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notre dame montreal

Worship resources, prayers and Bible study

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Liturgical Colour - Purple

Opening Verse

advent candle four


Advent 4

People of God:
God, above all, maker of all,
is one with us in Christ.
Come, Lord Jesus!

God - the mighty God-
Bends down in love to earth.
Come, Lord Jesus!

God with us; God beside us
comes soon to the world he has made.
Come, Lord Jesus!

We are God’s children
we seek the coming Christ.
Come, Lord Jesus!

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:
Intercessions from our Sunday worship

Virgin Mary and Jesus Introduction

This Sunday we are reminded that a young teenager called Mary became the mother of Jesus. She was probably quite poor and she was unmarried and therefore extremely vulnerable. However when she realises that she is to be the mother of God she explodes into praise and not despair. She had a trusting faith in God that all would be well.

What an example to us all as we face uncertain futures, or problems that seem bigger than our ability to cope. Mary is able to hear God's call to her above the noise which so easily could have drowned it out. We all have to try and ensure that we give space for God's voice to be heard in our own lives. The unceasing rush to work, the care for the young and the elderly, the worry over our sick families and friends, all of these can push God out of our hearts and minds.

This Christmas may the peace of the Christ child still our restless spirit and allow the voice of God to be heard speaking to each one of us.

Mary hears God tell that she has found favour, God's words are 'good news'. That message is for us this Christmas time, God speaks to us that we need not fear, God loves us and is with us seeking to be our friend. 

Opening Verses of Scripture Isaiah 9: 6

Unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of  the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. CW

Eternal God, as Mary waited for the birth of your Son, so we wait for his coming in glory; bring us through the birth pangs of this present age to see, with her, our great salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading  2 Samuel 7:1-11,16

Now when David, 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 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, David, that the Lord will make you a house.

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever. NRSV

Second Reading Romans Chapter 16:25 end

To God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen. NRSV

Gospel Reading   Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

Heavenly Father, who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of the promised saviour: fill us your servants with your grace, that in all things we may embrace your holy will and with her rejoice in your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


see amid the winter snow

St George was canonised in
AD 494 by Pope Gelasius, who claimed he was one of those 'whose names are justly revered among men but whose acts are known only to God'. Possibly he was a Roman soldier martyred for his faith during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian in the early 4th century. He could have been executed for refusing to make a sacrifice in honour of the pagan gods, this was before the Roman Emperor Constantine professed Christianity and everything changed.

St George is an English national hero and a feast day of St George has been celebrated in England for hundreds of years on 23 April, which was possibly the date of his martyrdom. However he came from Turkey and never set a foot in England. A cult has grown up around him and the George Cross bears the image of St George vanquishing a dragon. 

From around 1100, St George’s help was also sought to protect the English army. In William Shakespeare’s Henry V, the monarch calls on the saint during his battle cry at the Battle of Harfleur in the famous “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech, crying “God for Harry! England, and St. George!” 

The insatiable dragon was demanding to eat human sacrifices and would have continued to do were it not for the intervention of the saint. It was said that George killed the dragon with a lance named Ascalon. Nevertheless the story of George and the dragon dates from around the 11th century hundreds of years after his death.

The name Ascalon was taken up by Winston Churchill, who it would be fair to say would not have been very good working from home in the COVID pandemic. He liked being able to see people face to face and he travelled many miles by aeroplane to France, Africa, America etc to meet generals and political leaders. He travelled in a converted Avro York bomber which was named Ascalon after the famous lance was used by Saint George when he slayed the dragon. The point I am working towards is that myths grow and become more and more embellished. They get adopted by others and so the story just grows like Topsy.

Hagiography (holy writing) records the lives of the saints and the stories . All religions have a tendency to look back at their great figures of their past and record their lives in a flattering way. We don’t want our saints to be ordinary folks we want them to be special. We struggle with ordinariness and so we embellish their lives. We make the history of those we venerate into the way we would like them to be, rather than they way that they probably were.

It has always been difficult for the church to understand how a poor peasant girl like Mary could become the Mother of God. Later church traditions jettisoned the image of the ordinary poor peasant girl and made her into something much more special. The Egyptian goddess Isis and other important female goddesses had virgin births, so Christians went one better with Mary. She not only had the virgin birth of Jesus she was also born immaculate herself, without sin. For many Christians Mary has become sinless and denied even a proper death, rather she was assumed into heaven.

So what was the real Mary like ? Well we can find out much from the words of the Magnificat which was the song of Mary. This is the song she sang when she went to visit Elizabeth the woman who would give birth to John the Baptist

Mary’s Song of Praise

And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour 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 for ever.’

You may notice that the Magnificat is the most any woman gets to say in the whole of the New Testament. Women were not then and never were given equality in the church. Their voices were not heard, they had no power or authority. Mary recognises this prejudice when she says that her

‘soul magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 

for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. 

