabeth’s unborn child – who will be called John – leaps for joy! Maybe he gave a strong kick in response to his mother’s excitement! Poetic powerful imagery! The two expectant mothers sharing an exuberant moment that absolutely nobody else in Israel or in the whole world, would understand. There is something deeply moving about this scene.

And in their exuberance Elizabeth affirms what Mary had been told by Gabriel. The baby in her womb leaps for joy and Elizabeth declares that the child Mary carries is The Lord. Mary then declares that her soul magnifies the Lord who has done great things for her and for Israel. This passage has become known as the Magnificat. It is set to beautiful music and sung in grand concert halls by women dressed in magnificent gowns.

But the power of Luke’s story is that it was first sung by a young village girl to a pregnant older cousin in the hill country of Judea. The coming of the Messiah is not announced in Jerusalem or a royal palace. And her words in fact warn that the world will be turned upside down. The proud and mighty will be scattered and the poor lifted up. The hungry will be filled with good things and the wealthy sent away empty. Where have we heard these words before? In several passages in the First Testament, or the First Promise. One place where very similar words are declared is in 1st Samuel by a mother who is leaving her young son to serve God. The boy’s name is Samuel, the same Samuel that will later declare young David King of Israel. His mother’s name is Hannah. She says - “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. “No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.

“The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble.

Hannah’s words are remarkably similar to those of Mary.

One commentator declared that, “This text cries out to be preached in all of its wildness and absurdity. Preachers who can enter into and express the joy, amazement foolishness, and danger enacted in the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth” do it justice.

The Holy Spirit is there with Mary and Elizabeth and the babies they carried. The sense of connection – of validation for both women, of kindredness is palpable. The wonder that this is happening to them. They encourage each other to follow this calling that the angel has given them. There is joy, exuberance in being part of God’s creative plan of redemption.

In the midst of our troubles – can we hear and take in this wild exuberance of two or three women with no formal power. Who know good news, believe it, affirm it and whole heartedly sign on to the calling to believe it into reality. It will take the rest of their lifetimes and be the cause of sorrow as well as joy.

Joy is being part of God’s creative redemptive work in the world. We too are called to be witnesses and participants in this work. When we accept that call we too know connection and stirrings of vitality and creativity. This year we have needed to reduce our comings and goings, our hugs and even our singing together. Yet we have found ways to be part of God’s plan. Here together, when we pack food packages or send notes of support and caring or give good gifts to those we love and even more to those in need. When we give to those whose lives will be changed, we can share in that joy.

This past week a woman revealed that she was the mysterious giver of millions of dollars, 20-50 million at a time to colleges that serve those who are usually ignored. Colleges for who that size gift will change what they can do. Her name is McKenzie Scott, divorced wife of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Think of the difference that will make. The students who were struggling for that first leg up. Fighting for that first dream. Think of the hope and inspiration and the future as those benefits ripple out. Scott plans to give away most of her wealth. The problem is her stock wealth is increasing faster than she can dispense it. But there is something balancing in the universe when the wealth and the joy get spread around so that all benefit. Something downright Biblical about the hungry being filled and the arrogant being sent away empty. We can share in the joy of that if we are willing. If we want to be part of God’s vision.

I have to end by saying how much I have enjoyed being a part of your community for the past several months. Your commitment to each other and to the mission of your church which is answering the call “To serve and worship God, to preach God’s word and to share God’s love with each other both within the community of Union Church and the wider community.” I look forward to a joyous celebration of Christmas Eve with you all. Amen.


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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