Epiphany Sunday 8th January

Happy New Year,

To keep you informed we know that a meeting is being arranged for Saturday 21st January for the four PCCs to meet with the Archdeacon and Area Dean regarding the interregnum. Please continue to pray for this position.

Thank you

Hymn Three Kings of Orient Are

  1. We three kings of Orient are,
    Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
    Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
    Following yonder Star.

Chorus:

O, star of wonder, star of might,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to the perfect light.

  1. Born a babe on Bethlehem’s plain;
    Gold we bring to crown Him again;
    King forever, ceasing never,
    Over us all to reign.

Chorus:

O, star of wonder, star of might,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to the perfect light.

  1. Frankincense to offer have I;
    Incense owns a Deity nigh;
    Prayer and praising, all men raising,
    Worship Him, God on High.

Chorus:

O, star of wonder, star of might,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to the perfect light.

  1. .Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
    Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
    Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
    Seal’d in the stone-cold tomb.

Chorus:

O, star of wonder, star of might,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to the perfect light.

  1. Glorious now behold Him arise,
    King and God and sacrifice,
    Heaven sings, “Hallelujah!”
    Hallejujah!” Earth replies.

Chorus:

O, star of wonder, star of might,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to the perfect light.  (by John H Hopkins – 1820 ti 1891) 

Preparation

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind.

Grace mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you

All: And also with you.

This is the day that the Lord has made.

All:  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We have come together in the name of Christ to offer our praise and thanksgiving  to hear and receive God’s holy word, to pray for the needs of the world, and to seek the forgiveness of our sins, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may give ourselves to the service of God.

All: We say Sorry

Jesus says, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’

So let us turn away from our sins and turn to Christ, confessing our sins in penitence and faith.

All: Lord God, we have sinned against you;

We have done evil in your sight.

We are sorry and repent.

Have mercy on us according to your love.

Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin.

Renew a right spirit within us and restore to us the joy of your salvation;

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from our sins, and restore us in His image to the praise and glory of His name through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All: Amen.

Blessed is the Lord,

All: For He has heard the voice of our prayer;

Therefore shall our hearts dance for joy

All: And in our song will we praise our God. 

Blessed are you, Lord our God, creator and redeemer of all;

to you be glory and praise for ever.

From the waters of chaos you drew forth the world, and in your great love fashioned us in your image. Now, through the deep waters of death, you have brought your people to new birth by raising your Son to life in triumph.

May Christ your light ever dawn in our hearts as we offer you our sacrifice of thanks and praise.

Blessed be God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

All: Blessed be God for ever. 

Hymn – As With Gladness, Men of Old

  1. As with gladness, men of old
    Did the guiding star behold
    As with joy they hailed its light
    Leading onward, beaming bright
    So, most glorious Lord, may we
    Evermore be led to Thee.
     
  1. As with joyful steps they sped
    To that lowly manger bed
    There to bend the knee before
    Him Whom Heaven and earth adore;
    So may we with willing feet
    Ever seek Thy mercy seat.
     
  1. As they offered gifts most rare
    At that manger rude and bare;
    So may we with holy joy,
    Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
    All our costliest treasures bring,
    Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.
     
  1. Holy Jesus, every day
    Keep us in the narrow way;
    And, when earthly things are past,
    Bring our ransomed souls at last
    Where they need no star to guide,
    Where no clouds Thy glory hide.
     
  1. In the heavenly country bright,
    Need they no created light;
    Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
    Thou its Sun which goes not down;
    There forever may we sing
    Alleluias to our King!
    (by William Chaterton Dis – 1837 to 1898)

Collect for the First Sunday of Epiphany 

O God,

who by the leading of a star

manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:

mercifully grant that we,

who know you now by faith,

may at last behold your glory face to face;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. 

All: Amen 

.Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead.

All: And Christ shall give you light.

You have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.

All: Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead.

Set your minds on things that are above,

not on things that are on the earth.

All: And Christ shall give you light.

When Christ our life appears

you will appear with him in glory.

All: Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. 

Hymn – All to Jesus I Surrender

  1. All to Jesus I surrender,
    All to Him I freely give;
    I will ever love and trust Him,
    In His presence daily live.

    Refrain – I surrender all,
    I surrender all.
    All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
    I surrender all.
     

  1. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Humbly at His feet I bow,
    Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
    Take me, Jesus, take me now.
     