Mary knows that she is lowly and her reason for rejoicing is that God has acknowledge this lowly state and he has chosen to honour it. From Mary we understand that God deliberately chose to abide with the poor, the humble and the lowly. She talks about lowliness, that is about her real social position, she is poor, she is at the bottom of the pile. She had nothing apart from God. She was a poor girl in occupied territory who was part of a people who were heavily taxed by Rome, the local government and the Jewish religious system, she was one of the exploited. She was a young girl, she was an unmarried, she is poor, she was very ordinary

Mary does not want to magnify herself in any way, she knows how ordinary she is. It defeats the whole reasoning behind the Magnificat if we start pretending that Mary was somehow special in being sinless or different. Mary was the wife of the carpenter, the poor working man’s wife who had nevertheless been chosen to become the perfect vessel for God’s grace and the one who would exercise so much influence over Jesus.

We often speak of the greatest achievement of Mary being that she was one who said ‘yes’ to God. I have lost count of how many times I have read about this as the quality of Mary and how our response is to say ‘Yes’ like her. However God didn’t ask Mary. We need to remember that when the Angel came to Mary he didn’t ask her if she wanted to be the mother of God’s baby, it is called the Annunciation for a reason, she is told ! God chose her.

Why did God choose her ? Because God was working with the lowly. It is true that Mary goes along with what is going on so she does affirm what God is doing. But listen to the Magnificat and it is not about Mary somehow being acquiescent to what is going on. Mary has understood that God is choosing a different way of doing things. God has chosen her because she is poor, because she is weak, because she is exploited. Mary is God’s voice saying ’No’ these things are not acceptable.

Mary is often portrayed in art as passive, but actually that is to do her a great disservice. Mary is not in the words of the carol Once in Royal David’s city a ‘mother mild.’ The Magnificat shows her to be an angry woman with a mind to change things. This was the home into which Jesus was born and raised, with a woman who taught him that God was the great turner of tables. The scandal of the church is that for centuries the voice of women was silenced and in many churches still is! Women are judged not to be allowed to have a voice, not to speak, not to lead, to have no power.

Mary was not singing on behalf of the poor, she was the poor who needed liberation. Think of it as a battle cry, a call to arms. Mary is part of God’s rebellion and we too are called to be a part of those who work for a just and equal society.

In the Magnificat we understand that God is not an observer of humanity, God has chosen sides and he is on the side of the weak. God chooses humble birth, God chooses homelessness, God chooses to be persecuted, God chooses to be a refugee.

I don’t want to offend anybody who has different views about Mary and I know that many Christians do believe her to be sinless, but I don’t want to worship her. I believe in an ordinary Mary a full human being, a woman, or more accurately a girl and I think that this makes her even more to be admired and honoured. Her humble origins put her in touch with the poor and outcasts with whom Jesus spent his ministry. If Mary had lived today she would have been the sort of person who needed the food bank and her song challenges the need for people to be poor, she speaks of this not being God’s way, God want a reversal.

Mary is subversive and her song calls for a radical agenda for social change. Mary's song is a statement of what she believes about God. Like the song of Hannah on which it is modelled, it celebrates the character of God as the great turner of tables. He is the God of the poor and the oppressed, under his hand the meek inherit the earth. Mary responds to the Annunciation with an outpouring of Joy, she trusts that in spite of all the evidence to the contrary God  is good and she trusts.

So the next time you hear newspapers criticising clergy or bishops for shouting out about social injustice. When Christians tell of the tragedy of the need in our society for food banks, about the lack of availability of affordable housing and the homeless crisis. Remember they are not doing anything unique, or different or special, it all started with Mary.   Charles Royden


Christmas has a mass of “musts” attached to it: I “must” send cards to everyone; I “must” buy presents for everyone; I “must” decorate the house/invite the neighbours/ buy mountains of food. At this time of year, the pressure mounts, and for many busy people the anticipation and joy of Christmas is ruined. 

I have observed that many of the older members of the congregation have a lot to teach us younger ones about enjoying Christmas. They accept that they can no longer do everything, and just do what they can! They enjoy the less energetic and demanding aspects of Christmas –listening to carols on the radio, sitting quietly at home rather than rushing about. Because they have had to give up doing certain Christmas tasks, they find that they can do without them, and Christmas happens—just the same! 

Perhaps we younger ones can try and simplify, and cross off a few tasks from our lists.



  1. Lo, he comes with clouds ascending
  2. Lord the light of your love
  3. Joy to the world
  4. Praise my soul the King of Heaven
  5. A messenger named Gabriel

Hymn Sheet

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

God of all hope and joy, open our hearts in welcome, that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming, may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.

Come Lord Jesus, rule in our hearts, our minds, our actions, our days, and in our work.  Amen


Additional Material



Momentous. To say that the Annunciation of the birth of the Saviour to Mary is momentous is perhaps an understatement. But what other word could you use to describe this event? You could say that it is important, significant, historic, crucial, vital, meaningful or earth-shattering. All these words seem to lack some of the meaning of momentous. Momentous says it best. The Annunciation is momentous because of the effect that it has on the future. We can see that the Annunciation is the event which provides the initial momentum which is built upon by subsequent events. It sets in motion a course of events which lead to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the possibility of Salvation for all Humanity. How momentous is that!

