Reflection for Sunday 3rd January 2021

Reflection for Epiphany from Margaret Beasley

         

 

 

 

Gathering Words

Come, bring the gold of your heart and worship Christ the King.

Come, bring the myrrh of your lives and worship Christ the King.

Come, bring the frankincense of your prayers and worship Christ the King.

Come in wonder.

Come in thankfulness.

Come as you are.

Come and worship Christ the King.

 

Hymn           As with gladness, men of old

As with gladness men of old

Did the guiding star behold

As with joy they hailed its light

Leading onward beaming bright.

So, most gracious Lord, may we

Evermore be led to thee.

 

As with joyful steps they sped

Saviour, to thy lowly bed

There to bend the knee before

Thee whom heaven and earth adore

So may we with willing feet

Ever seek thy mercy-seat.

 

As they offered gifts most rare

At thy cradle plain 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.

 

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.

 

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 for ever may we sing

Alleluias to our King.

                                                                                          W.C. Dix  (1837-98)

Reading                 Matthew 2 : 1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?   For we have observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’   When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;  and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.   They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea;  for so it has been written by the prophet;

“And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.   Then he sent them to Bethlehem saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may go and pay him homage.’   When they had heard the king, they set out;  and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.   When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.   On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.  Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.   And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their country by another road.

 

Reflection     TRAVELLING HOPEFULLY

The account of the Wise Men’s epic and at times dangerous journey is only found in Matthew’s Gospel.   After pouring over their ancient texts and searching the night skies till they found the new star indicated in these texts, they prepared to find and pay homage to this new-born King.   They embarked on a journey into the unknown – a journey made at night with all the dangers that might present.   It was very much a journey of faith and hope – putting their faith that this new bright star really would be their guiding light; and hoping they would find this infant King. 

I wonder how many of us would set out on such a journey, not knowing our final destination.    Would we even consider starting out, depending only on an unknown star to guide us?   Perhaps like the Magi’s travels, our faith journeys are never straightforward.   However hard we try, life is full of twists and turns and we sometimes wander off the track.  Do we perhaps need a spiritual sat-nav to help us?

On reaching Jerusalem the wise men at first thought they had reached journey’s end.   Surely this was the obvious place to find the new King.    But King Herod was not exactly pleased to see them when they told him they were looking for the new infant king.   He was even less pleased when his scribes told him of Micah’s prophecy of the messiah’s birth in Bethlehem.    Can you imagine Herod’s fury?

“Messiah?   Another King?    From Bethlehem?   It’s nonsense! 

 No-one’s going to believe that, are they?      But I need to know. 

 I cannot have a rival!”

Let’s hear from one of the Magi –

“We didn’t mean to go to the wrong place first.   We’d spent years studying the ancient texts and thought ourselves quite learned.   When we saw the new star in the sky we set off following it as it led us towards Judea.   We made for Jerusalem – where else would you look for a king but in a royal palace in the city?   But we soon realised we’d got it wrong.   No-one knew anything about a new-born king!    King Herod was none too pleased when his Scribes consulted their Scrolls and read that the prophet Micah had foretold that a king would be born in Bethlehem.   It was obvious that we were no longer welcome in Herod’s palace so we hastened on our way to Bethlehem, once more guided by our new star.   But there was no-one about – not a soul.  We couldn’t understand it.   The star had stopped over a very ordinary little house in a quiet back alley.   It was so ordinary that we thought we must be in the wrong place again. However, as soon as we went in, we just knew we’d found our king. The parents seemed surprised – especially when we fell on our knees to worship the child and laid our gifts before him – Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  I don’t know what they made of us.    That night we were warned in a dream to avoid Jerusalem and go back home by a different route.    We had much to tell on our return.  We’d had a life-changing experience.”

How do we react to the signs that God gives us?   Do we look for signs in unlikely places?    During these last awful months when our churches have been closed, how I have missed that coming together to worship God; to be a small part of something bigger than just me.   If I’m honest, I’ve found some of these long weeks and months quite hard, with God sometimes just out of my reach.   Looking for the direction God has for each one of us is not always as easy as following a star or hearing God in a dream.    On their journey, I think the Magi must have encouraged each other when spirits were low and the end of their journey seemed so uncertain.   What have we done to encourage one another and our neighbours over the last months?   It could be as simple as a wave at the window, a phone call or sending a card.   Simple gestures to show love and hope in dark times.

As we begin a new year, let us travel hopefully towards a safer future, when we can once more all meet together in our beautiful church as a family to worship our God who has travelled with us through the dark months of the pandemic.

Prayers

Journeying God,

Who beckons us to join you on the road,

Be with all your people as we set out into this new year.

 

We bring our gold, token of our wealth and ease.

Show us, child of poverty, how best to use our wealth

to meet the crying need of all the world, and bring relief.

 

We bring our frankincense, token of our prayers.

Show us, Word made flesh, how spoken prayers may live

to reach a damaged world with love and aid.

 

We bring our myrrh, token of healing and true wholeness.

Show us, child of peace, how to take our given skill and love

to ease a warring world and find a reconciling peace.

 

Journeying God, help us to follow you, however risky it seems,

for in you is our guiding light and hope and love.

Amen

 

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by 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

May the joy of the angels

The gladness of the shepherds

The worship of the wise men

And the peace of the Christ-child

Be yours now and always,

Amen

 

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled

When the star in the sky is gone

When the kings and princes are home

When the shepherds are back with their flock

The work of Christmas begins:

    To find the lost

    To heal the broken

    To feed the hungry

    To release the prisoner

    To rebuild the nations

    To bring peace among people

    To make music in the heart.

                                                                Howard Thurman