Refrain – I surrender all,
I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.
 

  1. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Make me, Saviour, wholly Thine;
    Let me feel Thy Holy Spirit,
    Truly know that Thou art mine
     

Refrain – I surrender all,
I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.
 

  1. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Lord, I give myself to Thee;
    Fill me with Thy love and power,
    Let Thy blessing fall on me.
     

Refrain – I surrender all,
I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.
 

  1. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Now I feel the sacred flame.
    Oh, the joy of full salvation!
    Glory, glory to His name!

    Refrain – I surrender all,
    I surrender all.
    All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
    I surrender all.
    ( Van DeVenter – 1855 to 1939)

Our First Reading is taken from Ephesians Chap: 1

1 In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins.

2 At that time you followed the world’s evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God.

3 Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God’s anger.

4 But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great,

5 that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved.

6 In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world.

7 He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus.

8  For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts,

9  but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.

10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.

11 You Gentiles by birth – called “the uncircumcised” by the Jews, who call themselves the circumcised (which refers to what men do to their bodies) – remember what you were in the past.

12  At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God’s chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God’s promises to his people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God.

This is the Word of the Lord

All: Thanks be to God

Here the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to – Matthew Chap: 2

1 Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem

2 and asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem.

4 He called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”

5 “In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they answered. “For this is what the prophet wrote:

6 “Bethlehem in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least of the leading cities of Judah; for from you will come a leader who will guide my people Israel.’ ”

7 So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.

8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

11 They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him.

12 Then they returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod.

This is the Word of the Lord

All: Thanks be to God

Benedicitus

Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel,

All: who has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour,

All: born of the house of his servant David. 

Through his holy prophets God promised of old  

All: to save us from our enemies, from the hands of all that hate us, 

To show mercy to our ancestors,

All: and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath God swore to our father Abraham:

All: to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear,

All: holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. 

And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,

All: for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation

All: by the forgiveness of all their sins. 

In the tender compassion of our God

All: the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,

All: and to guide our feet into the way of peace.                    (Luke 1.68-79)

All: Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now

and shall be for ever.

Amen. 

Sermon 

(Based on Matthew Chap: 2 Vers:1 to 12) 

So there were these academic chaps somewhere in where Iraq or Iran are now whose research involved looking up and recording the way stars moved around, like all researcher, trying to find an answer and pattern and structure to the universe. They looked up into the night sky and saw something that didn’t add up to their theories,  a star that seemed to have a purpose, a purpose that was so intriguing that they felt impelled to follow the path of this star, wherever it might lead them. They had formed a firm opinion that this strange and unique star was the herald of something big – something very big – so they packed their camping gear and set off to follow and discover what was going on.

These are the men who in scripture we call the Maji, or the Wise men, or the three Kings. Just as a humorous aside, when I was a youngster, I thought that we knew where these wise man came from Orientar.

I asked my Mum which country this place ‘Orientar’ was in! -well, the carol does say “We three kings of ORIENTAR!”

Now, I do have to say that over the years, we have taken considerable liberty with the story of Jesus’ birth and the Maji part is one of the liberties.

Just as the Bible has no mention at all of Mary riding on a donkey on the journey to Bethlehem, there is no direct mention of the number of Maji who set off on their long journey.

Tradition has honed it down to three but in truth, we just don’t know how many, nor do we know they travelled on camels as depicted in so many Christmas cards. They could have travelled by Midland Red for all we know.

Whatever the inaccuracy of our perceptions, the Maji were plainly people of deep knowledge and understanding, able to recognise the specialness of what they saw in the night sky and were intrigued enough to set out on a journey of investigation, discerning that the star indicated the start of something – something very big.

We can be pretty sure that it was a long journey too.

In the meantime, in Judea, a man and his young fiancée were slowly making their way from Nazareth, where they live to Bethlehem where they must go to be counted in a census ordered by the Roman authorities which ruled the country at the time.

Historical records of this census are confusing but it is very reasonable in view of the Roman occupation that a head count every now and then would help the authorities to keep control of their conquered territories. The Romans were quite picky about that sort of thing to help with taxation, aided by the input of the local puppet Judean ruler like Herod, ready to comply with the Romans’ demands.