The Annunciation and the birth of Christ are all the more momentous because they rest on the faithfulness and devotion of a young peasant girl. It really is extraordinarily amazing, that this young girl, Mary, should respond in such a remarkable way to the appearance of an Angel, who claims to be God’s messenger, bringing her news that she will give birth to a child who is the son of God, the Son of the Most High and the inheritor of the throne of David, whose kingdom will last for all eternity. Incredible. Yet Mary responds in a fashion which probably puts most of us to shame. “May it be to me as you have said.” A simple response of faith.

This Christmas, may our response to God’s calling be a response of faith and obedience. May we worship the newborn Saviour with open hands and open hearts, ready to embrace Him as our Lord and Saviour, ready to accept God’s calling to new possibilities of living in faith and obedience.

Mary 18 B.C.?-A.D. 48 
History's most venerated mother 

Though Mary plays a key role in the birth stories of Matthew and Luke, she is scarcely mentioned in the other two Gospels and not at all in the New Testament letters. Yet Mary today is the most venerated woman in history, and the only woman mentioned in the Koran. 
During her childhood she lived in Nazareth where she was put into an arranged marriage with the carpenter Joseph. Gospel references begin when she was a little over 12 years old. Luke reported that while Mary was living with her parents in Nazareth, an angel visited and told her she would give birth to a holy child who would be called "the Son of God." Being pregnant out of wedlock was dangerous, Mary might even be stoned to death. 

Though the stories began with a miracle, Mary later appeared confused or in doubt about Jesus' mission. She was once convinced he had gone mad, and tried to get him to stop preaching and come home.

Christian tradition asserted that Mary was a virgin all of her life. The first reference is the apocryphal Protevangelium of James, an embellished story of Jesus' infancy. Early church leaders such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria believed Mary remained a virgin, and Athanasius wrote extensively on the "ever virgin" Mary. 

The Gospel accounts record that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but Roman Catholics, following the lead of many early church leaders, argue they were Jesus' cousins or Joseph's children from a previous marriage. Protestants have taught Mary was a virgin only until the birth of Jesus, after which she and Joseph conceived James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and unnamed daughters.

Mary was present at the Day of Pentecost, but then she disappears from history. One tradition says she lived in Jerusalem until she died, in A.D. 48, at about age 66. Another says she moved to Ephesus. Still another, asserted by Gregory of Tours (d. 593) based on earlier apocryphal writings, says that when she died, her body was "borne on a cloud into paradise, where it was reunited with her soul and now rejoices with the elect." 
Mary may have died not long after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even if she was very young when she gave birth to Jesus she would have been in her forties, at the youngest, at this stage, which is already very good by ancient life expectancy, especially for a woman who’s given birth.

Mary slowly grew in importance to early Christians; at first she was considered the new Eve. By the fourth century, she was given the title theotokos, the "God bearer," and was increasingly seen as a compassionate intercessor to whom believers could pray. By the Middle Ages, English historian Eadmer taught that Mary was herself conceived without original sin. This belief, along with that of her "Assumption" (rise to heaven) grew to such an extent in Roman Catholic circles that today they are part of that church's official doctrine. Today, many people (not just Roman Catholics and Orthodox) claim to experience visions of Mary, and she remains an important object of devotion for millions.



At this time of year present-giving looms large in many people’s minds. It is a mine-field—to give a gift or not ? Whether to give a small, token gift, and get caught out when your friend/relative is much more generous? What sort of present to give? These thoughts can paralyse the shopper as they stare across a huge department store. What can I give ? 

Now I love buying presents. The pleasure of thinking about a loved one, and what they would like, anticipating their pleasure in receiving it, the pleasure of wrapping presents, listening to carols, makes me very happy. But what transforms the process of giving presents to family and friends you know and love very well is the certainty you have. The knowledge that you know what they want and that they will want what you have to give. It is this certainty which rings through Mary’s words on hearing the Angel Gabriel’s prediction. 

The news that God demands something very important from you is not easy to receive! Mary, not unnaturally, at first questions the angel, “How can this extraordinary thing happen ?” On being told that nothing is impossible to God, she accepts and gives herself entirely and humbly to God. Yet in that self-giving there is utter certainty in being accepted and wanted by God. 

I think many of us feel, in our secret hearts, that God can’t possibly accept anyone as flawed as us. And so we hold back from God, perhaps trying to deceive Him and ourselves about what we truly are or do. Mary’s words can inspire us to offer ourselves to God anew. Perhaps like her, we can find a new certainty that God wants us just as we are, that He knows and loves us just as we are. The only thing God wants for Christmas is you! The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley.