Epiphany Reflection for 10th January 2021

Call to Worship

To all God’s beloved who are gathered here, and those who belong amongst us but who are sharing in their own homes: “Called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hymn: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And we at bitter war hear not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Reading: Luke 2: 13 – 14

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

Reflection

In this classic carol Edward Sears observes that humanity fails to hear the song of the angels.   In our case, he suggests, the angels struggle to be heard due to the “noise” of “strife”.  The editors of Rejoice and Sing revised it effectively:  … and we, at bitter war, hear not the love-song which they bring:  O hush the noise and end the strife, to hear the angels sing.  This carol highlights both the message of Christmas and the challenge to hear and respond.   The angels are the preachers and heralds; the “cloven skies” their pulpit.  Their message – their love-song – is that the Word-made-Flesh is among us.  At times that message may sound like an anthem in another language:  a Word proclaimed and translated into the everyday “strife” of human encounter.   One day, we are assured, peace will prevail.   Until then our challenge is to hush our noise and be quiet long enough for God to get a Word in edgeways – the Word that Elijah perceived at Horeb in “a sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12);  the Word that in a backyard in Bethlehem, drowned out by the noise from the inn, Mary “pondered … in her heart” (Luke 2:19)

The angels’ “glorious song of old” may well not have been sung at midnight but it is when we seek and find “solemn stillness” that we stand a chance of hearing angels – and receiving the Presence that is Christmas.

Hymn: Brightest & Best of the Sons of the Morning

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall.
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all.

Shall we not yield Him, in costly devotion
Odors of Edom and offerings divine,
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favour secure.
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Prayer

God, we cannot fully grasp all you have done – from the beginning to the end.
Christ, we are amazed at your dancing through your life on earth and your resurrected life.
Holy Spirit, call us to join in the dance.  Teach us the steps.  Help us to move to your rhythms, we pray.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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

Blessing

Lord of the manger and stranger, of the wintry scene and the stark Cross, of the orphan and sick, of light and love, hear us as we pray. 
Grant us Your grace,  that we may offer our hearts and lives to You,  as we seek to proclaim Your Son through our words and deeds.
Amen