As Mary and Joseph trudged their way to Bethlehem, Mary very near her time to give birth to the baby she was carrying, this very special baby that the angel had told her about, as they plodded onwards, I wonder how many times, despite faithfully carrying out both God’s and the local authorities orders, they wondered whether this was the way God wanted things, and it didn’t get any better when they reached Bethlehem at last.

Did they think that things may have gone wrong with the plan when they couldn’t find any reasonable accommodation in the town and with Mary now in labour, the only place private and available was a stable, a shelter for the farm animals of the household.

Not a maternity delivery room with qualified staff and everything, no, this place was for animals and the only place to put the hew born baby was a manger, a feeding trough.

I mentioned before how we tend to pretty up this occasion. We have such a habit of prettying up the birth of our Saviour. Think of the annual Nativity Play acted out by Junior church members. No protracted labour pains, no midwife to advise, no entonox or epidurals. Just a plain painful, primitive and dangerous time for mother and baby.

I bet that Mary and Joseph thought at some stage “I didn’t sign up for this!”

The angels didn’t say anything about this sort of thing in the deal.

Where’s the pomp and ceremony and highlights for the birth of this King?

This is a home for animals and the promised Saviour of the world is lying in an animal’s feeding trough! I can well imagine they had imagined something grander for the arrival of the Saviour of the world and in these quite wretched circumstances were feeling pretty low and confused.

Then some shepherds turn up and ask to see the baby They told Mary and Joseph that they had been up in the hi looking after their sheep when all of a sudden al! these angels appeared in the sky singing praise to God on high and telling them to go down into Bethlehem and find this wonderful new-born baby in a stable, of all places. That story must have reassured Mary and Joseph that God was still around and in the scene.

Meanwhile, our Maji are still on their way but did they arrive at the stable at the time of Jesus‘ birth?

No, they did not.

I know that in the compacted story that we perpetrate through Sunday School Nativity plays that there they all are, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, wise men, the occasional mouse, mushroom ,tree, dalek, Uncle Tom Cobley and all crowded into this stable, just what you need after the  rigours of giving birth.

No, the Maji head for where anyone sensible would head for the birth of a new King,  to the palace, Herod’s palace. That’s where a new King should be born. They were wrong very wrong.

They landed up in Herod’s palace.

There were a number of petty little local rulers called Herod over the years. These Herod’s weren’t real kings but puppets allied to the rule of the Romans. By and large, the name ‘Herod’ equals ‘Rotter’. Not one of these various Herod’s of that time was a nicer, decent ruler with the benefit of the people as their standard. No, by and large they were rotten little lapdogs to the Romans and this particular Herod was one of that bunch.

Herod is very interested to hear what the Maji have to say.

“A New King indeed”, he says to the Maji “why don’t-you carry on your search and if you find where this baby is, please come back and tell me where he is so that I can go and worship him too”

Ha-ha-ha! Herod hasn’t the slightest intention of ‘worshipping’ anything but his own survival.

But as we know, the Maji don’t come back and tell him where Jesus is and a new king would be a threat to his own authority.

Despite the fact that as an educated Jew he would have learned all about God’s promise of sending a Messiah to say his people, he sets in motion one of the most horrible even in the whole Bible. He gives out the order that all boys two years old and under should be killed – every one of them.

This order gives us a strong clue as to the timing of happenings in the story of Jesus’ birth.

The shepherds and local people may have come to the stable and seen the baby quite quickly, quite soon after the birth but the Maji meet Jesus at some undefined time between the appearance of the new star in the sky, making a long, arduous journey and finally meeting Jesus and his Mum and Dad.

That’s why Hero ordered the death of all those boys under two,  to make sun he caught this new king in his death trap with a bit to spare either side. As we know, that dreadful massacre didn’t do the job for Herod anyway because God’s word through his angels and dreams warned the Maji not to go back to Herod. They found Jesus in the home where he was and gave him the apparently strange but highly significant presents. Gold signified Jesus’ status as “King of the Jews;” frankincense represented the infant’s divinity and identity as the Son of God; and myrrh touched upon Jesus’ existence as a human being and his mortality.

Then, we believe, the Maji set off again to go all the way back home, taking a route that kept them well clear of Herod and his minions.

Angels also spoke to Joseph as well to tell him to get Mary, Jesus and himself off to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter.

There’s quite juxtaposition in this flight by the holy family to safety in Egypt until Herod was dead and gone and the Jewish nation returning to Israel from a time of captivity to establish

them-selves in the Promised Land.

Jesus will return and settle in Nazareth in the quiet north of the country to keep well clear of the new Herod and the state authorities and the Romans, and it was in Nazareth that Jesus grew to manhood and his trade as a carpenter/builder until he was thirty.

So the story of the Nativity isn’t the pretty itsy bitsy spectacle ‘oiled out in churches and schools at Christmas time. Our .Lord came in to a world of squalor and suppression.

A time, when the native population were oppressed by dominating foreigners.

A time, of stress and strain for Joseph and Mary.

I’m sure they would have made plans for the how’s and where’s of Jesus’ arrival but never managed to use those plans because they were forced into an unplanned journey and Mary landed up giving birth in a dirty stable.

As if that wasn’t enough, they then had to rush to safety in exile in Egypt until it was safe to return.

I would venture that that is tough start. We have much to be grateful to Mary and Joseph. It was their care and brave decisions that preserved the fragile and vulnerable life of the baby Jesus for him to grow into the Saviour of this world as God intended. 

So as we face up to another New Year with all it might hold for each of us, one thing we can be entirely certain is that not all of our plans will go as imagined any more than Mary and Joseph’s plans for Jesus’ birth did. But if there is one thing that this morning’s passage from scripture points out very clearly is faithfulness. Despite any misgivings’ they might have had, Joseph and Mary faithfully followed God’s instructions, wasn’t what either of them expected but they just kept on going and going.

The Shepherds, low on the social scale, were chosen to be the first to hear the announcement of the birth as the angel appeared to them and lefty everything to go down into the town to see this wonder.

The Maji faithfully followed their special star, trusting in and believing in the future, realising by their divinations the word wide importance of what was happening.

So it is my prayer for us all is that whatever this New Year throws at us, be it good or bad, we make seek out and follow our Saviour, even when the road is rough and the plan of our lives seems obscure.

In closing, may I just remind you of the words in a very well-known hymn –

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way” to be happy in Jesus.

But to trust and obey.

Amen. 

Hymn –  From heaven you came helpless babe

Time of Silence ….. 

We Say Together:

The Creed.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. 

All: Amen.

Prayers and Intercessions

We pray for God to fill us with his Spirit.

Generous God,

we thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit.

We ask that we may be strengthened to serve you better.

Lord, come to bless us

All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit.

We ask you to make us wise to understand your will.

Lord, come to bless us

All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit.

We ask you to keep us confident of your love wherever you call us.

Lord, come to bless us

All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit.

We ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness

where there is division, sickness and sorrow.

Lord, come to bless us

All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit.

We ask you to equip us for the work which you have given us.

Lord, come to bless us

All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit.

We ask you to reveal in our lives the love of Jesus.

Lord, come to bless us

All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the breath of your Holy Spirit,

given us by the risen Lord.

We ask you to keep the whole Church, living and departed,

in the joy of eternal life.

Lord, come to bless us

All: and fill us with your Spirit. 

All: Generous God,

hear our prayer,

and make us one in heart and mind

to serve you with joy for ever.

Amen.

We gather our thoughts and prayers in the words our Saviour gave us 

All: 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 trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Hymn – I Cannot Tell

  1. I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
    Should set His love upon the sons of men,
    Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wand’rers,
    To bring them back, they know not how or when.
    But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
    When Bethl’hem’s manger was His only home,
    And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
    And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.
     
  1. I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
    As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
    Or how His heart upon the Cross was broken,
    The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
    But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,
    And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
    And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
    For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here.
     
  1. I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
    How He will claim His earthly heritage,
    How satisfy the needs and aspirations
    Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
    But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
    And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
    And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendour
    When He the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.
     
  1. I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
    When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
    Or who can say how great the jubilation
    When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
    But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
    And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
    And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
    At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King.
    (by W Y Fullerton – 1857 – 1933) 

Closing Blessings

May God give to you and to all those you love

his comfort and his peace,

his light and his joy,

in this world and the next;

and the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the Love of God

and the fellowship  of the Holy Spirt

be with us all evermore. 

All: Amen.

Hymn – From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable

The Grace 

All: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

And the love of God,

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,

Be with us all evermore.

Amen

Go in joy and peace to love and serve the Lord

All: In the name of Christ Amen.

© 702211

 

Leave a comment